September 13, 2018 posted by Steve Stanchfield

The Harman/Ising sequence from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1933)

Very short today, but showing a little animated sequence I bet some of you have never heard of.

In Thunderbean-land, I’ve been working to get new titles finished as my helpers work to get all the orders out. It’s exciting to see the progress. A more complete update next week.

As you read this, I’ll be off to visit Chris Buchman to work some more on Grotesqeries Blu-ray. I’m trying to get it wrapped and off to replication as soon as possible.

One of the animated sequences in a live action film I really like is the ‘Walrus and the Carpenter’ scene from the bizarre 1933 Paramount Alice in Wonderland. It was produced by the Harman/Ising Studio the same year they produced three Cubby Bear cartoons for Van Beuren. I would guess that their contract with WB was over by this point. To my eyes, it looks to not be of a higher budget compared to the last cartoons they made at WB. It is fun and immediately recognizable in style to cartoon fans. For many years quite a few people I know had made the assumption that the Fleischer Studio produced the segment, since they were Paramount’s cartoon studio. My guess would be that H/I’s work was well-known in Los Angeles, and they were looking for this particular kind of work at this point in their history.

Michael Sporn did a nice article about the sequence many years back. What do you think of the sequence?

The actual film is quite bizarre in many ways, and stars Charlotte Henry, who also played ‘Little Bo Peep’ in the classic Hal Roach, Laurel and Hardy feature Babes in Toyland (1934). THAT film is one of my favorites, and this scene below is especially bizarre, featuring Mickey Mouse played by a monkey:

Speaking of Grotesqeries! Don’t let this scare you – and have a good week everyone!


  • The logistics of the Fleischers being in New York (and then Miami) and almost all of Paramount’s feature productions by 1933 being done in Los Angeles made it logical that the studio would rather work with a local studio like H-I, and moving forward, Paramount over the next decade always went with a west coast animation studio whenever they needed a short segment for one of their features — the Schlesingerr studio did a couple of projects for Paramount in the early 40s, prior to the buy-out by Warner Bros.

  • The Schlesinger folks did the Shep Fields segment from The Big Broadcast of 1938, didn’t they?

  • Re the “Babes in Toyland” sequence, nice homage to Krazy Kat when the “mouse” beans the cat with a brick.

    • At the time, George Herriman drew his Krazy Kat strips in an office on the Hal Roach lot. His was a friend of writer H.M “Beanie” Walker.

  • You monsters ! ! !

    What have you done to Mickey Mouse ? ! ? !

  • The Paramount “Alice” is an old favorite of mine — for a few years, a local NYC TV station showed it annually, much like Wizard of Oz, but alas, the tradition didn’t take hold.

    I hadn’t seen the film for many decades until it came out on DVD a few years ago. I was pleased to see it was just as strange & wonderful as I remembered, and a pretty good Hollywoodization of Lewis Carroll — probably better than Disney’s.

    And yes, the cartoon portion is very good and just as weird in style as the rest of the film!

  • I’ve never seen this come up on TCM. Very few W.C. Fields pictures come up, either.

    • Paramount owns this version of Alice in Wonderland, along with (I think) most of W. C. Fields’s film career; as such, TCM has to pay Paramount a licensing fee any time they show any of them. I’ve seen this Alice shown at least twice on TCM in the past decade, and I recorded it one of those times; W. C. Fields films show up sporadically as well, and every few years it seems TCM will dedicate all or part of a day to his career.

    • TCM did show it a while back. No word on when they’ll do it again.

    • Actually, all of the pre-1948 Paramount sound films are now owned by Universal, and have been for decades.

  • There’s something to be said about both of these sequences. The use of real people (and in the case of “Babes in Toyland”, a trained monkey) gives a more tactile sense of realism to the fantasy. If these films were made now, everything would be created in CGI and while probably would still be something to see, it would be missing the added dimension of flesh and blood. That is why I am eternally grateful that The Wizard of Oz was a product of it’s time, where the boundaries of creativity really needed to be pushed by talented people to create the impossible, rather than some buttons on a keyboard.

  • With Edna May Oliver (featured in clip), and co-stars Ned Sparks and W.C. Fields, you’ve got a WB cartoon right there!

  • I didn’t realize that Charlotte Henry played Alice in this adaptation of “ALICE IN WONDERLAND”, and I wasn’t aware that this film was ever released on any video format in recent years. If you release this, Steve, I’d gladly buy a copy. I, too, enjoy the 1934 version of “BABES IN TOYLAND” and don’t find it the “mess” that Hal Roach perceived it to be. I’d still like to see that film reissued as a special edition of some kind, not colorized (except, perhaps, as a special feature on said special edition).

    I wonder if there is enough behind-the-scenes material existing from the making of that film to fill a possible special edition; needless to say, I’d love to see a total restoration of the film, along with actual original titles. I have a black and white copy that came from MGM/U.A. (coupled with two other Holiday-themed films), although I don’t know how it remained with MGM/U.A. while most of their other titles went to Classic Media along with the OUR GANG (LITTLE RASCALS) films from Hal Roach, and there were titles that are now part of Warner Brothers’ larger MGM filmography. Loved these clips. In the “BABES IN TOYLAND” clip, I like the scoring, and I don’t remember the cat looking anything like Krazy Kat, more like a Harman/Ising type of roundish cat.

    • The DVD that Gummo mentioned above was released by Universal in 2010 and is still in print.

