BABES IN TOYLAND
This is a film that has clearly been mounted with the best of intentions, yet also one that sits and quietly dies on the screen. It should have worked. Director Jack Donohue adopts a highly fantastical visual style night literally falls; the two goons are visually assaulted by the sight of gold issuing forth from Barnabys piggy-bank; Jack conducts impossible leaps over the candlestick; some of the dialogue is conducted in rhyme. It all takes places in a fantastical, although very clearly stagebound, netherworld that suggests a collision between The Expressionism of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919) and a childrens pantomime Barnaby lives in a castle of crooked angles and wears a stovepipe hat about half the height he is, Gypsies conduct maniacal dance maneuvers around a village that seems constructed like a giant playground set.
However, it is also an oddly ungainly dinosaur. While Jack Donohue directs with a degree of visual invention, each set-piece remains inert. A sizeable percentage of the show is taken up by the songs and here the films charms almost entirely get drowned out by the brassiness of the numbers. One sequence that should have come alive the climatic march of the toy soldiers fails through poor stop-motion animation, a sequence that is well beneath the usual quality of Disneys in-house effects team. The rest of it is drowned in the sugary family sentiments and banal tomfoolery that became associated with the Disney name it should be noted, for example, that despite her name Mary is merely Annette Funicello looking sweet and cute and does not act the slightest bit contrary.
Other versions of the story include: Babes in Toyland (1986), a tv version starring a young Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves as Jack, and an animated video release Babes in Toyland (1997) with Christopher Plummer as the voice of Barnaby.
Clip from the film here:-