Alice in Wonderland has recently returned to the American media spotlight once again with director Tim Burton’s upcoming remake of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale.
Many animation or film adaptations have been made of the book around the world, but a Soviet-produced animated version made by Efrem Pruzhansky in 1981 appears to be the most different.
In fact, it seems that the Soviet version’s darker and trippier style is closer to the original book as opposed to Disney’s family-friendly 1951 feature.
Here’s a short clip from the animation (sorry, no subtitles):
Unlike most other Alices, all lovely and sugar-sweet and just a little spoiled, the Soviet Alice is acidic, stubborn, bitchy and very welcoming to any and all hallucinations Wonderland has to offer, conjured up in a surrealist frolic by the Soviet animators.
But has Alice in Wonderland always been a popular icon in Russia like it has in America and England? It’s hard to imagine such a fantastical and psychedelic story being promoted during Soviet times.
…children’s literature in Russia at that time tended to be extremely moralistic and plot-based, and Caroll’s wild imagination did not fit in.
Alice’s Russian journey brings us to the 1960s, when an official searching for non-Soviet socialist literature mistook a Bulgarian translation for a Bulgarian book and ordered it to be translated into Russian.
Through more twists and turns, the first post-war version of Alice finally appeared in 1967. It quickly gained popularity amongst a population that had become more open to fantasy and absurdity, and paved the way to these 1981 animations. As Sonkin concludes,
So perhaps the lack of fear was one reason behind Caroll’s popularity in the Soviet Union: For people stuck in a gray reality, Alice’s rabbit hole and looking-glass offered a way out.