Before Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and the Jonas brothers (are they a “thing” anymore?) there was Annette Funicello. Annette was the original Disney heartthrob, and always exuded class and taste – obviously a thing of the past. Babes In Toyland is one of the many Disney films starring Annette, and one that, with its eye-popping visuals, rousing music, and practical effects, still withstands the test of time.
Babes In Toyland takes place in a mythical town of nursery rhyme characters. Tom the Piper’s Son and Mary Mary Quite Contrary are getting married and the entire town is throwing a celebration. Well, the entire town with the exception of Barnaby (Ray Bolger), who wants to lay claim to Mary’s fortune. Barnaby and his minions devise an elaborate plot: Kidnap Tom and throw him into the sea, then steal Bo Peep’s sheep, which are the main income for Mary’s household. Then she will be lonely and broke, and will have no choice but to marry Barnaby.
Upon learning of the sheep’s mysterious disappearance, the children in the household (Bo Peep, Little Boy Blue, and more) venture out into the Forest of No Return, forcing Mary and Tom to go after them. In the forest, the children, Tom and Mary meet a quirky Toymaker (Ed Wynn) and his apprentice Grumio (Tommy Kirk), and it is at the toyshop that the final battle between Tom and Barnaby takes place.
With sixteen elaborate musical numbers, Babes In Toyland was nominated for an Oscar (Best Music), a Golden Globe (Best Picture – Musical), and a Grammy (Best Soundtrack Album). My favorite has always been “I Can’t Do The Sum” sung by Mary, but the music overall is just spectacular.
One of my favorite parts of the film are the practical effects. One of Barnaby’s minions is mute and performs tricks similar to that of Harpo Marx, and that type of physical comedy has definitely become a lost art. If only there were more filmmakers that would take advantage of this; it’s something that is thoroughly enchanting, even for young children of this generation.
It’s also delightful to see these iconic Disney actors in these familiar roles. Growing up as a Disney kid, it’s always fun to see Tommy Kirk (Swiss Family Robinson, Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog) and Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran (Swiss Family Robinson, Old Yeller), and Annette Funicello is just beautiful in everything she does. Ray Bolger (Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz) as Barnaby has always been one of my favorite movie villains, and Ed Wynn (Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins is always fun to watch.
Babes In Toyland is one of those films that you loved as a kid and will be enjoyed by your kids and grandkids, and for generations to come.
This new blu-ray release is stunning. The colors pop, the sound is flawless, but sadly, Disney declined to add any special features that would make this truly a stellar release.
In researching the movie, I discovered that Walt Disney wasn’t happy with the final product of Babes In Toyland, but then made several changes to his movie musical formula with Mary Poppins just a few short years later. I guess Disney studios learned the lessons that Walt wanted them to learn, but Babes In Toyland is still a wonderful, happy film. It has a joy that children’s films just don’t have very often anymore.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Babes In Toyland. Directed by: Jack Donohue. Starring: Annette Funicello, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn, Ray Bolger. Written by: Joe Rinaldi, Lowell S. Hawley, Ward Kimbell. Running time: 106 minutes. Rating: G. Released: December 11, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Walt Disney