  • I’m one of those who always assumed it was a Fleischer!
    Interesting to know the true facts behind the sequence.
    Great bit of animation & the film overall is my favourite Alice adaptation
    ( many other excellent ones of course – eg Disney, Svankmajer, the black & white 1960s UK BBC TV one , & also the 2 Soviet Union cartoons which were done in the ’80s I think ).

    It was a good day indeed when the DVD ( which is pretty good quality ) came out some years ago in the wake of the first Tim Burton version ( which I thoight was mostly a terrible film ); as the unofficial dvd-r I had before that had pretty poor picture quality.

    Also; I’m with you on L+H’s “Babes In Toyland” Steve.
    L+H are very loveable but – & I realise this may sound like heresy! – however I’m usually not very keen on their actual films …
    except for”Babes..” which is brilliant: surreal, grotesque ( eg the 3 little pigs ), endearing, funny, great sets & music.

    Strangely enough a couple of people I know who generally like the bulk of L + H’s films conversely find Babes rather weak!

    It’s a while since I’ve seen their other films, so maybe I’ll like them more now.
    And to digress a bit, I remember seeing some of Jacques Tati’s work in the ’80s & not been drawn in by it, but watching all his stuff recently I really absolutely loved some of it (probably for its poetry of motion, whimsy, almost magical realism, & general soothingness) ie “Mr Hulot’s Holliday”, the first half & end of “Play Time”, “Parade”, & best of all “Trafic” ( though apparently most critics seem to regard “Trafic” as a minor work ),
    And like L + H, Tati’s Hulot character is likewise loveable ( though otherwise very different in character method & content )

  • Actually, it LOOKS like Harman and Ising’s work, having seen enough of their cartoons from this same period. Not at all surprising.

  • The Paramount ALICE is the first thing I remember seeing on our own T.V. as opposed to visiting a house with one…must have been the late50s or so and even then I recognised the Tenniel influence in the costuming..
    however it wasn’t until the late 60s/early 70s that I found the entry in THE FILMS OF WC FIELDS that I learned most of the peculiar details of this film… but by that time it had long gone from the airways in Detroit AFAIK

  • How totally astounding to find out, after alllll these years, it waS NOT the Fleischers! A great post! Thank YOO!!!

  • Thanks for this great article, Steve–and I’m looking forward to the Bunin Alice release from Thunderbean! As a Wonderland fan, I find each adaptation, if not satisfactory, at least fascinating. Though Disney’s 1951 is still, at least to me, the best interpretation of a fantasy that defies filmic interpretation–and made THE GREAT RECORD ALBUM EVER MADE possible (see Animation Spin 8/23/16), the 1933 Paramount film was my first journey and I love the fact that Alice goes through the looking glass AND down the rabbit hole in the same movie. The effects, though crude, are more inventive than many today (see the staircase scene) and even though the rabbit hole is obviously a rolling background, we spend a decent amount of time there (as in the Disney film), while Burton disappointed us by zipping through it quickly when 3-D and new effect could have made it fantastic. Imagination doesn’t come from a store.

    The first time we watched Babes in Toyland, I was thrilled because Alice was in it! Generations of my family love this film and quote it on a regular basis:
    “Why, that’s neither pig nor pork. It’s beef!”
    “You’re not scared now.”
    “Ooooh, they’re terrible creatures!”
    “You’re married to him.” “But I don’t love him!!”
    “Why, he and I are just… like… that.” “Which is you?”
    “Tut, tut, tut, tut, ta-rut! One good toin deserves another.”
    “Upset? I’m housebroken.”
    “Tom-Tom, we’ll never get out of here.” “Oh yes we wee-ull.”
    and so forth.
    A few factoids:
    • Walt Disney gave personal permission to use Mickey and the three pigs, though their names were changed.
    • Henry Brandon was only 21 when he played old Barnaby.
    • Stan Laurel was fond of the film but regretted it had not been filmed in color.
    • Felix Knight (Tom-Tom) became a renowned vocal coach. One of his clients was Jeff Conaway.
    • Contrary to what has been written, this film is not as accurate an adaptation of the original 1910 stage version as the 1961 Disney film, which also makes changes but is more faithful to the source material.

    • Thanks for mentioning the Bunin version Greg – that had slipped my mind.

      It’s probably a very good version but the vhs & later dvd release of it which I’ve watched, have such a shoddy picture quality that I don’t really feel like I’ve properly “seen it” despite the two viewings.

      Hopefully a Thunderbean version will emerge in time.
      I remember not that long ago, someone kindly replied here at TT to my query about its progress;
      they said ( if I hopefully remember correctly ) that Steve had said at some time previously that negotiating for the music rights he had found that, at that time at least, the costs of said rights were too expensive ( I think this was said about both Mr Bug & the Bunin Alice ),
      so this has stalled its progress, for the time being at least.
      I hope I’ve remembered this bit of info accurately.

      And hopefully those issues will be resolved at some point – & I look forward to Steve’s updates if/when it is resolved.
      Am really looking forward to Bunin’s Alice ( as I’m sure we all are ) as I dig the stop-motion & the other worldly atmosphere it creates!
      And I’d imagine everyone here feels pretty much “likewise” … & not “contrariwise”!

  • I was aware of this scene being done by Harman-Ising even before seeing the clip or film (it aired on TCM five or six years ago) as Jerry and Will talked about it in their Warner Brother Cartoons book(s). It was mentioned in their misc.section.

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