Children of all ages have long held an affinity for the Victor Herbert operetta, Babes in Toyland – which joins the many beloved Mother Goose characters together in a musical story that has seen many incarnations over the years. Laurel and Hardy starred in the popular 1934 film version and by 1961, the master of family entertainment, Walt Disney, decided he wanted to take the classic for a spin with his own inimitable style.
Starring Roy Bolger, Tommy Sands and former Mousekateer and beach babe, Annette Funicello, Disney’s Babes in Toyland was released just in time for the Christmas season and instantly became another classic version of the timeless story.
In the film, Tom Piper (Sands) and Mary Contrary (Funicello) are engaged to wed but their plans are disrupted by the evil Barnaby (Bolger), who has his own devious plans for Mary. He dispatches a couple of moronic henchmen to take Tom out of the picture but they decide to sell poor Tom to a roving band of gypsies rather than go through with their plans to drown him. Tom manages to escape by disguising himself as an old lady and rescues Mary. Together, they head to the Forest of No Return to save Mary’s young siblings. All of the characters end up in Toyland at the end, for an epic battle of good and evil chock full of toy soldiers and even shrink rays, all to the music of Herbert’s wonderful score.
Of course, like any classic tale, the Disney version wouldn’t be the last version of Babes in Toyland to be produced. In 1986, a television mini-series was produced that starred Pat Morita and Drew Barrymore, followed by an animated version a few years later. But the 1961 version had something that no other version could compete with, the childlike vision that made Walt Disney the unmatched leader in family entertainment.
If you have fond memories of watching Babes in Toyland as a kid, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to another holiday classic.