Babes in Toyland is one of the few Laurel and Hardy films that
granted a favorable review. We present that 1934 review
here, for your evaluation.
If Hal Roach aimed at the production of purely juvenile
picture to which children might conceivably drag their
elders, he has succeeded in a measure beyond others who have
sought to enter this realm. He has made a film excellence
for children. It's packed with laughs and thrills and is
endowed with that glamour of mysticism which marks juvenile
"Babes in Toyland" is as far away from the Victor Herbert
original operetta as Admiral Byrd from his home port. The
arithmetic song and "March of the Toys" are the only
outstanding survivors of Herbert's score, and these are
merely background. Two other lesser numbers used. Of the
original book there is no trace at all. This is not a
musical brought to the screen. It is a fairy story in
technique and treatment, but a gorgeous fairy tale which
gives everything to Laurel and Hardy and to which, in
return, they give their happiest best. It will be a superior
Saturday attraction and a scooper holiday week. Midweek
night business is apt to be something else again. But"Babes"
probably will get special holiday booking for four or five
years to come.
Picture has a book and sticks closely to it. There is a
tenuous but definite plot, simple enough to be
understandable to very small children and appealing to older
youngsters. Everything done has a direct bearing on the
story, and all of the comedy gags are written about this
thread of narrative. In this regard the film shows
remarkable work. It has all the needed comedy without having
to build up with interpolated slapstick. And it is amusing
enough to entertain older persons who remember when they
were young. It will not bore those who have to accompany
their children. It possesses a pictorial quality that will
appeal. At the Astor there was a large sprinkling of men
trickling into the house. That may have been due to their
belief they were going in to see something like the
original, but once they got in they appeared to enjoy it.
Children laughed freely when they were not thrilled by
Bogeyland. Latter sequence is not so rough as to induce
The story is simple. Tom-Tom loves Bo-Peep, who is one of
the numerous progeny of the Old Woman who lived in a shoe.
Barnaby, a miser, holds the mortgage. Bo-Peep must marry him
or else. Hardy promises to redeem the mortgage, but he and
Laurel get fired from the toy shop when they make 100
soldiers six feet tall instead of 600 each a foot high. For
this they are punished, but Bo-Peep begs them off promising
Barnaby she will marry him. Barnaby really is married to
Laurel in bride's dress. He frames Tom, who is exiled to
Bogeyland, whither Bo-Peep follows him. The comedians follow
and help them to effect their escape. Barnaby leads the
inhabitants of Bogeyland against the town, but they are
saved by the oversized soldiers.
This brings a smashing climax with the soldiers marching
to the strains of "March of the Toys." It gives a full five
minutes of smashing action that will lift children under 12
completely out of their seats, and yet it is not so
terrifying as to alarm.
Most of the action occurs in Toyland chiefly in one big
set which supplies the details for the close-ups of more
intimate developments. There is also one large and several
smaller sets in Bogeyland, which is inhabited by ape-like
nondescript. It provides the necessary contrast to the
All Mother Goose characters are woven into the plot, not
to mention the Three Little Pigs, but it's Laurel and
Hardy's picture. While they are on the story zips along, but
the mistake has not been made of asking them to fill the
stage continuously. It is their absences which make their
reappearances so effective. The same Laurel and Hardy of
shorts, but in fancy dress and apt to endear themselves to
parents because of this effort.
Charlotte Henry, as Bo-Peep, is not always in the
picture. Sometimes she looks and plays the adult. Felix
Knight is the Tom, but not much in evidence until the close
as the actual love making is discreetly soft pedaled. Others
do not matter importantly enough to call for mention.
This picture may not be consistently big boxoffice, but
it is the best juvenile product to date and deserves the
long life it will have.
Originally from Variety, December 18, 1934.
The first time I saw this wonderful film was
when I was a boy about five or six years old at the
Cosmo Theater on 116th Street between 3rd and 2nd
Avenues in Manhattan, and the most vivid memory I
have from that time is the march of the oversized
toy soldiers. Later, in my teens, when it started
showing up on TV as "The March of the Wooden
Soldiers," I became a hooked fan. When my brother,
who is almost eight years younger than I, reached
an age when he could watch and understand, he
watched it with me and another fan was hooked, and
we watched it every Christmas. I am still hooked at
54 years old, and I will remain hooked until my
death and even beyond, I assure you.
