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austin_dern

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Feb. 20th, 2012

Curious Alice is one of those oddball little shorts Turner Classic Movies puts on when there's some odd time to fill between ``TCM Underground'' and the 6 am start of the programming day. It's a late 60s piece of anti-drug propaganda and you will never in a million billion trillion years guess what classic piece of children's whimsical fantasy is used to talk about drugs. The Wonderland and Recreational Drugs thing is, I know, a relentlessly popular motif, however cliche it might be --- well, it was 40 years less cliche then --- and however tiresome everybody who ever had a whimsical thought had when whimsy is credited to drug use.

Anyway, this is done by having Alice wander around Wonderland/Looking-Glass characters, all of whom have their own drug addictions --- the dormouse on downers, the caterpillar smoking pot, the king and queen of hearts on heroin, that sort of thing --- until she finally comes to conclude that you can't actually be interesting unless you don't use drugs. Actually, she comes to conclude the caterpillar is angry because he smokes so much marijuana, which, yeah, that's your classic marijuana personality type. ``You live in this beautiful place, it could be wonderland, and all you do is take pills!'' she cries out, ultimately.

The interesting thing about it is the graphic design. It's animated, more or less, in a confusing jumble of styles: a lot of clipped-photograph of that Terry Gilliam style for Alice, and all manner of cartoon styles for the Wonderland/Looking-Glass characters. Some are rendered just as white outlines against a complex background; some are thin-lined figures with watercolored paint appearances; the cards are stop-motion animations of actual cards. Some backgrounds are photographs, some are recolored photographs, some are abstract illustrations, some are flat colors, some are roaming patterns. It gives the short a weird nightmarish visual feel, to the point it'd be interesting to watch without the audio.

[ Yes, I know, least challenging subject line lyric ever. ]

Trivia: N W Ayer & Son advertisers in 1877-78 estimated their revenue came from patent medicines (21.6 percent); printed matter, books, tracts, cards, newspapers, and periodicals (20.8 percent); jewelry and silverware (8.6 percent); dry goods and clothing (7.5 percent); and seeds and nursery stock (6.7 percent). Source: Advertising and the Transformation of American Society, 1865 - 1920, James D Norris.

Currently Reading: Reilly: Ace Of Spies, Robin Bruce Lockhart.

PS: Proving Something With One Month's Counting, as I get pretty darned near the end of this extended discussion of an offhand comment on The Price Is Right.

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