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
Music by
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. 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., including the memorable song "Toyland:, a slow ballad, which was speeded up with only the Chorus sung in a march like rhythm.[1]

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

The film received mostly mixed to negative reviews, due to the changes in the musical arrangements, as wel as with the plot.


The film begins as a stage play presented by Mother Goose and her talking goose, Sylvester, about Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary and Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son, who are about to be married. The miserly and villainous Barnaby hires two crooks, dimwitted Gonzorgo and silent Rodrigo. They are to throw Tom into the sea and steal Mary's sheep, depriving her of her means of support, to force her to marry Barnaby. Mary is unaware that she is the heir to a fortune, but Barnaby is aware and wants it all for himself. Gonzorgo and Roderigo 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 forged letter in which Tom tells her that he is abandoning her 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 wedding. Tom, disguised as the gypsy Floretta, reveals himself and Barnaby pursues the frightened Gonzorgo and Roderigo, furious at their deception. One of the children who live with Mary informs her of some sheep tracks leading into the Forest of No Return.

The children sneak away into the forest to search for the missing sheep. The trees of the forest awake and capture them. Tom and Mary follow and find the children in the forest, where they tell stories about the live trees. The trees seem just like ordinary trees to Tom and Mary. Tom, Mary and the children camp for the night. In the morning the trees once again come to life and explain that they are now in custody of the Toymaker in Toyland. Tom, Mary and the children happily continue on, escorted part of the way by the trees.

Through the windows of the Toymaker's house they watch the Toymaker's brilliant 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. Tom, Mary and the children offer to help make more toys in time for Christmas.

Grumio presents another invention, a shrinking "gun" that reduces everyday objects to toy size. He 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 has been spying on them, takes the discarded shrinking gun and uses it to shrink the Toymaker and Tom. When Barnaby's henchmen see him threatening to shoot Tom a second time, they abandon Barnaby. They try to flee, but Barnaby shoots them and locks them up with Tom in a birdcage.

Barnaby forces Mary to marry him by threatening to destroy Tom, and he threatens to destroy the Toymaker if he refuses to preside over the wedding ceremony. While the Toymaker draws out the ceremony, Gonzorgo and Roderigo rescue Tom, and the three of them sneak away and return with an army of toy soldiers to fight Barnaby. Barnaby easily demolishes the toy soldiers. He 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 toy size. Tom challenges him to a duel with swords. Tom stabs Barnaby, who falls from a great height into an empty toybox.

Grumio presents another new invention, one that returns shrunken people to their original size. He immediately uses it 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 Becker, Bill. "Ed Wynn Returns to a Comedy Role". New York Times (1923–Current file) 23 Mar 1961: 29.
  2. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964: 69.
  3. ^ Jones, Tom. "Disney Live 'Toyland': Victor Herbert Musical Is Re-created In Manufactured Never-Never Land". New York Times (1923–Current file) 11 June 1961: X7.
  4. ^ Hopper, Hedda. "Disney's next cartoon film will be 'Babes in Toyland'". Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) 17 May 1955. Retrieved from (subscription required).
  5. ^ Waugh, John C. "'Music Man', 'Flower Drum Song', and 'Babes in Toyland' Face the Camera: Three Musicals in Three Cinematic Styles. The Christian Science Monitor (1908–Current file) 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) 16 Jan 1961: 22.
  7. ^ Hopper, Hedda. "McCarey Is Working on Pearl Buck Tale". Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) 24 Sep 1960: n15.
  8. ^ Hopper, Hedda. "Entertainment: Harvey Will Star in 'Five Finger' Bolger Villain in 'Toyland'; Myrna Fahey in Metro Movie". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) 16 Jan 1961: C10.
  9. ^ Tinee, Mae. "Gene Sheldon Beats Drums for 'Toyland'". Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) 26 Nov 1961: i15.
  10. ^ Minton, Kevin. "Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: Walt's Fallen Star". Filmfax Issue 38, April 1993, p. 70.
  11. ^ Schumach, Murray. "Films by Disney Work Two Ways: Producer Uses the Same Shows for TV and Movies". New York Times (1923–Current file) 13 Nov 1961: 40.

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