HTS Moderator , Reviewer
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10221[/img]Title: Babes in Toyland
Starring: Ray Bolger, Ed Wynn, Annette Funicello, Tom Sands
Directed by: Jack Donohue
Written by: Glen MacDonough, Ward Kimball
Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1 AVC
Main Audio: English 2.0 Dolby Digital
Studio: Disney Home Entertainment
Runtime: 105 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 11th, 2012
HTS Overall Score:63
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10224[/img]“Babes in Toyland”…. Ah the memories this brings back from childhood. I was an avid Disney child in my younger years, and I remember eating up all the old classics that Disney had to offer. I remember watching “Freaky Friday” till the VHS wore itself out, and “Mary Poppins” so many times that we had to replace it...twice. “Babes in Toyland” was one of Disney’s lesser known titles, and was a remake of the 1934 Laurel and Hardy “March of the Wooden Soldiers." Shot on a shoestring budget and largely forgotten about on home video, “Babes” has once again resurfaced on hi-def video.
Our story starts with our two main heroes, Tom Piper (Tommy Sands) and Mary Quite Contrary (Annette Funicello) getting ready for their upcoming nuptials. Unbeknownst to Tom, Mary is about to come into quite an inheritance on her wedding day, and the resident villain, Mr. Barnaby (Ray Bolger) is hatching a nefarious scheme to wed Mary instead of Tom, thus inheriting her wealth into his miserly clutches. To that end, he sends out his goons Roderigo (Gene Sheldon) and Gonzorgo (Henry Calvin) to kidnap poor Tom and throw him into the ocean; if killing her love wasn't enough, he steals the sheep that Mary tends along with Bo Peep to deprive her of any monetary livelihood. Ecstatic that his plan will work, Mr. Barnaby tries to woo, unsuccessfully I might add, Mary Quite Contrary in her time of grief. As fate would have it, Gonzorgo and Roderigo, who play an amazingly good imitation of Laurel and Hardy, bungle the kidnapping and Tom returns home to foil Mr. Barnaby’s plan.
Alas, the two happy couples come home only to find that Bo Peep and Little Boy Blue (Kevin Corcoran) have vanished into the Forest of No Return to find the lost sheep. Delving into the woods to rescue them, Tom, Mary and company end up at the doorstep of the mysterious Toymaker. Our friendly Toymaker (Ed Wynn) is a bit of a bumbling fool himself, and is on the verge of missing his Christmas deadline of manufactured toys. However, Mary, Tom and company, along with the Toymaker’s mad scientist assistant (Tommy Kirk) all pitch in to save Christmas. There just happens to be one problem: Mr. Barnaby and his two henchmen have sneaked along and Mr. Barnaby is bent upon taking Tom out of the equation so that he can have Mary’s wealth all to himself.
“Babes in Toyland” is definitely one of Disney’s cornier efforts, but it is still a cute and endearing meander down nostalgia lane. This was back in the heyday of live action Disney where 99% of Disney films all recycled the same actors. Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran both played in so many of the 60’s and 70’s Disney films that their names are almost synonymous with Disney. Whimsical and off-beat, it definitely appeals to a younger audience more than other films, but for those of us who grew up in a Disney household, it puts a smile on your face to see actors who could sing and dance exquisitely, for no other reason than that was part of the job description - a time when people of all ages could gather around the TV for what was truly a “family” film.
Rated G for all ages
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10222[/img]“Babes in Toyland” was one of Disney’s most limited budget live action films in history. It was shot on a Disney soundstage on a shoestring budget, but at the same time, the special and optical effects were cutting edge. The overlaying of different sized characters and having them interact with unadulterated actors on screen was an amazing feat of the times. For years, “Babes in Toyland” has been given the proverbial shaft, every release of the film on home video has been a pan 'n scan 1.33:1 release until now. For the first time, Disney releases this Technicolor film in its original 1.66:1 theatrical ratio. For such a limited budget the picture is very well done. Colors are accurate and varied from bright primaries to copious soft pastels. The film has an excellent layer of film grain that only turns to noise as a result of some of the optical effects used in the day for certain spliced scenes. I noticed a bit of DNR present, as if this was a slightly older master being used. At first I thought it was a rather heavy dose of DNR when I was inspecting facial detail, but upon closer inspection I realized facial detail wasn’t as pin point accurate due to copious amounts of stage makeup used to give the actors a more “doll house” look. Background shots are a tad soft but still, detailed enough to be highly impressed. I heartily say that this is the absolute BEST this film has ever looked. All one has to do is to watch the trailer at the bottom of the review to see how lackluster this film used to look before now.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10225[/img]The audio for “Babes in Toyland" is the original 2.0 monorail soundtrack that it was originally theatrically released in and it is quite satisfactory with its sound separation (as limited as it is). However, there is one major caveat. Disney decided to forgo a lossless track and instead give us a 2.0 mono lossy track instead. While the soundstage is limited to its production value, the exclusion of a lossless track hampers it, especially since this is a musical. The track is very competent for what it does and is pretty beefy for a Dolby Digital track (320kpbs for mono track), but unfortunately, I believe the musical numbers could have been given a bit more "umph" if there had been more breathing room that a lossless track provides. Dialogue is crisp and clean, no age distortion or unnecessary background noise that the VHS and DVD were plagued with back in the day. The effects and toy soldier battle scenes really light up the front stage, yet never stray out of balance with the vocals. Disney's lovely score is lovingly treated, and obvious care has been taken in the handling of the mix.
While some technical flaws drop the score dramatically, I must say that this is the absolute best the film has ever looked. "Babes in Toyland" has been the veritable black sheep of the Disney live action family and has been given the shaft on each of its home video incarnations. Thankfully, this time, we are given the full 1.66:1 aspect ratio that it was shown in theatrically and the print is in fine shape. Those fans of the movie shouldn't hesitate to grab this incarnation; it is easily the best one yet. For those of you on the fence, I encourage to give it a spin, this comes from a time when Disney was at the heights of its imaginative and explorative career, a time when the whole family eagerly awaited the next Disney film and when truly great actors shone on the silver screen.
Buy Babes in Toyland on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It