(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Babes in Toyland)
Doug (vo): When people mention a film version of Babes in Toyland, usually the Disney one is the first one that comes to mind. And that either means it's really good, or all the other film versions range from bad to... really bad.
(The covers for several Babes in Toyland movies are shown. There's the 1997 animated version, the Shirley Temple version and the 1986 Drew Barrymore version)
Doug (vo): And, yeah, that's kind of my outlook on it. I loved this film growing up, but watching it again, it doesn't hold up that great. It's got a lot of good people and the money in the production definitely shows, but in terms of the story and the main characters, it's kind of all over the place and pretty...bland. Surprising for a film that looks like this!
Doug (vo): Okay, well, what's the story? Mary and Tom are just two of the most adorable lovebirds and they're gonna get married. But Barnaby, the evil villain of the town, decides that he wants to marry Mary. How do I know this? Because he literally tells the audience.
Barnaby: If I'm to get my hands on Mary's money, the person Mary marries must be me, not Tom, me!
Doug (vo): So he sends his two henchmen to have Tom killed, but the henchmen decide they can make a little money on the side, too, so they decided to sell him to a bunch of gypsies. Now that Tom is gone, Mary sees that her only choice is to marry Barnaby. Why? Get this, she can't do the math on her finances. No, I'm not even kidding. There's a whole trippy ass song dedicated to it.
(A snippet of the song "I Can't Do the Sum" is shown)
Doug (vo): Barnaby, of course, accepts the offer to marry her and calls in a bunch of gypsies for entertainment, and, wouldn't you know it, Tom's in the gypsy band and, of course, they get back together. But then we shift to kind of another story as a bunch of the kids wander into the Forest of No Return and Tom and Mary go to try and save them, only to run into a toymaker, who makes a device that can shrink things down, but then Barnaby seems to follow them and he shrinks everybody down and uses that as leverage to still marry Mary, but then Tom breaks open a bunch of the toys and they have this big epic battle and...this is weird!
Doug (vo): So, yeah, as you can tell from the story, it's kind of all over the place and, like I said, weird! I'm usually fine with weird, but this movie clearly doesn't have much of a focus, and it's kind of obvious because there's nothing really that much interesting to focus on, at least in terms of the main characters. That's Annette Funicello as Mary and she's usually very charming, but she just has nothing to work with here. All she does is cry and look confused. The guy who plays Tom has a funny scene as a gypsy fortune teller, but aside from that, he has really nothing that interesting. The kids are all boring, some of the side characters are kind of neat, but they're not in it for very long. A lot of the songs are pretty pointless, though some of them are kinda fun.
(Clips of the film's villain are shown)
Doug (vo): The only thing that's genuinely enjoyable about it is the villain. Recognize him? Yeah, that's the Scarecrow from Wizard of Oz, and he just has a great time being the most stereotypical villain, but really playing it up and having fun. This is the guy with the top hat, twiddles his moustache, tied the woman to the railroad tracks, the whole spiel. And his two bumbling sidekicks actually get a few laughs, too.
(Regular clips from the film are shown)
Doug (vo): I also like Ed Wynn as the toymaker because, well, he's Ed Wynn. Anything he's in is just gonna be a ton of fun, even if it sucks. Aside from that, like I said, the look of the production is really impressive. I mean, yeah, it's obviously a set, but it's such a BIG set, and it's so creative with all the colors and the costumes and the puppets, and it looks really imaginative. Even if it is sort of dressed in that 60's and 70's style, that dates it a bit, but not too bad. The music and songs as well, though not always necessary, are still nice to listen to. I could listen to that March of the Toy Soldiers forever, and, yeah, we've heard it in a bunch of other different versions, but, man, does it sound good here!
(The scene showing the toy soldiers is shown)
Doug (vo): Actually, the whole climax is a lot of fun. You spend this good long while building up this toy army with that incredible music and this wonderful stop-motion and these great effects, and what does Barnaby do when they finally come in? He just laughs at them. It's sort of like, "Yeah, they're just toys. Why am I afraid of you?" But as they keep fighting on and on and on, they tend to get more and more threatening, until Mary throws that potion at him that shrinks him down, and it's an enjoyable one on one battle between our hero and villain. Even though Mary clearly could just go and step on him, but...eh, it's more dramatic this way.
Doug (vo): So, again, like almost any Disney production, even if it's bad, there's some really cool stuff in it. I do like the scope and size of the production, I do like the villains and I like a lot of the music. But outside of that, the story and main characters are just so hopelessly dull. But again, as a kid, I did watch it a lot, but, yeah, maybe it was for those three elements I listed earlier. I did tend to fast forward it whenever Tom or Mary were onscreen. I don't know, if you're looking for an impressive-looking kids' film without much substance to it, you'll get your fill. But if you're looking for a timeless classic based on a timeless classic, Babes in Toyland, this is probably not the best interpretation, or maybe it is in film form, but come on. There's gotta be better. Looks great, sounds great, but not too much else to it.
(The film's final scene showing the toy soldiers marching off to battle is shown)