This past Friday night, April 1st, an exhibit of art and collectibles all relating to Disney’s Alice in Wonderland
opened at Geppi’s Museum
in Baltimore. The exhibit runs through October 2nd. In addition to original production drawings, cels, and concept art, the show includes advertisements, sculptures, and the like, as well as a number of movie posters from around the world. All of this represents only a small part of what avid collectors Matt and Wendy Crandall
have amassed over years of searching. We caught up with Matt and asked him a few questions about the exhibit and his life of collecting:
AS: What is your specific attraction to Disney’s Alice?
Matt Crandall: It all started in 1971 when I was (nearly) 7 years, and I was visiting Disneyland with my father. We spent one whole day just wandering the park looking for the walk-around character to take photographs. At parade time we got curb seats so that we could hopefully get more pictures. During the parade the walk-around Alice stopped and talked with me and shook my hand. I was transfixed. After the parade I remember we had time to go on one more ride and my Dad wanted to go on Pirates. During the entire ride I held my hand under my shirt so it wouldn’t get wet and wash off the Alice. Yup, an obsession was born. I sort of forgot about that story for a long time, and had already been collecting for a couple of years when it was all suddenly brought back to me when I saw a Disneyland employee newsletter from 1971 that had a picture of that Alice, and boom, it all came back. Aside from that childhood experience, I just love the artistry of the film, and especially the variety of objects created for its original release. Some of the most beautiful pieces of Disneyana were created for Alice, both here and abroad.
AS: Is your collecting a family affair, or is this a passion with understanding support from Wendy? Do you guys look for images for each other?
Matt Crandall: Both really. Wendy and I met because we are both Alice enthusiasts. While I was (and am) hardcore Disney, she was more book focused, although she did (and does) very much like the Disney stuff. But Disney is my passion and she tolerates my zeal quite well. In fact, when people ask her if she married me because of my collection, she replies that she married me in spite of my collection. We do collaborate on major purchases, and I’m actually always on the lookout for Wendy items for her, since there are so few. But for Alice, we tend to both keep an eye out.
AS: What artists do you see as essential to the look and feel of the film and do you have pieces reflecting their work?
Matt Crandall: Clearly Mary Blair is key to Alice’s overall look, and we love her concept art. Additionally, with respect to Alice herself, Marc Davis and Milt Kahl were essential to defining her final look in the film. I’m always excited to find key pieces from either of them, although since so many people animated Alice, I’m not too picky. And of course my personal favorite, David Hall. His stuff from 1939 is truly amazing. What a cool film that would have been.
AS: Do you have a favorite or is it always your most recent acquisition?
Matt Crandall: Recent acquisitions always occupy the top spot, but I love the David Hall watercolor of Alice talking to the Caterpillar, and the Mary Blair tea party scene, both of which are in this exhibition.
AS: What is one piece of trivia about Alice in Wonderland that surprised you you want fans to know?
Matt Crandall: Just this past fall, during Alice 150 (the Lewis Carroll Society’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the book) I learned that the title song from the film became a Jazz music standard! Who knew? It was recorded by such notable musicians as Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Chick Corea.
AS: What is your experience with fans of the original or earlier illustrations of Lewis Carroll’s work and how Disney’s version is seen by them?
Matt Crandall: Mixed, but improving. In the past Carrollians have been … less than enthusiastic about Disney’s version, some outright reviling it both publicly and privately. But with all things, times change and new blood joins, and people I think are coming to realize that the Disney version, while certainly not a perfect adaptation (not that any are), is certainly not the worst thing ever. And those that care to have an open mind, will see it as a beautiful film, with engaging songs, and accessible to children. And, that it has certainly been a catalyst for a vast number of new adaptations, new art, and a vigorous fan community. That can only help perpetuate the Carroll legacy.
AS: As someone who has fully embraced your love of Alice, what is your advice to novice collectors who don’t know where to start?
Matt Crandall: Start with what you love. Don’t be swayed by what other people think or say, and don’t be bullied into anything that doesn’t appeal to you. When I started, Alice was still considered a throwaway film, and art and memorabilia for it was deemed unworthy compared to the 1930s stuff of Mickey and Snow White. But now, people LOVE it. As they should!
The Alice in Wonderland Exhibit
is open to the public through September of 2016. For more information, go to www.geppismuseum.com