The story is wonderfully simple and brings so
many figures from fairy tales and nursery rhymes to
life. Moreover, my being a fan of Laurel and Hardy
was another plus--indeed I must agree that this is
my favorite out of all their other movies and
shorts. Even my dear Yiayia, which is what we say
for "Granny" in Greek, loved this film, and she was
already in her mid-eighties at the time. She
especially loved every instance when Stan went into
his tearful yowl, and she burst out laughing and
For me, the movie is not just something I enjoy
and that rekindles the child in me, but it is also
a spark for childhood memories and even a few
adulthood memories linked to many Christmases past.
When I was in the sixth grade, I started drawing
some homemade comic books---unruled writing paper
stapled together, panels drawn with ball-point pen,
drawings and dialogue balloons with pencil. As I
went along growing up and my drawing got better, I
had my "star" characters visit Toyland twice, and a
part in my plot that required the soldiers to march
again, so, somewhere in this world in my
possessions exist two sequels to the movie, and,
maybe if I someday publish an autobiography or
memoirs, all the world will share in those
adventures. Those particular comic books were my
"Giant Christmas Specials." That is how much the
movie gripped my imagination and my very soul, and
contributed to my becoming an artist and a writer.
As I was writing this, I was just watching the
cartoon version of "Babes in Toyland." A couple of
days ago I saw the film version with Drew Barrymore
in it. Some years back I saw the Disney version.
Each of those have little moments that I wish could
be transplanted into the Laurel and Hardy film, but
overall, none of them really come up to its
standard. The cartoon manages to have a good bit of
paced action in it all the way through, but the
other two live-actor films are incredibly sluggish.
"March of the Wooden Soldiers" carries me forward
at a nice clip from beginning to end. In fact, I
wish it had been longer. It has an epic quality
about it, probably because it involves all the
nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters, and they
are part of the overall magic kingdom that is far
larger than Toyland itself, though Toyland must be
If there is ever another remake, I would hope
that it follows the basic plot of the Laurel and
Hardy film and, above all, that it manages to imbue
the story with that necessary pacing that keeps us
moving from one scene to another without any
moments that virtually drag us down and bore us.
By the way, this is one instance in which the
colorization process not only does not detract from
the movie, but adds to it. Also, the fact that the
colors are a bit mindful of old color photographs
imbue the movie with an antique and classic
quality. A classic it is, of course!
If I were asked to make a list of movies that
should always be shown at Christmastime, I would
include "Miracle on 34th Street", "It's a Wonderful
Life", "White Christmas", and most definitely "The
March of the Wooden Soldiers" which should really
have the title "Babes in Toyland" restored to it,
with the "Wooden Soldiers" line as a subtitle.
May Laurel and Hardy and the Wooden Soldiers
march on and on into the future as long as
Of all the features that Stan & Babe had
performed in in their film careers.None is more
charming or still maintains it's appeal with movie
and tv viewers than the boys own cinema version of
"Babes In Toyland!"Here in this movie version of
the Victor Herbert and Glen MacDonough comic
opera.Stan & Babe found a haven for their
childlike characters.Where they not only fit into
the relm of storybook fantasy,but they can also
share the screen with the "Our Gang"kids and also
use their unique approach to spoofing man's
foilbels.The plot has "Little bo Peep"(Charolete
Henry)forced to marry the mean and perverse morage
holder "Silas Barnaby"(Henry Kleinbach Brandon).Who
holds a heavy lein on "Mother Peep's"shoehouse.Thus
he has control of their lives.But Stannie Dum &
Ollie Dee.Two unemployed toymakers.Save the day by
having Stannie impersonate Ms.Peep during Barnaby's
nupuals.Later when the venegeful Barnaby tries to
get even with Ms.Peep and her boyfriend:Tom
Tom"(Felix Knight)by having framed for pignapping
"Elmer Pig"(Angelo Russitto)and later by leading an
attack on "Old King Cole's"(Kewpie Morgan's)relm of
Toyland with the aid of "The Bogeymen!".Once
again,Stannie & Ollie foil Barnaby with a
cannon filled with pointed darts and their army of
toy wooden soliders.The film has
music,charm,beautiful sets,a wonderful plot and
fine performances by L&H and their fellow
comic/character actors and a few of the kids from
"The Little Rascals".This film is the true movie
version of "Babes In Toyland!"(Despite it's title
change to "March Of The Wooden Soliders!")and the
recent remakes done by the NBC TV Network,MGM/UA
Animation studios and the forgetable remake done in
l960 by Mr.Disney(Sorry Walt But no matter what
you,Hank Calvin,Gene Sheldon and Annette Funicello
have tried to do in your stupid phoney overraited
and overdone remake).L&H's Movie version of
"Babes In Toyland!"will still enchant and entertain
audiences for years to come.
