Daily post 23 Mar 2012 11:00 am

Alice’s Shadows – Re-post

- An interesting aspect of Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, deserves some attention, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone write about it.

Once Alice is in Wonderland, she immediately comes upon the woods, and from there she steps in and out of the woods to meet up with new crazies and her peculiar adventures. The effects department was used to signal this move in and out of the dark world of wonderland. She constantly steps in and out of shadows.

This, as anyone who did animation in the pre-computer age, knows that it was a complication to add shadows. Not only the shadows under the characters but the shadows over and around the characters. It meant filming the scenes twice, just for the shadows. Since the camera, during the filming of Alice, was not computerized this double shooting had to be done by hand VERY CAREFULLY. Every frame had to exactly match.

Hence, this was an important part of the design. The directors and Disney took these shadows seriously; after all they cost twice as much – just to photograph. Never mind animating them, coloring them or planning them.

I’ve put together a number of frame grabs which illustrate the move into or out of shadows, and I’d like to share them.

Here, Alice steps out of a shadow for the first time, and meets up with
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. They’re partially covered, themselves, by shadow.
This variant of the shadow is a hard line of darkness that moves over her.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

Soon, Alice moves toward the Duchess’ house. We cut from her
standing dark in shadow, to her walking in a brighter light.

As she moves toward the Caterpillar, Alice is covered with shrubbery and shadow.
She is next seen struggling through the foliage to talk to the Caterpillar, in full light.

This variant of the shadow is a total shift in color as her entire body moves into darkness.
It was done by dissolving one Alice into another – meaning the cels were painted twice.

In the woods, Alice walks into and out of and into shadows.

She slowly moves toward the Cheshire Cat who directs her to the tea party.
As she does she moves from shadow and cuts into light as she appears at the gate.

This is a particularly nice effect wherein the entire area gets spotlighted -
led by the character. The area outside of the spot darkens slowly and beautifully.

Once leaving the tea party, she wanders around the Tulgey Wood trying to find any direction. Shadows aplenty as she moves endlessly through the woods.

Alice moves into and out of shadow via dissolves.

Alice passes by many crazy characters, going in and out of darkness.

Just prior to meeting up with the Cheshire Cat, and has an extended conversation
which just about ends her stay in the woods.

Finally, Alice steps into the Cheshire Cat’s tree and
into the light of the maze of cards to meet the Red Queen.

3 Responses to “Alice’s Shadows – Re-post”

  1. on 23 Mar 2012 at 1:15 pm 1.Stephen Macquignon said …

    Shadows can play such an important roll in story telling. Great frame grabs

  2. on 23 Mar 2012 at 2:22 pm 2.slowtiger said …

    Shooting shadows with a rostrum camera! You had to rewind carefully, because one frame off meant a ruined shot. All those in-camera effects with their multiple passes … but I’m glad I learnt how to do those because then it’s much easier to create the same effect digitally.

  3. on 23 Mar 2012 at 5:58 pm 3.Justin Smith said …

    That’s a good point. I can’t believe I forgot about that when I reviewed the movie earlier! These are neat frame grabs by the way and thanks for bringing up this point.

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