Film / Bedknobs and Broomsticks

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"Treguna Mekoides Trecorum Satis Dee!"

"You must face the age of not believing, doubting everything you ever knew.
Until at last, you start believing there's something wonderful in you!"

A Disney film from 1971, based on a pair of novels by Mary Norton. The film is often regarded as a Spiritual Successor to Mary Poppins — a live action fantasy musical with a substantial segment incorporating animation, with the same production company, same director, same scriptwriters, same songwriters, one actor in common, etc.

It's 1940 in the British coastal village of Pepperinge Eye, and among the children evacuated here from the ongoing London Blitz are three orphaned siblings: Charlie, Carrie, and Paul. They're reluctantly taken in by Miss Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), a spinster who's secretly taking mail-order witchcraft lessons in hopes of being able to aid the war effort with magic. Miss Price doesn't want the kids and the kids don't want Miss Price, so they try to get rid of each other as quickly as possible. But when the children see her flying on a broom at night, they strike a bargain: in exchange for keeping her secret, the children get to live their lives at Miss Price's home any way they like. To seal the deal, Miss Price gives little Paul a transportation spell which enchants the big bed into a magical travelling bed.

When the witchcraft school abruptly closes, leaving Miss Price without the all-important Substitutiary Locomotion spell she needs, she and the children travel to London via bed. They discover the "professor", Emelius Browne, is a fraud who was just selling her the pages of an incomplete spellbook. So begins a greater journey, from the market at Portobello Road to the Isle of Naboombu (land of animated Petting Zoo People), in search of the spell. Once Miss Price learns it, she'll have to use its power to bring inanimate objects to life to save her hometown from none other than the Nazis.


Tropes:

  • Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin: The characters have retrieved the Star of Astoroth, imprinted with the words for the Substituary Locomotion. But as they arrive home, they find the star has disintegrated during the journey. And it turned out to be unnecessary, as one of the kid's storybooks had an illustration of the star, and more importantly, the words to the spell.
  • All Witches Have Cats: Miss Price, a witch in training, has a cat named Cosmic Creepers. She's also a spinster according to the old archetype.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: One of the children asks if "Poisoned Dragon's Liver" means that you poisoned the dragon, or just the liver. (Miss Price doesn't actually know, as the jar was sent to her.)
  • And the Adventure Continues: Right before the end credits roll, Paul pulls out the bedknob, and suggests to Charlie and Carrie that they continue their travels.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: During the "Substitutiary Locomotion" number, Cosmic Creepers gets several cutaway shots. At one point, he seems to do the cat version of headdesking.
    • The first flight practice scene also has a number of these.
  • Animal Stereotypes: The Island of Namboobu is full of these, but the soccer game consists of almost nothing but—the laughing hyena, the temperamental (and arrogant) lion whose roar literally blows everyone away, the ostrich with its head in the sand, the elephant afraid of a mouse, the menacing crocodile who constantly snaps his jaws, the cheetah so fast he sets the ground on fire (and who eventually gets his spots blown off)...
  • Animated Armor: Miss Price animates a whole army at the climax.
  • Army of the Ages: The army that Miss Price assembles to ward off the Nazi invasion, although they are really living suits of armour, not actual people.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: While the German soldiers mostly speak actual German, the colonel utters some German-sounding gibberish during the battle against the animated armors.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Miss Price's spells tend to turn people into rabbits instead of toads — and in Mr. Brown's case, leaves a twitching of the nose after it wears off.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: The Naboombu soccer players.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Portobello Road.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: When Eglantine is rummaging through the extremely disorganized Portobello Road bookseller's stall, and instead finds a bunch of increasingly useless and irrelevant books which - amusingly - the seller and Emelius both list as though they're the most worthwhile things ever, to Eglantine's increasing irritation. This includes "A History of Potting" and "A Yearbook in Yachting."
  • Blitz Evacuees: This aspect of the plot has something of a Reality Subtext to it. Angela Lansbury was herself a Blitz evacuee during the war.
  • Bowdlerization: The German dub removed much of the Nazi plot and things that relate to World War II, effectively cutting out a whopping 29 minutes of the movie. The Masterpiece Collection release fixes this.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Charlie tries to blackmail Miss Price by threatening to tell the town that she's a witch. Her response is to turn him into a rabbit (although she meant to turn him into a toad).