I love this movie! I've seen a lot of movies,
and I really don't know any other to compare with
it. There is a lot to be said for "Wizard of Oz",
but I'd rather watch this one.
Laurel and Hardy are great, which is not
surprising. But there are little things about the
movie that just knock me out every time I see it.
The mouse throwing light bulbs or whatever it was.
What was that in the mouse suit? A monkey? Or a
person? Even with the flawless special effects of
today, I've never seen a more interesting portrayal
of a mouse.
And the pigs. They run with a funny little roll.
Who did them?
The L&H bits are memorable and charming. Did
anyone ever get more out of an expression directed
full at the camera than Hardy? And was anyone ever
as blissfully stupid as Laurel?
I sometimes try to work up a top ten list of all
time favorite movies. It would include Man for all
Seasons, Road Warrior, Zulu, True Confessions, My
Darling Clementine, and certainly March of the
I have seen Babes in Toyland when I was 4 years
old, I know that I didn't understand it much, it
was fun seeing all of the characters that were in
storybooks, I especially like Bo-peep and Tom-Tom
together, they were so sweet. I would like to see
it again someday. I would like to even see the one
with Annette Funicello too. I know that they are
two complete different movies but the storylines
are the same. Well that's what I think anyway.
--Repcie Morgana Stevenson
I first saw this film as a young boy, probably
aged 6, around 1949, on our new 16" B&W TV. I
remember my father saying it was a great movie and
I shouldn't miss it. How right he was! I introduced
it to my own kids when they were about 6. They also
fell in love with it. One of my daughters (with my
help) introduced it to my grandson who also fell in
love with it. It has become a Christmas tradition
for us and we never fail to watch it whenever it's
on. We still laugh at the goings on, root for the
good guys, boo the villain, Barnaby, and carry on
as if we've never seen it before. My grandson's
favorite part is the soldiers marching out of the
warehouse with that great song playing. He even
asked me to buy a CD simply because it had the
"March of the Toys" as a selection. He listens to
that song all year. I don't know if it's nostalgia
or what, but "The March of the Wooden
Soldiers"("Babes in Toyland") has to be one of my
all time favorite movies. I even bought the black
Just about my favorite Stan and Ollie film. I
especially love the "wedding scene" and of course
the "Pee Wee" sequence. I try to get at least one
child and/or one adult hooked on it each holiday
season, with great success. It's a real tribute to
the power of the Fellows that -- in this
sophisticated age -- they're still acquiring fans.
BTW, does anyone else realize that "Old King
Cole" was played by Alan Hale, Senior? Yes, "The
Skipper's" dad. Check out the King's face and voice
next time you see it.
Barnaby is great as the evil one. He's too old
for Mary though. I like the Disney version better
with Ray Bolger as the evil Barnaby.
I have a big black top hat at home hat I wear
when I feel like being evil.
About 200 of us kids were amazed and delighted
when we saw this film in about 1950 at a school in
a southern West Virginia coal camp. The principal
sometimes rented 16-millimeter prints of films.
Admission was 10 cents. Children who couldn't pay
were quietly ushered in before the principal
started the projector.
The film remains my favorite. In the 1970s I
purchased a Super 8 sound version from Great
Britain and showed it to my children numerous
times. Still have the film.
The story struck a balance between hilarity and
fright that had great appeal to us youngsters when
we saw it in that darkened auditorium long ago.
When I was 20 years old I walked 5 miles through
snow to see the Disney version of the operetta. I
felt like a fool when it was over. But such was the
nostalgic pull of the original ñ not then
available except sporadically on TV ñ that I
A final anecdote: I overheard a man returning
the Disney film, "Babes in Toyland," to a video
outlet. He complained the title was misleading
ñ there were no "babes" in the film.
When I lived in NYC, I studied voice with Felix
Knight who portrayed Tom Tom. I was so thrilled to
have known him. Thanksgiving Day always included
this movie. I now live in Nashville, TN, and
Thanksgiving will never be the same...I do have the
memories of knowing Felix Knight, though, if not
seeing Babes in Toyland...ever again.
--Lisa Carrie Margulies
I am a "Baby-Boomer" who remembers watching this
wonderful fantasy film each year in the 50's and
60's at Christmas-time. Now I have a complete
"colorised version" on video tape, which l watch
every Christmas, since the TV stations in my area
do not seem to show the film anymore.
