I had to see Alice in Wonderland because I worked at Disneyland for five years as a “merchandise hostess” in the 1980s, and one of my favorite locations was the Mad Hatter hat shop in Fantasyland. With its Swiss Alps ambiance and Fantasyland charm, eight hours in this fast-paced shop always yielded a rewarding Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah kind of day. The only drawback (and it was a doozy of a drawback), was when the nauseated patrons of Alice’s Mad Tea Party ride would filter into the hat shop, green-faced, and puke all over the place. This would occur, without fail, at least once a day, and standard Disney protocol was to call for a custodian, who would arrive gallantly within minutes, bedecked in crisp white pants and tucked-in shirt, armed with a bag of pine-scented “Pixie Dust.” Because I have zero-tolerance for vomit, I would usually have to run out of the shop and hold my breath until I got the thumbs-up sign from gagging co-workers inside.
My fond Mad Hatter memories, combined with my love for Lewis Carroll and Johnny Depp, convinced me to see the film on opening night. In a nutshell, I enjoyed it. Tim Burton’s darkish chaos, combined with hookah-vibrant colors, produces a surreal half-dream, half-nightmare experience. My only serious complaint is that the scenes sometimes rush by at such a spinning teacup speed that I found myself questioning what it was that I had actually seen—a slithering fish butler?…a man with how many folded chins?...an aqua-colored vaporizing Cheshire Cat? The images tantalized me, but only for brief moments when I could accurately process them. The Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) stole my heart most. She was horridly fantastic with her demanding “Off with your head!” rants.
I’m sure left-brained critics out there will slam the film for its lack of plot and whatnot, but right-brained dreamers like me will hail the film for successfully spinning us down into the wonderful rabbit hole of harebrained tea parties and smoking caterpillars.