Babes in Toyland (1961 film)

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Babes in Toyland
Babes in toyland 1961 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jack Donohue
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Lowell S. Hawley
Ward Kimball
Glen MacDonough (operetta)
Joe Rinaldi
Starring Ray Bolger
Tommy Sands
Annette Funicello
Ed Wynn
Music by Victor Herbert
George Bruns
Mel Leven (new lyrics)
Cinematography Edward Colman
Edited by Robert Stafford
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
  • December 14, 1961 (1961-12-14)
Running time
106 min.
Language English
Budget $3 million[1]
Box office $4.6 million (US/ Canada rentals) [2]

Babes in Toyland is a 1961 Walt Disney Christmas musical film in Technicolor, directed by Jack Donohue, and distributed to theatres by Buena Vista Distribution. It stars Ray Bolger as Barnaby, Annette Funicello as Mary Contrary, Tommy Sands as Tom Piper, and Ed Wynn as the Toymaker.[3]

The film was based upon Victor Herbert's popular 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland. There had been a 1934 film also titled Babes in Toyland starring Laurel and Hardy, and three television adaptations prior to the Disney film, but Disney's was only the second film version of the operetta released to movie theatres and the first in Technicolor. However, the plot, and in some cases, the music, bear little resemblance to the original as Disney had most of the lyrics rewritten and some of the song tempos drastically changed.[1]

The toy soldiers would later appear in Christmas parades at the Disney theme parks around the world.


The film begins as if it were a stage play presented by Mother Goose (and her wise-cracking, talking goose companion, Sylvester) about two nursery rhyme characters, Mary, Mary Quite Contrary and Tom the Piper's Son, who are about to be married. At the same time, the miserly and villainous Barnaby is hiring two crooks, Gonzorgo and Rodrigo, to throw Tom into the sea and steal Mary's sheep, thus depriving her of her means of support, and forcing her to marry Barnaby instead. (Mary has just come into a huge inheritance of which she is obviously unaware, but somehow–it is never explained how–Barnaby knows about it and intends to get it for himself.) After bopping Tom on the head with a hammer and tying him in a bag, the two henchmen, dimwitted Gonzorgo and silent Roderigo, pass by a gypsy camp. They decide to sell Tom to the Gypsies instead of drowning him in order to collect a double payment.

Gonzorgo and Roderigo return and tell Mary, Barnaby, and the citizens of Mother Goose Land that Tom has accidentally drowned. They show Mary a phony letter in which Tom tells her that he is abandoning her for her own good and that she would be better off marrying Barnaby. Mary, believing she is destitute, reluctantly accepts the proposal from Barnaby. Barnaby unknowingly arranges for the same gypsies that have Tom to provide entertainment for the marriage. Tom, disguised in drag as the gypsy Floretta, reveals himself and Barnaby pursues the frightened Gonzorgo and Roderigo, furious at their deception. One of the children informs Mary of some sheep tracks leading into the Forest of No Return.

The children, still eager to find their sheep, sneak away into the forest to search for the missing sheep. The trees of the forest come to life and capture them. Tom and Mary follow and find the children in the forest telling stories about the live trees, which, at the moment, seem like ordinary ones. They camp out for the night, and in the morning the trees once again come to life and inform the family that they are now in custody of the Toymaker in Toyland. Excited by this, the group happily continues on, escorted part of the way by the trees.

Through the windows of The Toymaker's house they watch the Toymaker's rather incompetent apprentice, Grumio, present a new machine that makes toys without any manual labor. Overjoyed, the Toymaker speeds up the machine to such a high rate that it explodes, destroying every toy in the factory. The family comes in and offers to help make more toys in time for Christmas.

Grumio also presents another invention, a shrinking "gun" that reduces everyday objects down to toy size. (He also warns that if it is used on anything more than once, the shrunken object disappears completely.) The Toymaker is at first delighted at the idea of producing toys by shrinking life-sized objects, but then Tom points out the impossibility of finding enough everyday objects to shrink down into the large quantity of toys needed for Christmas. The Toymaker berates Grumio for his stupidity and throws the shrinking gun out the window in disgust.

Barnaby, who had been spying on everyone, takes the discarded shrinking gun and uses it to shrink down the Toymaker and Tom. When Barnaby's henchmen see him threatening to give Tom two servings of the shrinking formula, they abandon Barnaby and try to run. They, too, are shrunken to toy size and locked up with Tom in a birdcage.

Barnaby awakens Mary and starts a marriage ceremony threatening to destroy Tom if she resists, and to destroy the Toymaker if he refuses to marry the couple. While the Toymaker delays the marriage Tom sneaks away with the help of Gonzorgo and Roderigo, and returns with an army of toy soldiers to fight Barnaby. Barnaby easily demolishes the toy soldiers, and is about to obliterate Tom with another dose from the shrinking gun, but Mary destroys it with a toy cannon. The liquid splatters all over Barnaby, and shrinks him to Tom's new size. He is challenged to and engages in a sword duel with Tom, which Tom wins by stabbing Barnaby, who falls from a great height into an empty toybox.

