Customer Review

97 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marching Wooden Soldiers, February 23, 2003
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This review is from: Babes in Toyland (DVD)
DVD REVIEW
This DVD release at the time of my review of this film adds nothing to the VHS. No Widescreen, no re-mastering, and no extras. I will keep my VHS copy for now. Now on to the original film itself:

FILM REVIEW
In this 1961 film, the first true live-action musical from the Walt Disney Studio, Tommy Sands is paired up with America's girl next door who got her start with Walt Disney, Annette Funicello. Also the famous Ray Bolger and Ed Wynn are featured, and Ann Jillian was a child actor in this movie. There is more great talent from the Disney in-house stable of stars, Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran, who played brothers in both "Old Yeller" and "Swiss Family Robinson".

The story is simple enough, we are in Mother Goose land and the villain shrinks our heroes to toy size. They must enlist help from the toys in the Toymaker's shop to fight back. The effects were eye-popping at the time, and to see a toy army coming to life and fight the bad guys is a great treat for kids. The movie has some real fun stop motion style animation, where the toys are made to look like they are alive (30 years before computer animation did it for "Toy Story"). The Christmas parade at Disneyland has featured replicas of the marching soldiers from this film for over 40 years. The beautiful wooden toys that are seen in the film were all designed by veteran animator Ward Kimball. (animators X. Atencio and Bill Justice joined Ward on the stop-animation to bring the custom made toys to life).

The movie was promoted in advance on the Walt Disney television show, in a 1961 episode that also promoted "The Parent Trap", (the episode is called "The Title Makers"). The film was promoted again that year in an episode called "Backstage Party", which celebrated the completion of the film and gave the viewers a tour of the Disney Studio. The sets specially built for the film at the studio were so unique, they found a temporary home at Disneyland after the films release in '61 up to 1963, and people could actually see them up close inside the Opera House on Main Street.

The best part of this film is the music, which is the true star of any musical. The musical score features 11 songs from the in-house team of George Bruns (music) and Mel Leven (lyrics), and their score was nominated for an Academy Award.

But even with the music, great stars, incredible sets, special effects, nice costumes, the script and dialogue left a lot to be desired so the film was deemed dull for adults. Uncle Walt hated the end product, but gamely tried to promote it as best he could and use it as an exercise for the studio to learn from, as he really wanted to make a good musical. Just 4 years later he released the studios biggest live-action film ever, a musical to beat all musicals, "Mary Poppins". The lesson had worked.

Watch Babes in Toyland with light expectations, see it for the toys, Annette and the gang, and enjoy the wonderful music.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 2, 2011 1:05:33 AM PDT
The Disney film was based on the 1903 operetta of the same name with music by Victor Herbert and book and lyrics by Henry Blossom. For the 1961 film, George Bruns and Mel Leven "adapted" the Herbert and Blossom score by changing a few notes and song lyrics. Bruns and Leven should not be given credit for the total score because they only "arranged" some of the original songs, much like Bruns had done a few years earlier with Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's ballet music in Disney's "Sleeping Beauty."
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