There are almost as many similarities between Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins as there are between the Kennedy and Lincoln administrations – although those of the former are certainly less coincidental. Both films incorporated animation into live-action sequences. Both had magical guardians who managed to spellbind the precocious children under their care. Both took place in London and actor David Tomlinson had a supporting role in each film. Other than that, they were completely different.
Produced by Walt Disney Productions and released in 1971, the film tells the story of three little orphans – Charlie, Carrie and Paul, living during WWII. When an eccentric woman named Eglantine Price comes into their lives, their lives suddenly become far less boring. For Eglantine is an up and coming witch, a student to be exact, studying through London’s Correspondence College of Witchcraft.
When the children discover her secret, they promise to keep it under wraps – with one condition. Eglantine must enchant an object for them. The object lucky enough to receive her “famous magical traveling spell” is one of their bedknobs, turning the bed into a magic carpet of sorts that takes them flying over London, to an animated soccer match played by animals, an undersea kingdom, and lastly, on the German battlefront.
Besides the earlier mentioned similarities, Bedknobs and Broomsticks also incorporated the same director, art director, music director, and songwriting team, the Sherman Brothers, as Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews was even considered for the starring role, which ultimately went to Angela Lansbury.
As a result, Bedknobs and Broomsticks never really got a fair shake during its initial release, due to the comparisons with that other movie, released seven years prior. It still managed to win an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, however, and over time, it has become a beloved classic in its own right.
If you have fond memories of watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks in your youth, we welcome your thoughts in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this endearing film.