Friday, December 13, 2013

An Animated Toyland

As we've been going through these film adaptations of Babes in Toyland, you may have noticed that all of them have something in common: they've all been live action. Well, at the end of our series, we come to the first fully animated adaptation of the operetta and also the last (so far) film adaptation.

This version of Toyland was released direct to video in 1997, and like the previous adaptation from 1986, it drops all but two pieces of music from Victor Herbert's score: "Toyland" (with a rewritten chorus) and "March of the Toys."

The movie opens with Humpty Dumpty (Charles Nelson Reilly) bathing on the moon, singing "Toyland," then falling to a train heading to Toyland, where we meet Jack (Joseph Ashton) and Jill (Lacey Chabert), two children (implied to be orphans) who are going to Toyland to live with their uncle, Barnaby Crookedman (Christopher Plummer). On the train, they meet Tom Piper (Raphael Sbarge), who manages the Toyland Factory. Leaving the train, they meet Mary Lamb (Cathy Cavadini), who is the owner of the factory.

After a romp around Toyland (featuring another round of "Toyland"), Humpty Dumpty drops Jack and Jill off at Barnaby's, who keeps the children in the attic, grudgingly. Meanwhile, Tom and Mary scramble on how to fill a large order from Santa Claus in time for Christmas Eve, three days away. This leads to the first original song, "Dream," in which Jack and Jill express their wish for a kind home, and Tom and Mary express romantic interest in each other.

Barnaby detests toys, so he plans to shut down the toy factory by either buying it (he is refused) or trying to kill Tom (it failed). So, he decides to turn to sabotage. Jack and Jill manage to sneak out to see the toy factory, and of course, there is "The Factory Song." Barnaby catches Jack and Jill there, throws them back in the attic, threatening to send them to the Goblin Forest if he catches them at the Factory again. There is then another song as Barnaby sings about himself, assisted by a candelabra in the song "A Crooked Man."

Barnaby hires pirates Gonzargo (James Belushi) and Rodrigo (Bronson Pinchot) to sabotage the factory, but Jack and Jill manage to help stop their plot. Jack and Jill chase Gonzargo and Rodrigo, who eventually reveal what happened to Barnaby, who has the children taken to the Goblin Forest. Dropping the children off, the two pirates sing "The Worst Is Yet to Come" as the Goblins arrive. The Goblin King (Lindsay Schnebly) is about to eat the four newcomers to the Forest, when Mary and Tom (being warned by an observant Humpty Dumpty) arrive and fight the Goblins off with flashlights.

Barnaby takes the keys to the Factory away from Humpty Dumpty, knocking him off of a wall to do so, but Mary and Tom arrive in time to stop him from entering. Resuming making toys, Tom and Mary sing "It's You," confessing their love for each other. Barnaby, meanwhile, brings the Goblins to Toyland, where they break into the factory and set it on fire. It almost looks like they've lost until Tom brings the giant Toy Soldiers to life. The Soldiers drive the Goblins back and stop the damage they're causing in Toyland.

The Goblin King is about to eat Barnaby, when several lights are focused on him, reducing him to a bubbling puddle. The other goblins, realizing that Barnaby was never their friend, surround him and chase him out of Toyland. Jack, Jill, Tom and Mary find the broken Humpty Dumpty, and Tom repairs him with a stainless steel shell.

Christmas Eve arrives and Santa picks up the toys from Toyland (including shrinking the Toy Soldiers). He turns over Scat, Barnaby's cat, to Jill before taking off to make his deliveries. It's implied that Jack and Jill will be cared for by Tom and Mary, who will likely marry eventually. The moon swoops down and picks up Humpty Dumpty, who flies back into the sky with yet another round of "Toyland."
Although there's little of the original operetta here (the only comparable plot point: Barnaby sending Jack and Jill to the Goblin Forest is akin to how he originally has Alan and Jane "drowned" at sea), one must admit that at least the plot hangs together well. I did, however, wish that the songs were better integrated into the story. Too often it felt like stopping the story for a song sequence. Quite possibly, though, perhaps the Goblins themselves were inspired by the Boogeymen from the Laurel and Hardy film of 1934.

Currently, this Babes in Toyland is available on VHS and DVD, as well as being available on Netflix (in the US).

Oz connections? Jim Belushi will be voicing the Cowardly Lion in next year's The Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns, and Bronson Pinchot is an Oz fan.

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