  • Calvinball: Soccer matches on the Island of Naboombu. "Don't they have no rules?" "'Course they do. King makes 'em up as he goes along." All that's really known about the rules is that there must be a referee, but said person doesn't have the authority to do anything other than end the game once somebody scores (As both sides ignored Mr Brown whenever he tried to call a penalty).
  • Can't Take Anything with You: Miss Price goes to the Isle of Naboombu and gets the Star of Astoroth, but once she and her group return home, she realises not only that she couldn't take objects from different worlds, but that she didn't memorize the spell inscribed on the star.
    • Turns out there's an image of the Star, complete with inscription, in Paul's picture book.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: Can't you read readin'? No Peopling Allowed!
  • The Cavalry: The finale.
    • Literally. With some British Proud Warrior Race porn. They drive off the Germans, however, a bomb blows up and knocks Price off her broom. Before the Germans realize that the armour is inert, the home guard come and force them to retreat.
  • Carnivore Confusion: The Isle of Naboombu. All the animals are anthropomorphic, but apparently the fish in the lagoon aren't seen as equals to the surface creatures, since the heroes' bed is hauled up to the shore when a bear fisherman's hook catches on to its frame.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The spell that turns people into rabbits, which Miss Price uses to save her and her companions from the enraged lion ruler of Naboombu. From there, Mr. Browne uses it to sneak into the castle the Nazis lock Miss Price and the kids in.
  • Children Raise You: The adventures Price must undertake through her bargain with Paul lead her to Mr. Browne, and they are a family by the end of the movie.
  • Circling Vultures: During the animals' soccer game, vultures serve as medics, waiting on the sidelines for the referee (Mr. Brown) to be trampled by the players. A Running Gag is made of them rushing into the field to "treat" Mr. Brown, only to be waved away after he turns out to be alive.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Mr. Browne can't use spells himself because, as far as he's concerned, "They're just nonsense words from an old book." At least until near the end of the film when he manages to transform himself into a rabbit.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The house Professor Browne chose to live in just happened to have a book about the Island of Naboombu in its nursery, the very place his torn book from the marketplace told them they needed to go.
  • Convenient Decoy Cat: Cosmic Creepers acts as this for Professor Browne when he sneaks into Miss Price's cottage just before the climax—after first drawing the Nazis' attention by making angry growls and yowls at Emelius, he is found by the Nazis amongst the wreckage of the items Browne had knocked over and smashed. They dismiss the noise (until Browne makes more from the next room) and even show affection for the "naughty" cat.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: Miss Price sees Mr. Brown about a spell book. She gets it and reads about the Substitutiary Locomotion spell, but the part where it talks about the incantation used to activate the spell is on a page that got torn out of the book. The group had to go to Portobello Road to look for it.
  • Correspondence Course: The entire plot is based on Eglantine taking one (in witchcraft!) and needing to finish the final lesson.
  • Covers Always Lie: On the 30th anniversary DVD cover, the talking animals were rendered much bigger than the leads, which could make some believe most if not all of the movie contains animation as opposed to live-action.
  • Crowd Song: "Portobello Road," to a rather ridiculous extent.
  • Cute Witch: Miss Price. A bit older than standard, but no less cute.
  • Dancing Pants: A whole wardrobe's worth of clothes dance in the "Substitutiary Locomotion" number.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Miss Price often fills this role, especially with regards to Professor Browne's zaniness. The kids get some snark in at Miss Price's expense at the beginning.
  • Detachment Combat: One armor suit defends itself from a bayonet this way, having its upper half, helmet, and arm pop off and leave a gap when a Nazi soldier tries to jab it in the belly, face and shoulder.
  • Enhanced on DVD: Home video releases from 2014 onward have strings removed from flying and Substitutionary Locomotion scenes.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: The army of Animated Armor which Miss Price summons during the climax happens to have a bagpipe-player with it (because the castle where they were imprisoned happened to include a museum which held military garb from various periods of English history).note 
  • Expy: Astoroth and his star seem to be inspired by the medieval alchemist and magus John Dee, with some cross-pollination with Faust. His attempts to make animals sentient, on the other hand (as well as his ultimate fate) are rather reminiscent of Dr. Moreau, only with magic instead of science and (presumably) out of benevolence rather than For Science!.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: One night, Charlie sees Miss Price riding a broomstick. The next morning, she changes him into a rabbit. Minutes later in the film, Charlie refuses to believe that the traveling spell will work. After the traveling spell proves successful, Charlie claims he still isn't convinced because Emelius Brown has not appeared yet. His skepticism is given something of a Hand Wave when Miss Price explains 'The Age of Not Believing,' but by the time Charlie starts denying the existence of Naboombu, and claiming that 'fish don't talk,' it's almost facepalm worthy.
