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Theatre / Babes in Toyland

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Babes in Toyland began as a 1903 operetta by popular American composer Victor Herbert in which Fairy Tale and Mother Goose characters acted out a fairly standard Babes-In-The-Wood plot in Toyland, where Evil Uncle Barnaby has attempted to do away with his niece and nephew Jane and Alan — and incidentally to steal Alan's lady love, Contrary Mary. The operetta featured some of Herbert's most famous musical pieces, such as "Castle In Spain," "Go To Sleep, Slumber Deep," "I Can't Do The Sum," the "March of the Toys," and "Toyland."

In 1934 a film version starring Laurel and Hardy was made. The film is also known by its alternate titles Laurel and Hardy in Toyland, Revenge Is Sweet, March of the Wooden Soldiers and Wooden Soldiers. The filmnote  follows Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in their misadventures, attempting to thwart the villainous Mr. Barnaby (the "crooked little man" from the nursery rhyme) in his lascivious designs upon the heroine, Little Bo-Peep.


In 1961 Walt Disney Productions made a Live-Action version, starring Annette Funicello as Mary Contrary, Ray Bolger as Barnaby, Tommy Sands as Tom, Tom the Piper's Son, and Ed Wynn as the Toymaker. Barnaby's henchmen were portrayed by Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon in a manner directly reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy from the 1934 film.

Notable TV versions include a 1986 Live Action Television version featuring Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves, and a 1997 Animated Adaptation by Toby Bluth (brother of Don).

Not to be confused with The '90s Alternative Rock band Babes in Toyland.


Tropes used in the various versions of Babes in Toyland include:

