For the City Times
It’s been 150 years since the world was introduced to the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and a curious young girl who fell through a mysterious hole while chasing a white rabbit.
To mark the anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic book, “Alice in Wonderland,” the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point will offer screenings of three early film adaptations of the book on Friday, Dec. 4, from 6-8 p.m. in the Noel Fine Arts Center Room 221.
The screenings will include a 52-minute silent version produced in 1915 by W.W. Young, which will feature piano accompaniment by UW-Stevens Point alumnus Robert Doerr. A rare, 14-minute 1910 version done by the Edison Company and a 12-minute live action and animated hybrid created by Walt Disney in 1923 will also be shown. Refreshments, including tea, will be served.
Cary Elza, an assistant professor of communication at UW-Stevens Point who organized the screenings, will introduce and contextualize each film and display several rare copies of “Alice in Wonderland” books. She wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on cinematic adaptations of literary stories that capture imaginary worlds through the eyes of children.
“’Alice in Wonderland’ was Lewis Carroll’s attempt to capture the dreams of childhood,” she said. “The story helped define the image of childhood imagination as through a little girl’s view – Carroll’s use of the figure of Alice made his vision of Wonderland seem authentic.”
So authentic, in fact, that since its publication, audiences have found the narrative both compelling and strangely familiar. The story has provided a common language for describing dreams, a child’s point of view and imagined spaces. Today, films like Disney’s 2015 “Inside Out” owe a debt to Alice’s boundary-crossing adventures, said Elza.
The screened films were also important to the early history of cinema, she said. The first movie theaters had unsavory reputations, she added, so filmmakers were attempting to draw more families through films of respected children’s stories.
Elza earned degrees at Smith College, Emory University and Northwestern University. She has taught introduction to film, film history, screenwriting and several special topic film courses at UW-Stevens Point since 2014.