  • Flying Broomstick: Right there in the title; really.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Hold on, are those women who approach Mr. Browne, while singing "You'll meet all your chums in the Portobello Road", hookers? Sneaky, Disney, sneaky.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: One of the animated suits of armor removes its lower leg to dump out the German bullets, then hops over and bonks the soldier who'd fired them on the head with the leg.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Miss Price, Professor Emelius Browne, and the 3 children accidentally end up underwater in the ocean by the isle of Naboombu. There they see half-dressed fish underwater; when their bed gets pulled up by a fishing hook, they meet a sailor bear who wears a shirt but no pants or shoes on. They then go visit the Lion King Leonidas who has a soccer match; most of the animals at the game wear both a shirt and shorts, but only one doesn't wear shorts such as the alligator. Also the Cheetah's shorts fall down before he pulls them right back up. Some of the Animals sitting in the Bleachers only wear a shirt but no pants.
  • Have a Gay Old Time / Accidental Innuendo: The characters going on and on about Paul's knob is bound to inspire a few giggles nowadays.
    • At one point Charlie objects to Paul getting involved in magical "hanky-panky."
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Charlie, Carrie, and Paul.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: With a pair of gloves during the aforementioned Dancing Pants sequence.
  • Historical In-Joke: The whole plot of "a magic-user during World War II decided to do her patriotic duty and keep the Nazis from invading England" has more than a little in common with the claim made by Gerald Gardner, founder of modern Wicca, that he had witnessed a coven in the town of Highcliffe-on-Sea perform a ritual to project a cone of power into Hitler's brain and convince him not to invade.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: The Nazis are, of course, bad guys. However, due to the nature of the movie, they aren't shown doing much real warfare or any of the other things they were infamous for.
  • Home Guard: The British Home Guard appears several times in the movie, including firing at the retreating Nazi commandos. They even have their own song, "The Soldiers of the Old Home Guard".
  • Hypocritical Humor: Miss Price, on the name of her cat:
    Miss Price: I don't believe in giving animals ridiculous names. I call him Cosmic Creepers, because that's the name he came with.
  • Immune to Bullets: More "no body to be affected by them". Since there's no actual living body in the armor animated by Substitutiary Locomotion, being raked by machine guns is but a minor inconvenience, though the bullets do in fact penetrate the armor. Suits of armor which include greaves and boots do seem to be inconvenienced by the weight of collected rounds, to the point where they halt their advance to disconnect a boot and dump out the bullet fragments. This is a move that drives home the fact that there's no legs in the boots and no hands in the gloves, but there it is. Even hand grenades can't keep one down for long.
  • Incongruously Dressed Zombie: Not actually dressed, but the animated suits of battle-garb include some Scottish bagpipers' costume and a 17th-century duelist's outfit complete with long flowing wig.
  • Ironic Echo: The exchange between Heller and one of his men, when Miss Price turns up on a broom during the final battle.
    German Sergeant: It's a witch, sir!
    Heller: Don't be a fool, there's no such thing as a witch!
    [later]
    Heller: There is the witch.
    German Sergeant: You said there was no such thing as a witch, sir?
  • Island of Mystery: The Isle of Naboombu.
  • It Was with You All Along: The words of the spell turn out to be in an illustration in the picture book Paul finds at Mr. Browne's place and carries with him from that point on.
  • Keystone Army: Miss Price's army of armour.
  • King of Beasts: King Leonidas.
  • Knife Outline: Archer suits of armour animated by Subtitutionary Locomotion pull this off with their arrows.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: If a whole army of empty medieval armour kicking the ass of Those Wacky Nazis counts.
  • Large Ham: Emelius Browne; his Cut Song, "With a Flair," even notes—"It doesn't matter what I do so long as I do it WITH A FLAIR!"
