In 1951 Souvaine Selective Pictures was set to release Alice in Wonderland featuring a combination of live action and stop-motion animation by pioneering animator Lou Bunin. Bunin had worked for Diego Rivera in Mexico and was behind the earliest known stop-motion production in the U.S.
Alas, there was only one problem, RKO Radio Pictures was set to release Walt Disney’s three million dollar version of Alice in Wonderland and they weren’t comfortable with competition. Claiming that a second Alice film would confuse moviegoers, Disney and RKO successfully sued to have Bunin’s film released eighteen months later in the U.S. with a severely limited distribution, despite the fact that Bunin had already premiered the film in Paris in 1949.
The above is a clip from that film. Unfortunately the negatives have been damaged, leaving us with a poor quality print. However, this does not take away from the fact that, while the white rabbit may be the stuff of nightmares, Bunin’s film is much more faithful to its source material.
It is hard to imagine anyone accepting the veracity of Disney’s claim that this movie, whose budget was half of his feature, would so confuse customers as to cause “irreparable damage” to him and RKO. In the end their victory did nothing to help when the movie was released. Critically panned, despite being a masterpiece of animation, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland achieved little success at the box office, though one can imagine that it fared better than Souvaine Selective Pictures’s. In the end, it only served to make the loss of Bunin’s film that much more unfortunate.

(Ross Rosenberg)