  • Adaptation Name Change: The hero's girlfriend has different names in various versions, but a fairly consistent personality.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: In the 1961 version, when in reference to his plans to get married to Mary, Barnaby tells the village, "You are looking at a happy man!", to which Sylvester the goose tells Mother Goose, "If he's happy, I'm a chicken!"
  • Aside Glance
  • Ax-Crazy: Played for laughs in the Disney version: Barnaby orders his henchmen to throw Tom into the sea, then steal Mary's sheep. The Speechless Roderigo expresses a desire to kill Tom and the sheep instead, but gets rejected.
    Barnaby: No — steal them!
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Barnaby's henchmen in the Disney movie, Gonzorgo and Roderigo.
  • Big "NO!": Bill Francouer's version gives one to Barnaby and his henchmen shortly after their defeat sequence.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Disney version has at least two scenes in which characters talk to the viewers. And of course Ollie does his legendary exasperated look toward the camera everytime Stan does something frustrating.
  • Breakout Characters: The Stop Motion wooden soldiers from the Disney movie went on to star in Disneyland's Christmas parade.
  • But You Were There, and You, and You: In the 1986 version, everyone in Toyland (except the Toy Master) is someone Lisa knows in the real world. Most even have the same names!
  • Captain Obvious: The Toymaker in the 1961 film when he overloads Grumio's toymaking machine, when the machine has already begun exploding after ejecting a mountain of broken toys.
    Toymaker: Grumio, I think something's wrong!
  • Chekhov's Gun: The toys in the Disney version.
  • Covers Always Lie: The DVD cover of the Disney version makes Mary look shorter than the Wooden Soldiers, as if to suggest that she gets shrunken at one point.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Mr. Barnaby, especially as depicted by Ray Bolger.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sylvester the goose in the Disney version.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In the Disney version, after Grumio invents a shrinking gun to reduce furniture to toy size, the Toymaker is ecstatic — until Tom and Mary ask the Toymaker, "Where are you going to get big things to reduce to small things?" The Toymaker then asks Grumio the same question, but Grumio can't think of an answer. The Toymaker is not impressed.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The Disney film version has the song "I Can't do the Sum", during which Mary Contrary (played by Annette Funicello) sings mostly on a black background, with duplicates who flip upside down and sideways while changing colors.
  • Dirty Old Man: Barnaby.
  • Disney Death:
    • Tom in the 1961 film, although it was hoaxed in the first place.
    • Humpty Dumpty in the 1997 version is dropped off of a bridge by Barnaby, but is repaired by Tom at the end.
  • Ditzy Genius: Grumio in the Disney version.
  • Evil Wears Black: Barnaby wears all black outfits in most versions, compared to the colorful outfits of the rest of the cast.
  • Expy:
    • In the Disney movie, Gonzorgo and Roderigo seem to evoke Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, as well as Zorro characters Sergeant García and Bernardo (who Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon portrayed prior to Babes in Toyland).
    • Also, the character design for Bowler Hat Guy in Disney's Meet the Robinsons seems to be based directly on Ray Bolger's Mr. Barnaby from the Disney version of this story.
    • Expys abound in the 1997 version. To wit: Mary = Belle and Scat(Barnaby's Cat) = Azriel.
  • Fairytale Wedding Dress: Mary at the end of some of the film versions.
  • Forgotten Trope: Babes in Toyland is the only surviving example of the "extravaganza," the American equivalent of English pantomime, which was a family-friendly type of musical using typical pantomime characters and settings. In the first decade of the twentieth century, stage adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (which had L. Frank Baum's involvement) and Little Nemo followed the extravaganza format; the genre survived until the Great Depression.
  • Frame-Up:
    • When Barnaby pignaps Little Elmer and blames Tom-Tom.
    • In the 1986 version Barnaby hides a stash of cookies (which is the source of their economy) and claims Jack stole them.
  • Fun-Hating Villain: In most iterations, Barnaby only cares about money and tries to destroy Toyland by any means necessary.
  • Funny Background Event: In the 1961 Disney version, you can spot a woman accidentally close her dress in the door as she goes back inside her house. Just so you know: it's when Barnaby's henchmen announce the town meeting to announce Barnaby's marriage to Mary.
  • Gold Digger: Barnaby, in the 1961 Disney version anyway.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Today, "babe" is more commonly used to mean "attractive woman" than "child" or "innocent person"; the odd (to modern ears) choice of words in the title being retained by remakes is probably the Grandfather Clause at work.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In the Disney version, Barnaby, having come in possession of Grumio's shrinking gun, which can be used on people as well as objects to shrink them down to toy size, and then shrunk away into nothingness if used a second time, uses it on Tom to force Mary into marrying Barnaby. When Tom launches his attack on Barnaby, Barnaby decides to make good on his threat to shrink Tom away forever, but Mary grabs a toy cannon used in the attack and fires a shot at the shrinking gun, destroying it and spilling the liquid inside all over Barnaby, shrinking him to toy size instead and forcing him to confront Tom in a Sword Fight.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Forest of No Return, in the Disney version.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Barnaby shrinks Tom, the toymaker, and his own henchmen during the climax of the 1961 movie. Thanks to Mary, Barnaby himself eventually becomes small as well.
