|Posted by rossplesset on November 4, 2011 at 11:40 PM|
While I was writing for Cinefantastique magazine in 2001, I was asked to research the current projects of Sid & Marty Krofft. At that time, their slate was a combination of remakes of their classic shows including H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, The Bugaloos, and ElectraWoman and DynaGirl (with Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and Lidsville also in development) and original projects. The latter included A Rat'sTale, whose premise by Dan Rosen, sounded compelling. But the one that intrigued me most was a version of Alice in Wonderland with a black cast (tentatively titled Black Alice in Underland).
Unfortunately, this was a tumultuous time for Cinefantastique, as it faced an uncertain future. Thus, only the remake of ElectraWoman and DynaGirl got coverage in CFQ's sister publication Femme Fatales (June 2002: volume 11, Number 7). Nevertheless, I continued to stay in touch with the Kroffts, particularly in regards to their "Alice" adaptation, and got another publication interested in it. Unfortunately, the staff member who agreed to run the story left the magazine.
With renewed interest in Alice in Wonderland, thanks to last year's Tim Burton movie, I decided to no longer hold back on detailing the Kroffts' "Alice."
“This goes back many, many years,” explained Sid Krofft. “I had a wild idea: I wanted to do a black version of The Wizard of Oz. My brother set up a meeting at MGM, and they practically threw us out. About six months later, I read an article that a Broadway show was going to be done, and of course it was The Wiz.
"I always wanted to do fairy tales from a black perspective. I later had an idea of doing a movie pilot called Black Alice, which would be Alice in Wonderland, and then it would become a series called Black Tie and Tales. Each week we would do a new fairy tale. For Black Alice we had a script written by Bruce Vilanch (Divine Madness) and Carl Kleinschmitt (MASH). This was back in the early '80s. We brought it to ABC, and they bought it. In the middle of all that, the head of the movie department left, and all of his movies were put on hold. So we just put the whole thing to sleep.” During these early years of development, the Kroffts told the Associated Press that “the production will use standard song hits rather than an original score” (see: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Wb8SAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9PgDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3779%2C1152139).
The project was revisited near the beginning of 2001. “I was having lunch with Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire, who's a friend of mine,” Sid Krofft continued. “I told him of this whole story, and he said: ''Oh my God! We've got to do it!' He said Earth, Wind & Fire would do the music. We wrote a concept, and we presented it to two places, and they absolutely flipped over it.”
None of the designers for Sid & Marty Kroffts' fantasy shows of the ''70s (e.g., H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville, or The Bugaloos) were to be involved, but "Alice" promised to have an engaging and distinctive look. “I found a man who lives in France, Edwin Piekny [a costume designer whose work has included the Lido in Paris and the Eureka! Parade for Disney's California Adventure], and I will tell you, I have never seen anything like his work. I want to go into a direction that no one has ever seen before. It's like what Cirque du Soleil did with the circus, not that I'm doing Cirque du Soleil. I don't want to go in the direction of The Wonderful World of Disney's Cinderella (1997). They did a great job, but Black Alice will be unlike anything that has been done with a fairy tale.”
“It's going to be bizarre,” agreed Randy Pope, then of Krofft Development and Production. “There will definitely be some costume characters, some prosthetic characters, and probably a puppet or two.”
Unfortunately, “Alice” once again went on hold (though Edwin Piekny remained connected to it for some years). “When you believe in something like I do, you're not going to let go of it,” Sid remarked in 2005. “I know that someday we'll get it done. We all know that it took 11 years to make Matrix and five years to make Star Wars.”
Alice in Wonderland has been adapted in so many different ways: from the Disney animated feature, to Lou Bunin's stop-motion/live-action film, to numerous celebrity vehicles, to the Czechoslovakian Alice, and most recently Tim Burton's take. It seems like a Sid & Marty Krofft interpretation would make a nice addition to this eclectic list.
Copyright 2011 by Ross Plesset
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