Nerds Gets Cheery: Time to Sing with the Trees in ‘Babes in Toyland’


It’s December, which means it’s time to get cheery, deck the halls, and decorate. What better way to do that than with a warm drink and popcorn to watch a movie. This month, Nerds and Beyond will be sharing our favorite movies for the holiday season.

Directed by Jack Donohue, this 1961 classic stars Annette Funicello, Tommy Sands, Ray Bolger, and Ed Wynn. That’s right. It’s the Disney musical that has nursery rhyme characters living in Mother Goose Village, Babes in Toyland (1961). This classic movie is one everyone should curl up and watch.

Image courtesy of IMDb

Tom (Sands) and Mary Quite Contrary (Funicello) are about to get married, but the night before, the devious Barnaby (Bolger) arranges for Tom to get kidnapped and steal Mary’s sheep. He figures that will force her to have to marry him. But the only reason Barnaby wants to marry her is that when Mary gets married, she will inherit money. The next day, Mary finds out that Tom is gone, but she refuses to marry Barnaby, believing that Tom will return. She eventually gives in to Barnaby, thinking it’s the only thing to save their home. Tom returns to town with the gypsies that Barnaby hired for his wedding. Tom and Mary are reunited and momentarily happy. The couple discovers that the children have gone into the Forest of No Return to find the sheep. Worried, the couple goes into the forest to find them.

Later, the trees take the group to the Toymaker (Wynn), who lives on the edge of Toyland. At his workshop, the Toymaker and his assistant are trying to figure out how to increase toy production for Christmas. You see, the Toymaker makes all the toys for Santa Claus. They eventually defeat Barnaby with the toy soldiers, and other toys help. They save Christmas, and Tom and Mary are finally able to get married and then drive off in a horse-driven sleigh. Happily, ever after.

Image courtesy of IMDb

Ever since the first time I watched this movie, I have loved it — the humor, the songs, the way the film is designed. To this day, I still randomly start humming or singing to “Go to Sleep,” “Toyland,” and “Just a Toy.” Two of my favorite parts of the movie are when the children are in the Forest of No Return are looking for the sheep, and the trees come to life, circle them, and sing the fact that they are trapped and not leaving. The other is when Mary is about to marry Barnaby and the fortune-teller woman comes out to perform. Near the end, she takes off her makeup, fake nose, and the dress is ripped and flies in two different ways, magically revealing it was Tom all along. Even though it may not appear as one, it is a Christmas movie. We meet the Toymaker who is working for Santa making all the toys for children. Also, when you think of it, Barnaby is a very Grinch-like character.

It is time for some fun and interesting facts about this movie. Babes in Toyland is based on the 1903 operetta of the same name by Victor Herbert. It was also Disney Studio’s first live-action musical, which is why it looks like a play taking place onstage most of the time. Besides being their first live-action musical, it is also Disney Studio’s first to be shown in Technicolor that reached the theaters. 

Babes in Toyland is available to watch on Disney+. Make sure to check back in tomorrow and the rest of December for another movie recommendation.

Image courtesy of IMDb
As a Ravenclaw and introverted tattooed cat, Sarah enjoys reading, writing, and watching hockey (Go Leafs Go). You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @WyldeFandom

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