After the fight is over, Grumio once again presents a new invention, this time returning people to their original size. It is promptly used on Tom, The Toymaker, Gonzorgo and Roderigo, but not on Barnaby. Tom and Mary are married and everyone lives happily ever after.



Walt Disney announced the film in 1955 as an animated movie.[4]

Walt Disney said he wanted to create a film of the standard of Wizard of Oz.[1] "It's like a Disney cartoon only with live actors," said one Disney executive.[5]

Jack Donohue was signed to direct off the back of his success on Broadway directing Top Banana and Mr Wonderful and his work on TV spectaculars for Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.[6]

Dean Jones was originally announced for the lead.[7] It marked the first time Ray Bolger had played a villain.[8] Gene Sheldon was best known for the TV series Zorro.[9] Sheldon's Zorro co-star, Henry Calvin appeared in the film alongside him.

The movie featured a 15-minute animated sequence.[1]

Shooting started 13 March 1961 and went for three months.[1]

Tommy Kirk says he enjoyed making the movie because of working with Ed Wynn:

I thought he was delightful and so did everyone else. You couldn't not like him. He was completely crazy and he was just as crazy offscreen as he was on. But it was all, of course, an act. He was a very serious, religious man in his own way, but he loved playing Ed Wynn, the perfect fool, the complete nut. And he was good at it. Actually I think the movie is sort of a klunker, especially when I compare it to the Laurel and Hardy Babes in Toyland. It's not a great film but it has a few cute moments. It's an oddity. But I'm not embarrassed about it like I am about some other movies I've made.[10]


Title Music by Music adapted by Lyrics by Sung by
Mother Goose Village and Lemonade Victor Herbert George Bruns
Lemonade adapted from musical piece Military Ball
Mel Leven Chorus
We Won't Be Happy Till We Get It Victor Herbert George Bruns
from He Won't Be Happy Till He Gets It
Mel Leven Ray Bolger, Henry Calvin and danced by Gene Sheldon
Just A Whisper Away Victor Herbert George Bruns Mel Leven Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello
Slowly He Sank To The Bottom of the Sea George Bruns Mel Leven Henry Calvin & danced by Gene Sheldon
Castle in Spain Victor Herbert George Bruns Mel Leven Ray Bolger (who also dances)
Never Mind, Bo-Peep Victor Herbert George Bruns Mel Leven Ann Jillian and chorus
I Can't Do The Sum Victor Herbert George Bruns Mel Leven Annette Funicello
Floretta Victor Herbert George Bruns Mel Leven Tommy Sands and Chorus
Forest of No Return Victor Herbert George Bruns Mel Leven Chorus, Singing trees, and children
Go To Sleep Victor Herbert George Bruns from
Go to Sleep, Slumber Deep
Mel Leven Tommy Sands, Annette Funicello, and children
Toyland Victor Herbert George Bruns Mel Leven and
Glen MacDonough
Tommy Sands, Annette Funicello, children and Singing trees
Workshop Song Victor Herbert George Bruns from
In The Toymaker's Workshop
Mel Leven Ed Wynn, Tommy Sands, Annette Funicello, and children
Just A Toy Victor Herbert George Bruns Mel Leven Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello
March of the Toys Victor Herbert Orchestra
Tom and Mary Victor Herbert George Bruns
from Hail to Christmas
Mel Leven Wedding guests


The release of the film was accompanied by a TV show on Walt Disney's program called Backstage Party.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e ED WYNN RETURNS TO A COMEDY ROLE: After Decade in Dramas, He Will Be Toymaker in Film, 'Babes in Toyland' By BILL BECKER Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 23 Mar 1961: 29.
  2. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 69
  3. ^ DISNEY LIVE 'TOYLAND': Victor Herbert Musical Is Re-created In Manufactured Never-Never Land By TOM JONES. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 June 1961: X7.
  4. ^ Hopper, H. (1955, May 17). Disney's next cartoon film will be 'babes in toyland'. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  5. ^ 'Music Man,' 'Flower Drum Song,' and 'Babes in Toyland' Face the Camera: Three Musicals in Three Cinematic Styles By John C. Waugh. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 25 Apr 1961: 6.
  6. ^ FOX FILMS DEVISES PROJECTION PLAN: Firm Claims Greater Depth Perception on Wide Screen -- 4 Opening This Week New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 16 Jan 1961: 22.
  7. ^ McCarey Is Working on Pearl Buck Tale Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 24 Sep 1960: n15.
  8. ^ Entertainment: Harvey Will Star in 'Five Finger' Bolger Villain in 'Toyland'; Myrna Fahey in Metro Movie Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 16 Jan 1961: C10.
  9. ^ Gene Sheldon Beats Drums for 'Toyland' Tinee, Mae. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 26 Nov 1961: i15.
  10. ^ Minton, Kevin, "Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: Walt’s Fallen Star", Filmfax Issue 38, April 1993 p 70
  11. ^ ILMS BY DISNEY WORK TWO WAYS: Producer Uses the Same Shows for TV and Movies By MURRAY SCHUMACH Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 13 Nov 1961: 40.

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