Babes in Toyland (1961)

babes in toyland poster 1961 movie disney
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 6/10

Clean, good looking picture

Bad story

Movie Info

Movie Name: Babes in Toyland

Studio: Walt Disney Entertainment

Genre(s):  Musical/Family/Seasonal

Release Date(s): December 14, 1961 (US)

MPAA Rating: G

babes in toyland annette funicello technicolor

Annette is haunted by her own demons…

Barnaby (Ray Bolger) has plans to lay claim to Mary Contrary (Annette Funicello) and her fortune by preventing her from marrying Tom Piper (Tommy Sands).  When Barnaby has his agents Gonzorgo and Roderigo (Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon) kidnap Tom and drive the sheep of Bo Peep (Ann Jillian) into the Forest of No Return, Mary finds she might have no choice but to marry the evil miser…but a trip into the Forest of No Return could mean the discovery of Toyland and the Toymaker (Ed Wynn).

Directed by Jack Donahue, Babes in Toyland is a Walt Disney live-action holiday family musical.  The film adapts the Victor Herbert 1903 operetta but largely rewrites the operetta.  The movie did receive two Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design—Color and Best Music—Scoring of a Musical Picture.

babes in toyland forest of no return tommy snads annette ann jillian

Well, at least we have a fun song

I want to like Babes in Toyland because I like some of the ideas, but adaptation after adaptation, I’m always disappointed.  This version of Babes in Toyland is the most accessible (due to its Disney’s ties), but it still is rather tedious at points.

The movie is presented as a stage play and was one of Disney’s early entries into the completely live action film. Mother Goose (Mary McCarty) and her goose introduce the play.  Being a play, the weak special effects can be written off…smart move Disney because some of the effects are really bad.  Sorry, the rubber trees of the Forest of No Return are not even as threatening as the trees from The Wizard of Oz.

Despite some of the effects’ visuals, the movie is shot very stylishly.  The film has a lot of resemblances to Wizard of Oz (more than just the trees) and there is a magic quality to it.   It looks great in bright Technicolor. Scenes like Annette’s dream and the town itself are magical.

babes in toyland toymaker barnaby ray bolger ed wynn

I kind of wish that Barnaby just blew the Toymaker up

The biggest problems with all versions of Babes in Toyland (including the better 1934 Laurel & Hardy version March of the Wooden Soldiers), is that the story is pretty stupid…and this version is even worse.  It is almost two different movies.  The first movie is about Tom’s kidnapping, the second movie is about the Toymaker and Toyland.  There is less division in the story in March of the Wooden Soldiers and that helps it flow a bit better than this film.  The characters also sometimes break the fourth wall (as part of the play aspect), but it isn’t done enough to really make sense…and scenes go on too long (like the Toymaker’s malfunctioning machine).

Babes in Toyland is pretty typical Disney live action of the time.  It does have a nice cast with Ray Bolger, Annette, Tommy Sands, and a young Ann Gillian.  The Christmas ties are severed more in this version since Santa Claus doesn’t show up like in the Laurel and Hardy version, but it still has a Christmas feel (including the snowy ending).  If you must watch a version of Babes in Toyland watch March of the Wooden Soldiers, but you can probably do better than seeing any version of this story.

Related Links:

March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)

Babes in Toyland (1986)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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