Babes in Toyland

Babes in Toyland

4.5 2
Director: Jack Donohue

Cast: Jack Donohue, Ray Bolger, Tommy Sands, Annette Funicello

     
 

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This second film adaptation of the Victor Herbert operetta "Babes in Toyland" was producer Walt Disney's Christmas offering for 1961. The 1903 Herbert original had very little in the way of a plot, so screenwriters Joe Rinaldi, Lowell S. Hawley, and Ward Kimball lifted elements from the 1934 filmization of Toyland, which starred Laurel and Hardy. AnnetteSee more details below

Overview

This second film adaptation of the Victor Herbert operetta "Babes in Toyland" was producer Walt Disney's Christmas offering for 1961. The 1903 Herbert original had very little in the way of a plot, so screenwriters Joe Rinaldi, Lowell S. Hawley, and Ward Kimball lifted elements from the 1934 filmization of Toyland, which starred Laurel and Hardy. Annette Funicello plays Mary Contrary, about to wed Tom Piper (Tommy Kirk) in the heart of Mother Goose Village. The villainous Barnaby (played by the far-from-menacing Ray Bolger), who covets Mary for himself, orders his bumbling henchmen Gonzorgo (Henry Calvin) and Roderigo (Gene Sheldon) to do away with Tom (Calvin and Sheldon are Disney's "answer" to Laurel and Hardy, and they're quite funny). Hoping to turn a profit, Gonzorgo and Roderigo sell Tom to a band of gypsies, enabling Tom to make a surprise return-in old-lady drag!--to rescue Mary from Barnaby's clutches. Later, Mary's younger siblings (including Disney "regular" Moochie Corcoran) wander into the Forest of No Return, compelling Tom and Mary to go after them. Everyone winds up in Toyland, where they help the Toymaker (Ed Wynn) and his invention-happy assistant Grumio (Tommy Kirk) meet their quota for Santa Claus. It must needs be that Barnaby also shows up in Toyland; stealing Grumio's latest invention, a "shrink gun," Barnaby threatens to miniaturize Tom into nothingness unless Mary accepts his proposal of marriage. The teeny-tiny Tom saves the day by activating an army of toy soldiers to thwart Barnaby once and for all. Though lavishly and meticulously produced, Babes in Toyland lacks the essential appeal of the minimalist Laurel and Hardy version. Still, the Disney remake has a great deal going for it, including captivating stagings of such Victor Herbert compositions as "I Can't Do That Sum," "Just a Toy," "Floretta," "Castle in Spain," "We Won't be Happy Til We Get It," "Lemonade," "Just a Whisper Away," "Toyland," and "March of the Toys." Keep an eye peeled for 11-year-old Ann Jillian, making her screen debut as Bo Peep.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Young children tend to enjoy Babes in Toyland immensely, but older viewers find it rather tough going. Certainly, there are assets for everyone, starting with the sterling Victor Herbert score, which -- even in the "contemporized" version heard here -- is full of melodies that soar gracefully and land with just the right lilt upon the ear. Toyland also has some delightful costumes, and the look of the fairy tale characters is a treat. Though the sets are a bit too artificial, they're undeniably colorful and eye catching. And the climactic "March of the Toy Soldiers" sequence is quite fun to watch. And visually, director Jack Donohue has found some imaginative ways to capture the environs on film. But the picture never comes together the way it should. The story is really nothing but a sketch, there's no real menace to the villain, the tone is fudged constantly, the pieces don't hang together and -- most damagingly of all -- no one but the very young really cares about the characters or what happens to them. Of the cast, Ed Wynn is a lot of fun, but Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands are flat and dull as the young leads. Tommy Kirk has some good moments, which is more than can be said for Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon, given the unenviable task of competing with the memory of Laurel and Hardy in these roles in a much better earlier version. Ray Bolger tries very hard, but making this villain a comic character is the wrong decision, and ultimately even Bolger's skill can't keep the character from becoming tiresome. In the end, the biggest problem with Toyland seems to be that its creators didn't really believe in it -- and so all their hard work to make it magical instead just makes it mechanical.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/03/2002
UPC:
0786936185478
Original Release:
1961
Rating:
G
Source:
Walt Disney Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital Surround]
Time:
1:46:00
Sales rank:
8,431

Special Features

Closed Caption; Dolby Digital Surround Sound; Fullscreen (1.33:1)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ray Bolger Barnaby
Tommy Sands Tom Piper
Annette Funicello Mary Contrary
Ed Wynn Toymaker
Tommy Kirk Grumio
Kevin Corcoran Boy Blue
Henry Calvin Gonzorgo
Gene Sheldon Roderigo
Mary McCarty Mother Goose
Ann Jillian Bo Peep
Brian Corcoran Willie Winkie
Marilee & Melanie Arnold Twins
Jerry Glenn Simple Simon
John Perri Jack-be-Nimble
David Pinson Bobby Shaftoe
Bryan Russell The Little Boy
James Martin Jack

Technical Credits
Jack Donohue Director
George Bruns Score Composer
Edward Colman Cinematographer
Walt Disney Producer
Lowell S. Hawley Screenwriter
Victor Herbert Songwriter
Ward Kimball Screenwriter
Mel Leven Songwriter
Tom Mahoney Choreography
Joe Rinaldi Screenwriter
Robert Stafford Editor
Bill Thomas Costumes/Costume Designer

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Credits/Mother Goose Village [8:50]
2. Mr. Barnaby's Plot [5:34]
3. Kidnapping Tom [8:19]
4. Mary Gets Bad News [12:27]
5. Bo Peep's Lost Sheep [8:24]
6. The Gypsy Surprise [9:09]
7. The Forest of No Return [10:18]
8. Toyland [8:30]
9. Making the Christmas Deadline [9:20]
10. A New Invention [7:39]
11. The March of the Toy Soldiers [15:24]
12. The Wedding/Closing Credits [1:47]

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