World Showcase: Wonderland

Theme Song by Brian Setzer and owned by Walt Disney Records

 

The next world on the World Showcase is a world that’s considered more of a cult merchandise fad and trend nowadays as opposed to a world featured in one of the greatest children’s stories of all time. Wonderland is a zany and nonsensical world created by Lewis Carroll in his novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland first published in England in 1865. It’s interesting to note that Alice received very poor reviews in its initial publication with the only praise being for John Tenniel’s illustrations. It took a few decades for someone to realize the book’s greatness as the best example of brilliant literary nonsense as a genre. Still the initial praise for the illustrations should be a big clue that Wonderland is popular more for its creativity, imagination and atmosphere than for the story that takes place inside it. The Lewis Carroll novel has been adapted to virtually all media over the decades like stage, film (live action and animated) and even videogames. One of the more famous versions of Wonderland is obviously Disney’s version (animated not the Burton version). In this showcase I will talk about Disney’s version, Square’s interpretation of the Disney version for Kingdom Hearts, and Tim Burton’s version (even though this is done by Disney too I consider it different because it’s very Burton) and the impact it has had outside the story.

DISNEY VERSION

I’m sure that this is the film that introduced most of us to the story of Alice and our introduction of Wonderland. I always viewed Wonderland as Oz on shrooms. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if L. Frank Baum actually ripped off Wonderland when he created Oz. A little girl ends up in a strange and magical place and tries to find her way home and meets a bunch of odd and quirky characters along the way. Nah they’re completely different! (don’t you love sarcasm?) Disney’s Wonderland is the best representation of that idea. It’s magical and strange and it’s not anywhere we’ve ever been. The art direction of that film is fantastic and it’s alluring. The design makes you want to delve deeper into the world with Alice and the madness is introduced bit by bit until it’s firing on all cylinders at the end. I thought that was very clever and is one of the great ways the film sucks you in despite having a weaker story than most fairy tales or Disney films. When I think of Wonderland this is the one that comes to my mind.

Tim Burton’s Wonderland

This Wonderland is a very different Wonderland. As Tim Burton is a very different kind of director when it comes to art direction. His combination of light and dark, strange and magical is what makes the atmosphere of his films so unique and great to look at and immerse ourselves in. It is what makes him in most cases a visionary director. Still I prefer that sort of Oz on shrooms craziness of the animated classic. I know that’s a classic Disney bias and an upbringing bias, but the Disney animated film is the one I grew up on and that’s the one I’m most invested in. Still Burton’s vision is still very good and has the typical Burton imagination. As for the story, well…. yeah I don’t want to talk about that.

Wonderland in the Kingdom Hearts Universe

Wonderland is a special world in the KH universe because it’s the very first Disney world that Sora, Donald and Goofy (and the player) travel to. That’s the main reason why the trio is so surprised at everything here more than they are in other worlds. One of the things that’s interesting about Sora’s visit is that while similar to Alice (the trio enter by falling down the rabbit hole) Sora is a more relatable person to follow in Wonderland. I think Sora is far more relatable than a refined English Victorian aristocrat. So Sora reacts in ways that are more relatable to our way of thinking and feeling. His patience for the Queen of Hearts has a limit and when it’s reached he doesn’t take that crap. When Sora participates in the Queen’s nonsensical trial as Alice’s defense attorney and loses because the Queen makes the rules he doesn’t take it anymore and beats the crap out of the card soldiers (and the queen if you as the player feel up to it) with Donald and Goofy helping him. He also understands the cryptic messages of the Cheshire Cat and works them out and the Cheshire Cat points him further toward the leader of the Heartless in Wonderland called the Trickmaster. The design of the world itself is very interesting albeit confusing. The main room where most of the areas in the world are is called the Bizarre Room and the player can walk at various angles of that room such as going into areas where you end up on the side wall and even the ceiling. After meeting the Doorknob the 2D drawing of the table and chair on the floor become 3D and Sora and company can interact with the two bottles (one for shrinking and one for growing: note the growing bottle can only be drunk when small and vice versa for shrinking bottle). Another genius mechanic of Wonderland is making objects that are 2D images in a room become 3D so Sora can interact with that object. For example in order to continue Sora must push a 3D bed into the wall which immediately makes the bed a 2D image painted on the wall. It reveals the passage way to the Queen’s Castle and the player’s first meeting with Alice. This idea is very creative and fits the zany magical Oz on shrooms aspect of the original movie. Some rooms are very box like and to create the idea of depth the walls look like paintings that look like the image has depth.

Wonderland has appeared 3 more times in the KH universe. The second time is in Chain of Memories where Sora revisits the world as an illusion and learns the more complex matters of how memories as important as they are can lie to you (think the Kurosawa movie Rashomon). The next time it appeared was with Roxas in KH 358/2 Days where Roxas receives semi guidance from the Cheshire Cat on how answers to the most important questions tend to lie closer than one thinks referring to Roxas’s questions to Organization XIII’s dubious motives and Roxas’s identity. And even though it did appear in KH Coded that game sucks so it’s not worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning is that I love how KH portrays the Cheshire Cat. Disney often markets Cheshire Cat as a villain, but I think that’s totally wrong! He’s a neutral character and besides I don’t think that the story of Alice in Wonderland should have a villain. Not even the Queen of Hearts because it’s all Alice’s dream anyway and her experiences in Wonderland. It’s not a good vs. evil story so I don’t think it should have a villain (Heartless are an exception). KH gets it absolutely right. Here is a link to the walkthrough of Wonderland in the original Kingdom Hearts the HD remaster version!

  WHY IS CHESHIRE CAT IN THIS PICTURE?!

 

MUSIC

The music of Wonderland in the animated movie was mostly original and some were even the companion poems written by Lewis Carroll set to music. However the music that I enjoy the most from Wonderland is the Kingdom Hearts music by Yoko Shimomura. It captures the zany aspects of the world and in the battle themes case the crazy energy the world has. Below are links to the KH music of Wonderland!

Welcome to Wonderland (Exploration Theme)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=IG-vL7yvGXQ

To Our Surprise (Battle Theme)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=uzuJP1njEXo

FINAL THOUGHTS

Wonderland is a world that is more about the experience of seeing it as opposed to being a setting in a story. The reader, viewer, or player is supposed to follow Alice or Sora and enjoy the ride, visuals and characters encountered in Wonderland. It’s a highly imaginative world with great visuals and crazy characters and will continue to enchant and confuse children for many more decades to come.

Join me on the next World Showcase where I set the Gummi Ship on a course to the place where heroes are born and made the Olympus Coliseum!

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