Original window card, 1967
|Directed by||Robert Stevenson|
|Produced by||James Algar|
|Written by||Ellis Kadison|
|Based on||The Gnomobile novel by Upton Sinclair|
|Music by||Buddy Baker|
"The Gnome-Mobile" song by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
|Edited by||Norman R. Palmer|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Box office||$4,000,000 (US/ Canada)|
The Gnome-Mobile is a 1967 Walt Disney Productions comedy-fantasy film directed by Robert Stevenson. It was one of the last films personally produced by Walt Disney. It was based on a 1936 book by Upton Sinclair titled The Gnomobile.
Walter Brennan plays a dual role as D.J. Mulrooney, the kind-hearted lumber tycoon of Irish descent; and as the irascible 943-year-old gnome Knobby. The children, Elizabeth and Rodney, were played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber, familiar from their roles as Jane and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins. Tom Lowell, who plays the young gnome Jasper in this movie, also appeared in the 1965 Disney film That Darn Cat! as Canoe, the befuddled surfer boyfriend of Hayley Mills.
The Gnome-Mobile was both Matthew Garber's and Ed Wynn's last movie role. Wynn died of throat cancer before the movie was released and Garber died ten years later, having contracted hepatitis while visiting India. Richard and Robert Sherman contributed the song "Gnome Mobile".
The Gnome-Mobile was re-released theatrically on November 5, 1976.
The story opens with the children's grandfather, D.J. Mulrooney (Walter Brennan), a well-known executive officer of a timber-trading company. D.J. is going to Seattle to sell 50,000 acres of timberland and takes his customized 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II on the trip. In a brief conversation with his company's head of security, Ralph Yarby (Richard Deacon), we learn that the car was purchased after D.J. earned his first US$1 million. His first stop is the airport, where he picks up his grandchildren Elizabeth (Karen Dotrice) and Rodney (Matthew Garber) who are to accompany D.J. on his trip to Seattle.
Traveling north from San Francisco, the trio detour to Redwood National Park where D.J. has endowed a grove of Redwood trees. There they encounter a gnome called Jasper (Tom Lowell), who has "a terrible problem". They also are introduced to Jasper's 943-year-old grandfather Knobby (also played by Brennan) who, like D.J., is passionate and short-tempered. Jasper's "terrible problem" is that Knobby is suffering from a sickness called "fading", or becoming semi-transparent. D.J. diagnoses this as Knobby's losing the will to live. The reason for this "fading" is that Knobby fears that he and Jasper are the last two of their Gnome kind, and Knobby wants Jasper to find a bride before Knobby dies. Knobby harbors immense hatred for humans because of the human's logging damage to the forests and the livelihood of gnomes. D.J. Mulrooney is startled when Knobby exclaims that the worst loggers were "Mulrooney's Marauders". But the gnomes agree to go along with the trio and seek other gnomes. As they leave together, the children rename the Rolls-Royce (car) “the Gnome-Mobile".
Jasper and his grandfather are kidnapped by Horatio Quaxton (Sean McClory), a freak show owner, while D.J. is committed to an asylum by Yarby, who has heard about the gnomes and deems his boss insane. Rodney and Elizabeth rescue D.J., rescue Jasper from Quaxton, and then set out to find Knobby (who managed to escape earlier).
They arrive in the woods to find Knobby delighted with the presence of a thriving community of gnomes. Jasper is recognized by Rufus the Gnome King (Ed Wynn) as "the eligible gnome" to a large number of young females of his race, who compete in a contest to determine which one will marry him. He is smitten with one lovely, timid girl-gnome named Violet (Cami Sebring), and they end up together.
D.J. gives as a wedding present the rights to the 50,000 acres of forest that were to be sold for logging, which become a haven for the gnomes.
Cast and characters
- Walter Brennan – D.J. Mulrooney/Knobby
- Matthew Garber – Rodney
- Karen Dotrice – Elizabeth
- Richard Deacon – Ralph Yarby
- Tom Lowell – Jasper
- Sean McClory – Horatio Quaxton
- Ed Wynn – Rufus the Gnome King
- Jerome Cowan – Dr. Ramsey
- Charles Lane – Dr. Scoggins
- Norman Grabowski – Male Nurse
- Gil Lamb – Gas Attendant
- Maudie Prickett – Katie Barrett
- Cami Sebring – Violet
Leonard Maltin rates this as one of Disney's best comedy-fantasy films, and states that it is a "mystery" why the film is not better known. He says it deserves to be rediscovered and enjoyed by a new generation, especially younger children.