    • Also, the lion king of Naboombu.
  • Last-Name Basis: Miss Price insists on being addressed only as such. But then, if your name was Eglantine, so would you.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: When Miss Price starts to recite the rabbit spell on a Nazi, only to forget how it ends. Also, the bagpipe-player when the Substitutiary Locomotion spell is broken near the end.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: The human actors stick out quite a bit on the all Funny Animal Isle of Naboombu.
  • Limited Wardrobe: The children wear the same clothes for most of the movie, but most of it takes place on the same day and they finally get different clothes in the last scene, which takes place the next day. Still, they seem to have worn their regular outfits for about three days straight, ending with the day most of the movie takes place on.
  • Literal Ass Kicking: A major part of the comedic tone in the climatic battle. A German soldier removes the upper part of a suit of armour and gets his ass kicked by the lower part. Another soldier gets his ass kicked repeatedly while dangling on a halberd. Another animated suit of armour swings its sword on some fleeing Germans' butts.
  • Location Song: "Portobello Road", about the London street where flea markets sell all kinds of interesting things, though a lot of it is just junk too.
  • Magical Foreign Words: Inverted. The incantation of the transformation spell, "Filigree Apogee Pedigree Perigee", is a series of fancy sounding English words.
  • Magical Incantation: This is how Miss Price casts spells, though Mr. Brown's difficulty in performing the comparatively simple "Rabbit" spell indicates there's at least some element of belief or will involved. Even she doesn't get it totally right, since according to the book it's a toad spell. Also see the rightfully famous "Treguna Mekoides Trecorum Satis Dee."
  • Magical Land: The Isle of Naboombu.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: At the end of the soccer game after the lion sees the ball blowing into the air, he roars "Stop that ball" so loudly that he literally blows everyone away.
    • Then after the game after Miss Price, Brown and the children take the star and placed the whistle around the Lion's neck:
    Lion: (to the Secretary Bird) Oh ho, don't be ridiculous. What do you think this is? (shows the whistle without noticing)
    Secretary Bird: (blows the whistle, making the Lion realize it)
    Lion: (roars) WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY SO?! (blows the Secretary Bird away)
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: Portobello Road. The singers and dancers there are easily a hundred or more.
  • Medium Blending: The Isle of Naboombu is almost entirely animated, aside from the humans and the bed.
  • Mobile Kiosk: Everything in Portobello Road that isn't nailed down. As well as Professor Browne's nifty suitcase act.
  • More Dakka: The German soldiers use machine guns on the advancing armor. For all the good it does them.
  • Muggles: Professor Browne at first, but he believes once he sees (or rather, once he gets turned into a rabbit). And, amusingly, the Nazis, who don't believe.
  • Mustache Vandalism: Paul does this to a clay bust, then accessorizes it with a top hat.
  • No Ontological Inertia: After Nazis plant a bomb by Miss Price's workshop, blowing up her workshop and knocking her out of the sky, all of the suits of animated armour wind down and collapse on the spot.
  • No-Sell: Yes, modern soldiers with machine guns could probably mow down plate-armored soldiers all day. When there's nothing inside the armor, on the other hand...
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Basically how his older siblings, and sometimes the adults, treat Paul. Basically, if they had listened to or believed him, much of what the heroes went through needn't have been done.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Well, it becomes ominous after Eglantine and company quit singing it: Treguna, Mecoidis, Trecorum Satis Dee.
    • Especially when the animated suits of armour start chanting it. If the Nazis weren't absolutely petrified before, they were after hearing that echo through the air.
  • Ostrich Head Hiding: During the soccer match the ostrich buries its head underneath the sand, but is kicked against his behind soon afterwards, causing him to tumble forwards and fall on its behind.
  • Plot Coupon: The heroes first seek the remaining pages of the spellbook; when they find it, they learn it doesn't actually have the words to the Substitutiary Locomotion spell. It does say that the Star of Astoroth has them, so now the quest is to find that and get the spell.
  • Power Echoes: It's subtle, but throughout the movie when Miss Price and even Mr. Browne attempt to cast a spell, you can always tell when the magic is actually going to stick by whether or not their voices echo inexplicably.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "STOP! THAT! BALL!!!"
    • Also: "WHY! DIDN'T! YOU! SAY! SO?!?!??!!!!"