  • Large Ham: Barnaby, especially in the versions from 1934 and 1961.
  • Living Toys
  • Magic Skirt: During the "I Can't Do The Sum" sequence, Mary stands on her hands and her skirt still stays up with no reveal of her underwear.
  • Mook–Face Turn: In most versions, Barnaby's henchmen turn on him and help the hero.
  • Mr. Exposition: Georgie Porgie serves as this in the 1986 film.
  • Necessary Fail: The 1961 movie provides a real-life example for Walt Disney. After it failed to make a splash at the box office, he looked for some elements that he could improve on next time he would do a fantasy musical, such as production values, substance, and casting. By managing not to repeat the same mistakes of Babes in Toyland, Walt's next fantasy musical became one of the most beloved movies of his career — Mary Poppins.
  • Neutral Female: In the Disney version, the hero and the villain are both shrunk down to toy size and then begin to engage in a swordfight while the normal-sized heroine watches them, very concerned. She could have just stepped on the bad guy! (Granted, she could have easily caught the hero, too! Or she just didn't think she could live with committing a cold-blooded murder...)
  • Never My Fault: Played straight in the Disney version when Grumio's toymaking machine goes out of control up to the point where it explodes and falls apart. The Toymaker berates him, blaming him for faulty construction, but the disaster was actually caused by the Toymaker's own careless misuse of the controls. Somewhat averted later on when Grumio invents a gun that can shrink objects down to toy size, which the Toymaker approves of... until Tom asks where they will be able to find big things to shrink. As noted above, it turns out Grumio really didn't take time to consider this.
  • Pretty in Mink: When Mary and Tom marry at the end of the 1961 version, Mary is given a red cape trimmed with white fox, and a white fox muff.
  • Rewritten Pop Version: Disney's movie alters the lyrics to several songs. Justified because the new lyrics correspond with the rewritten plot better than the original versions would have.
  • Shout-Out: In the 1986 version, one of Barnaby's henchmen resembles Graf Orlock; the other looks a lot like Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • The Silent Bob: Roderigo in the Disney version.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: This is especially prevalent in the 1961 version. Let's just say Tom Piper really objects.
  • Spelling Song: "C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I" (yes, that's the official title!) from the 1986 version.
  • Sugar Bowl: Though not without elements of Satire and occasionally horror.
  • Sword Cane: In the Disney version, Barnaby, having been shrunk himself to toy size just like Tom, is held by Tom at sword point, but Barnaby pulls on the head of his cane, which pulls free with no effort, revealing that it's actually a sword in disguise, which leads to a...
  • Sword Fight: This is the climax of the Disney version, between Tom and Barnaby, both having been shrunk to toy size. Naturally, Barnaby loses.
  • Syndication Title: The film was retitled March of the Wooden Soldiers when the movie began airing on television, many years before the 1961 Disney remake was produced.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Honestly, everyone could've been spared a lot of trouble if not for the Toymaker's arrogance and carelessness, constantly undermining Grumio's inventions and having a poor temper at that. So inattentive is he that he literally throws the shrink ray into Barnaby's hands when he tosses the "failed" device out the window, creating a world of trouble for everybody present.
  • Uncertain Doom: Commonly played with Barnaby in the film adaptations. In the 1983 film, he is implied to be killed by his trolls when they turn against him. In the animated film, he is last seen being chased by goblins, presumably to be eaten, after insulting their recently-deceased king. In the 1961 film, his fate seems a little less ambiguous, as he is stabbed by Tom during their swordfight and falls from a great height into a toy box, and is never seen again afterwards, but publicity stills and the comic adaptation change the ending so he is imprisoned in the bird cage rather than stabbed, making his fate seem more ambiguous to some. Ironically, in the original story his death is definitive when he drinks poison.
  • Villain Love Song: "Castle in Spain", sung by Ray Bolger in the 1961 film, later memorably covered by Buster Poindexter on the Stay Awake Disney Cover Album.
  • Villainous Crush
  • Villain Song:
    • Although it's not in the original operetta, Barnaby along with his henchmen in the Disney and Francoeur versions gets "We Won't Be Happy 'Til We Get It" in which he's cheerfully villainous, admitted he has no real excuse for it. Notable in that in the Francoeur version it's the very first song, so as to leave no doubt as to who the Bad Guy is supposed to be. "We'll forge a check, or cut your neck, if we can make a dime!"
    • "Monsterpiece" for Barnaby in the 1986 version.
    • There's also "A Crooked Man" from the 1997 version, which doubles as a "The Villain Sucks" Song: his backup singers are clearly not pleased with him, but Barnaby takes their slams on his character as compliments nonetheless.
  • When Trees Attack: The Annette Funicello version featured Gumps, animated trees with faces who captured travellers in the night and escorted them to the Toymaker.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In the 1934 film, the Boogiemen have no qualms about kidnapping the children of Toyland. One even tries to attack Rock-a-Bye-Baby on the Treetop. Thankfully, a well-timed peewee saves the day.
  • You Monster!: When Barnaby framed Tom-Tom that he was the pig-napper, an upsetting Little Bo-Beep calls Barnaby a monster.
    • In the 1961 version, the Toymaker calls Barnaby a monster and an ogre for intruding on his premises, shrinking him with the shrinking gun, and kidnapping him for his bidding.

Alternative Title(s): Babes In Toyland


Example of: