Babes in Toyland is the first Disney Christmas movie. I have zero attachment to it, or any other adaptation of the 1903 operetta. Sure there are TV movies and a Laurel & Hardy film, but the 1961 Disney version is the most well known. Babes in Toyland brings together various figures from nursery rhymes. There’s Mary Contrary, Tom Piper, Bo Peep, Jack & Jill, and Mother Goose herself. Although it very much feels like a cartoon, Walt Disney went with live-action instead. Making this the first fully live-action Disney musical.
I’m so glad Disney didn’t make Wizard of Oz, because I get a sneaky feeling this is how it would’ve ended up. Babes in Toyland is just a little too sickeningly sweet for my taste. With bright colors throughout, cartoonishly cheerful characters, and song after song after song. The set is fine for the time, but I’m not a big fan of stage sets in movies. The story is simply Tom and Mary wanting to get married until the dastardly Barnaby comes between them. The Scarecrow himself Ray Bolger as the delightfully over-the-top villain and his henchmen are one of the movie’s few high points.
It’s mostly just a bunch of over extended dance numbers and unnecessary songs. Only at the halfway mark do the babes go to Toyland. Where hilariously screwy Ed Wynn shines as the Toy Maker. Only then is Christmas finally mentioned. I really got interested near the end when Tom gets really small and unleashes an army of stop motion toy soldiers. It only sort of makes senses with context. It may be nonsensically colorful for kids, but Babes in Toyland is just too hokey for me.