  • Road Sign Reversal: Something similar in intention is done by a British villager in the beginning of the film. He's painting out the signposts in order to confuse any possible invading Nazis, but the only people he confuses are two Home Guard Officers.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Whenever the humans interact directly with the animated animals on the Isle of Naboombu.
  • Rule of Symbolism: When the Substitutiary Locomotion spell is broken by Miss Price being hit by the bomb, the armor doesn't instantly drop to the ground—instead it slowly sinks down, allowing the 'soldiers' to stumble, fall, and collapse in a very eerie and sad representation of the army dying on the spot.
  • Say My Name: The song "Eglantine", as sung to her by Mr. Browne, much to her displeasure.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: The Secretary Bird. (He's also a Visual Pun: the King's secretary is a literal secretary bird.)
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The entire Isle of Naboombu subplot is rendered completely pointless once it's discovered that there's a picture of the Star of Astoroth in the book Paul found with the spell inscribed on it, clearly legible. Paul actually figured this out almost immediately, but nobody would listen to him.
  • Shipper on Deck: Mrs. Hobday.
  • Shooting Superman / Bang Bang Bang Uh Oh: The Nazis take a while to get it through their heads that shooting Animated Armor is not very effective.
    • Also a case of Stabbing Superman, for the one who tried to stick an animated suit with his bayonet four times before it got tired of dodging via Detachment Combat and bonked him on the head.
  • Silent Snarker: The cat Cosmic Creepers.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Mary Poppins.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Played with; the villager painting out the signposts says that "I'm not a Nazi!" is "exactly what you'd say if you WAS a Nazi, isn't it sir"...but the guy really isn't a Nazi. He's the Home Guard officer referred to in Road Sign Reversal above.
  • Sword Beats Machine Gun: Especially when the side wielding the swords is Immune to Bullets
  • Talking Animal: The Isle of Naboombu is inhabited by these.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: The king of Naboombu, for some reason.
  • Tap on the Head: Two German commandos are knocked unconscious by the animated suits of armour.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Variation: the heroine is the Secret Project Leader looking to turn the tide in the war in favour of the British, and the Nazis are flummoxed by her abilities because they don't believe in magic.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The ostrich in the soccer match.
    • Colonel Heller. "Es gibt keine Hexen! (There's no such thing as witches!)" Okay, then how do you explain the floating armour army and the flying lady on a broomstick?
    • Charlie at the beginning of the movie. Despite his siblings telling him that maybe trying to blackmail a witch is a bad idea, he persists until Miss Price turns him into a toad rabbit. Then, when he transforms back after almost getting attacked by her cat, he tries extortion again.
      • He did at least learn to be a little more clever about it the second time - rather than demanding she give them something fancy, he makes the deal that they receive a precious object (the travelling spell), and if they break their end of the deal, they have to give the object back. Miss Price even comments that it's an excellent idea.
    • Professor Brown, after having already been turned into a rabbit once before, continues to annoy Miss Price with his constant coaxing, after she warns him several times to stop. Let's just say, after she was done with him, he hopped back to helping her find the book.
    • Paul in the meeting with the Bookman; sure, he's just a small child, but when Namboombu comes up in the conversation Paul eagerly explains that it definitely exists, taking the word of a children's picture book to prove it. Ignoring how the Bookman is prepared to use deadly force to get what he wants, Paul then refuses to let him see the book after having just blabbed on about it, in that moment needlessly endangering himself and his friends. Lucky for them all that the traveling spell was able to take them to the real thing or the Bookman and his partner would most definitely have used more violent means to get the answers they sought.
  • Two Halves Make a Plot: Professor Brown has one half of the book that mentions the Substitutiary Locomotion spell, which appears to cut off just as it is about to mention the magic words that activate it. A bookseller has the other half, and has been looking for Brown's half, thinking it has the spell. It turns out neither half has it and never did, with the wording which implied it did a complete accident. The assembled sentence says "...these words are [next page] written on the star pendant he wore....
  • Unnecessary Roughness: In the animals' soccer/football match.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Professor Brown pulls this off, when he turns himself into a rabbit, so that he may bypass the Nazis to rescue Miss Price and the children.
  • World of Funny Animals: The Island of Naboombu is inhabited entirely by anthropomorphic animals.

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