Babes in Toyland (1961) – reviewed by George

This Disney musical is based on the operetta by Victor Herbert and Glen McDonough, and has a screenplay by Ward Kimball & Joe Rinaldi and Lowell S. Hawley. It was directed by Jack Donohue.
Obviously, one of the big numbers is a song called Toyland: “Toyland, Toyland, Wonderful girl and boy land, Once you leave its borders you, Can never return again.” My parents used to sing a commercial from years before that used the melody, but of course had new words: “Dreamgirl, Dreamgirl, Beautiful LusterCream girl. You owe your crowning glory to, A Luh-us-ter-cream Shampoo.”
The stars are Tommy Sands and Annette (Funicello) as Tom Piper and Mary Quite Contrary, with Mary McCarty as Mother Goose, Ann Jilliann as Bo Peep, Kevin Corcoran as Boy Blue, Brian Corcoran as Willie Winkie, Jerry Glenn as Simple Simon, John Perri as Jack-be-Nimble, and David Pinson as Bobby Shaftoe.
Also starring are Ray Bolger as Barnaby, Henry Calvin as Gonzorgo, and Gene Sheldon as Rodrigo. Mother Goose always carries Sylvester J. Goose (voice of Jack Donohue), and Syl (or silly) is a puppet with a molded hand under him while M.G.’s hand is through the body of the puppet and into the beak. She works Sylvester very well.
Tom and Mary are preparing for their marriage, but Barnaby is blinded by money, and also is privy to a secret: unbeknownst to Mary, she inherits big time when she marries, and Barnaby says, “She must marry me. Not Tom. ME!” So Barnaby tells Gonzorgo and Rodrigo to kidnap Tom and throw him into the sea, and then to steal Mary’s sheep to destroy her livelihood. After all, she needs money: she has Bo, Boy, Willie, and twin girls living with her.
The kidnapping goes okay, but the greedy villains want two paydays. So rather than drown Tom they sell him to a traveling band of gypsies, not knowing that Barnaby has already hired the gypsies to entertain at his marriage to Mary. Is Barnaby overconfident or what? This sets the scene for a great entrance to the town square by dancing gypsies, and we see Tom in a caravan making himself up as Floretta, the gypsy fortune teller. The musical number that ends with his unveiling is a real highpoint in the movie.
Of course Tom’s return doesn’t solve everything – the sheep are still missing. So the five children go searching for them, and Tom and Mary have to go looking for the children. United, they still look for the sheep. In the woods they meet the Toymaker (Ed Wynn) and his assistant Grumio (Tommy Kirk). Many entertaining complications, a lot depending on the Toymaker’s insecurity in the face of Grumio and his inventions, ensue.
The Victor Herbert-Glen McDonough songs are still great fun and I really got a kick out of a lot of the shenanigans. But where was Santa Claus? I though this was a Christmas movie. Then I realized that the Laural and Hardy version of “Babes..” is the one with Santa Claus.
Well, this is a Merry movie and it should make you Happy, so I’m reviewing it anyway.

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2 Responses to Babes in Toyland (1961) – reviewed by George

  1. nita166 says:

    Great review. This is well written. I found myself learning a few things I didn’t know. The biggest reason for that is because I hate this movie. It is soooo long. It is so full of nonsense. And I like nonsense. I can remember my mom making me watch it as a child saying “you like singing and dancing. You like this movie.” All the time I was thinking “I’d rather take a nap.” I’ve made it a life obligation to avoid any and all couples named Tom and Mary.

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