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Babes in Toyland

Walt Disney's first live-action musical, a lavish translation to the screen of Victor Herbert's operetta, Babes in Toyland, is an expensive gift, brightly-wrapped and intricately packaged. But some of the more mature patrons may be distressed to discover that quaint, charming Toyland has been transformed into a rather gaudy and mechanical Fantasyland. What actually emerges is Babes in Disneyland.

Walt Disney’s first live-action musical, a lavish translation to the screen of Victor Herbert’s operetta, Babes in Toyland, is an expensive gift, brightly-wrapped and intricately packaged. But some of the more mature patrons may be distressed to discover that quaint, charming Toyland has been transformed into a rather gaudy and mechanical Fantasyland. What actually emerges is Babes in Disneyland.

The Disney concept of Toyland falls somewhere in that never-never land where the techniques of the stage, the live-action screen and the animated cartoon overlap.

Ray Bolger is the standout member of the cast. As the arch-villain out to dispose of Tommy Sands in order to wed the heiress, Annette Funicello, he delivers a sly, rollicking, congenially menacing portrayal. His rubber-legged hoofing shows to special advantge on a Castles in Spain number.

Sands and Funicello are rather wooden as the young lovers, but each has an opportunity to display vocal prowess and capable choreographic footwork. Ed Wynn and Tommy Kirk score as toymaker and assistant.

Modernization of Herbert’s evergreen score has been accomplished smoothly by George Bruns, Mel Leven’s new libretto and lyrics are clever, but some of the simple charm of the original words, such as in the delightful ‘I Can’t Do the Sum,’ have been sacrificed for purposes of visual trickery. Tommy Mahoney’s choreography is brisk and workable, with best results obtained in an exciting dance of gypsies.

Babes in Toyland

  • Production: Walt Disney. Director Jack Donohue; Screenplay Ward Kimball, Joe Rinaldi, Lowell S. Hawley; Camera Edward Colman; Editor Robert Stafford; Music George Bruns (adapt.); Art Director Carroll Clark, Marvin Ambrey Davis
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1961. Running time: 106 MIN.
  • With: Ray Bolger Tommy Sands Annette Funicello Ed Wynn Tommy Kirk Kevin Corcoran