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
Based on Babes in Toyland
by Victor Herbert
and Glen MacDonough
Starring
Music by
Cinematography Edward Colman
Edited by Robert Stafford
Production
company
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • December 14, 1961 (1961-12-14)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3 million[2]
Box office $4.6 million (US/Canada rentals) [3]

Babes in Toyland is a 1961 American Technicolor Christmas musical film 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.[4]

The film is 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.[2]

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

Plot[edit]

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 Roderigo. 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 Mary he is abandoning her, and 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 who 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 awaken 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 (who is also the Mayor and Chief of Police). 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, after challenging Barnaby to a duel with swords, stabs Barnaby, who falls from a great height into an empty toybox.

During the battle with Barnaby, Grumio creates and presents another new invention, one that returns shrunken people to their original size. He immediately uses it on the Toymaker, Gonzorgo, and Roderigo, but not on Barnaby. Grumio is about to use it on Tom, but after reminding Grumio that he 'is the head toymaker and that Grumio is just his assistant, the Toymarker uses the invention himself to return Tom to his natural size.

A few days later, Tom and Mary are married attended by all of Mother Goose Village including Gonzorgo and Roderigo as well as the trees from the Forest of No Return, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Walt Disney announced the film in 1955 as an animated feature.[5]

Disney said he wanted to create a film of the standard of The Wizard of Oz (1939).[2] "It's like a Disney cartoon only with live actors," said one Disney executive.[6]

Jack Donohue was signed to direct, following his success on Broadway directing Top Banana and Mr. Wonderful, and his work on TV spectaculars for Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.[7]

Dean Jones was originally announced for the lead.[8] Ray Bolger was cast as a villain for the first time in his career.[9] Gene Sheldon, best known for his role of Bernardo in the 1957 television series Zorro,[10] appeared alongside his Zorro co-star, Henry Calvin.

The film featured a 15-minute animated sequence.[2] Principal photography started 13 March 1961 and went for three months.[2]

Tommy Kirk says he enjoyed making the film 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.[11]

Songs[edit]

Title Music by Music adapted by Lyrics by Sung by
"Mother Goose Village and Lemonade" Victor Herbert George Bruns
"Mother Goose Village" adapted from musical piece Country Dance "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 from
The Spider's Den
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

Release[edit]

Babes in Toyland received mixed to negative reviews from film critics; the film currently has 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. Babes in Toyland release was accompanied by a TV show on Disney's program called Backstage Party.[12][13] The film was released on DVD on September 3, 2002, by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.[14]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Film critic A. H. Weiler wrote in his review: "ONLY a misanthrope would glower at Babes In Toyland, which, with the stage show featuring the annual pageant of The Nativity, was ushered in yesterday as the Music Hall's holiday attractions. Since this officially is the time to be merry, let us say that Walt Disney's packaging of Victor Herbert's indestructible operetta is a glittering color and song and dance-filled bauble artfully designed for the tastes of the sub-teen set. Adults would have to be awfully young in mind to accept these picture-book caperings of the Mother Goose coterie as stirring stuff. This Toyland is closer to Disneyland, but who ever heard of an adult winning an argument on that issue?"[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Babes in Toyland (U)". British Board of Film Classification. December 5, 1961. Retrieved December 1, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Becker, Bill (23 Mar 1961). "Ed Wynn Returns to a Comedy Role". The New York Times (1923–Current file). p. 29. 
  3. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964: 69.
  4. ^ Jones, Tom (1923). "Disney Live 'Toyland': Victor Herbert Musical Is Re-created In Manufactured Never-Never Land". The New York Times (Current file, 11 June 1961 ed.). p. X7. 
  5. ^ Hopper, Hedda (17 May 1955). "Disney's next cartoon film will be 'Babes in Toyland'"". Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963).  (Subscription.)
  6. ^ Waugh, John C. (25 Apr 1961). "'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). p. 6. 
  7. ^ "Fox Films Devises Projection Plan: Firm Claims Greater Depth Perception on Wide Screen – 4 Opening This Week". The New York Times (1923–Current file). 16 Jan 1961. p. 22. 
  8. ^ Hopper, Hedda (24 Sep 1960). "McCarey Is Working on Pearl Buck Tale". Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963). p. n15. 
  9. ^ Hopper, Hedda (16 Jan 1961). "Entertainment: Harvey Will Star in 'Five Finger' Bolger Villain in 'Toyland'; Myrna Fahey in Metro Movie". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File). p. C10. 
  10. ^ Tinee, Mae (26 Nov 1961). "Gene Sheldon Beats Drums for 'Toyland'"". Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963). p. i15. 
  11. ^ Kevin (April 1993). "Sex, Lies, and Disney Tape: Walt's Fallen Star". Filmfax (38). p. 70. 
  12. ^ Schumach, Murray (13 Nov 1961). "Films by Disney Work Two Ways: Producer Uses the Same Shows for TV and Movies (1923–Current file)". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. p. 40. 
  13. ^ D23 staff (December 17, 1961). "NBC TV AIRS THE WALT DISNEYS ...". D23. Burbank, California: The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  14. ^ Babes in Toyland (1.33:1) (DVD). Burbank, California: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. September 3, 2002. ASIN B000065V3X. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  15. ^ Weiler, A. H. (December 15, 1961). "Disney's 'Babes in Toyland' Is Holiday Show at Music Hall". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 

External links[edit]