Babes in Toyland is the Walt Disney produced 1961 Christmas musical film in Technicolor, directed by Jack Donohue. The movie stars Ray Bolger as Barnaby, Annette Funicello as Mary Contrary, Tommy Sands as Tom Piper, and Ed Wynn as the Toymaker. Barnaby's henchmen, Gonzorgo and Roderigo, were portrayed by Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon in a Laurel & Hardy manner.
The film was based upon Victor Herbert's popular 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland. There had been a well-remembered film version of the operetta in 1934 with Laurel and Hardy, and three television adaptations prior to the Disney film, but Disney's was only the second film version of the operetta released to movie theatres, the first in Technicolor, and the most elaborate by far. However, the plot, and in some cases, the music, bear little resemblance to the 1903 show (Disney had most of the lyrics rewritten and some of the song tempos drastically changed). Both the 1934 film and the 1960 television adaptation (with a grownup Shirley Temple) use the songs as originally written for the stage.
The film begins as if it were a stage play presented by Mother Goose (and her wise-cracking, talking goose companion, Sylvester J. Goose), about two nursery rhyme characters, Mary Contrary and Tom Piper, who are about to be married. At the same time Barnaby, a miser, is hiring two crooks to throw Tom into the sea, forcing Mary to marry him instead. (Mary has just come into a huge inheritance of which she is obviously unaware, but somehow–it is never explained how–Barnaby knows about it and intends to get it for himself.) After smashing Tom on the head with a hammer and tying him in a bag, the two henchmen, Gonzorgo and the silent Roderigo, pass by a gypsy camp. They decide to sell Tom to the Gypsies instead of drowning him in order to collect a double payment.
Gonzorgo and Roderigo return and tell Mary, Barnaby, and the citizens of Mother Goose Land that Tom has accidentally drowned. They show Mary a phony letter in which Tom tells her that he is abandoning her for her own good and that she would be better off marrying Barnaby. The grief-stricken Mary is still able to earn a living off her sheep to avoid marrying him, but Barnaby, knowing this would happen, also has told his henchmen to steal the sheep. Mary, believing she is destitute, reluctantly accepts the proposal from Barnaby. Barnaby unknowingly arranges for the same gypsies that have Tom to provide entertainment for the marriage. Tom, disguised in drag as the gypsy Floretta, reveals himself and Barnaby pursues the frightened Gonzorgo and Roderigo, furious at their deception. One of the children informs Mary of some sheep tracks leading into the Forest of No Return.
The children, still eager to find their sheep, sneak away into the forest to search for the missing sheep. The trees of the forest come to life and capture them. Tom and Mary follow and find the children in the forest telling stories about the live trees, which, at the moment, seem like ordinary ones. They camp out for the night, and in the morning the trees once again come to life and inform the family that they are now in custody of the Toymaker in Toyland. Excited by this, the group happily continues on, escorted part of the way by the trees.
Through the windows of The Toymaker's house they watch the Toymaker's rather incompetent apprentice, Grumio, present a new machine that makes toys without any manual labor. Overjoyed, the Toymaker speeds up the machine to such a high rate that it explodes, destroying every toy in the factory. The family comes in and offers to help make more toys in time for Christmas. Grumio also presents another invention, one that shrinks things down to toy size, and if it were used on anything more than once, they would disappear completely. Barnaby, who had been spying on everyone, shrinks down the Toymaker and Tom. When Barnaby's henchmen see him threatening to give Tom two servings of the shrinking formula, they abandon Barnaby and run. They, too, are shrunken to toy size and locked up with Tom in a birdcage. Barnaby awakens Mary and starts a marriage ceremony threatening to destroy Tom if she resists, and to destroy the Toymaker if he refuses to marry the couple. While the Toymaker delays the marriage Tom sneaks away with the help of Gonzorgo and Roderigo, and returns with an army of toy soldiers to fight Barnaby. Barnaby easily demolishes the toy soldiers, and is about to obliterate Tom with another dose from the shrink gun, but Mary destroys it with a toy cannon. The liquid splatters all over Barnaby, and shrinks him to Tom's new size. He is challenged to and engages in a sword duel with Tom which he loses, but in the film as released, it is unclear whether or not he is actually killed, although he does appear to have been stabbed. (Pre-release publicity stills and a comic book adaptation of the story had him locked up in the birdcage right at film's end, but in the actual movie, he falls into a toy box with a scream at the end of the duel and is never shown again.) After the fight is over, Grumio once again presents a new invention, this time returning people to their original size. It is promptly used on Tom, the Toymaker, Gonzorgo and Roderigo–but not on Barnaby. Tom and Mary are married and they live happily ever after.
- Ray Bolger — Barnaby
- Tommy Sands — Tom Piper
- Annette Funicello — Mary Contrary
- Ed Wynn — Toymaker
- Tommy Kirk — Grumio
- Kevin Corcoran — Boy Blue
- Henry Calvin — Gonzorgo
- Gene Sheldon — Roderigo
- Mary McCarty — Mother Goose
- Ann Jillian — Bo Peep
- Brian Corcoran — Willie Winkie
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