This film ranks along with "It's a Wonderful
Life", "A Christmas Carol" and "Meet Me in St.
Louis" as the all-time best of Christmas movies!
Thank God, these wonderful films are now all
available to us who love them, on home video.
Stan and Ollie are at their best, in what must
be their most popular film. Henry Brandon all but
steals the show with his wonderful
"meller-dramatic" Silas Barnaby!
Many fans dislike the "colorising" of the recent
complete video version. I think the color job is
well done, and this film cries for color!
I have just put my four year old boy to bed and
came down to my computer to check in at the Laurel
and Hardy website. Much to my surprise I have
discovered the "Babes" site. Wow! what a list of
reviews. As it turns out I have been planning to
show my son Babes In Toyland this Christmas. It is
as so many of you have written the best family film
of all time. Growing up in New York City it was a
cherished event to watch "Babes" on channel eleven
at holiday time. It is full of fantasy and humanity
delivered in full measure by Stan, Babe and the
entire cast. The sets are magnificent, the songs
are beautifully sung and the comedy by the "Boys"
is hilarious. Several reviewers have made mention
of the "Pee Wee." I urge you to watch the scene
again. It is remarkable in the fact there are no
optical tricks or effects. Stan must have practiced
for hours to be able to whack those damn things
over and over again with out a cut. I showed this
film to my daughter when she was about eight years
old. She is now fourteen and still enjoys it. There
is a scene in the film when Stan put Babe in a
giant box to be delivered to Barnaby's house as an
early Christmas present. It is only a few short
steps to Barnaby's house and when they arrive Stan
knocks on the box to tell babe they are there. babe
tells Stan "So far so good." Stan retorts "It
wasn't so far." Well now every time I tell my
daughter "So Far so good" she invariably comes back
with "It wasn't so far." Thanks Stan. By the way
Hal Roach said in an interview that he thought the
film was terrible. Apparently Stan wanted several
changes in the story line and made quite a stink
about it. Hal relented but said he felt the film
never lived up to his expectations. Certainly Roach
knew something about film making but as time has
shown us Stan knew more. And a note to Frank Meins.
You I suspect are Gus's son. And you are right Gus
was a great director and his talent shined brightly
in this film. Well here it is late June and I
cannot wait til Christmas so I can show my son the
great talent of Stan and babe and yes Gus and the
entire cast of this very special film.
I was always a Laurel and Hardy fan and but I
enjoyed this movie the most. When I was a child I
saw the movie for the first time and now I can see
it any time that I want to for I have it on tape. I
also have a tape of Way Out West in my possession.
In the stage version of BABES IN TOYLAND,
immediately following the song "Go to Sleep,
Slumber Deep," the children are attacked by a giant
spider, to the same agitato music which appears
after the number is sung in the film. A giant
spider web appears in the film, but the spider
seems to have been replaced by an awkward,
unmotivated attack by Barnaby, in a brief sequence
which weakens the surprise which might have been
created had he just appeared with his torch in the
cave surrounded by the Bogeymen. Does anyone know
if an ineffectively-made special effect prop was
dumped here? Looks to me like the insect was fired
and Brandon had to stand in! (for trivia buffs: the
spider, in the play, was fought off by a bear!) Let
As a child, I can remember watching "Babes", and
cheering when the "Bogey" men were beat up by the
Wooden Soldiers. Years later, I still laugh at
Stannnie Dum. His Facial expressions are absolutely
priceless. I will always call this Film, my
favorite movie of all time. I would love to find a
movie poster for this. If anyone knows where I can
get one, please e-mail me.
This has to be the greatest Laurel and Hardy
vehicle of all time. The music is so memorable and
the cast is outstanding, even by today's standards.
Henry Brandon as the evil Silas Barnaby should have
you throwing rotten tomatoes at the screen when he
says "woman you're a fool!" Sixty three years after
it's release, it's still as fresh, hysterical and
heart warming as any movie you'll ever see. This
movie is not just for kids, but for the "kid" in
all of us. Heaven may have cheated us out of Stan
Laurel and Oliver Hardy, but when I get there, they
will be some of the first people I look up - to
Definitely one of the all time great movies. It
must be because of the "Outstanding Directing".
Not only are Laurel and Hardy their usual
talented best, but Tom-Tom, Bo Peep, and especially
Barnaby were excellently cast. My kids even liked
the songs!! (no Honolulu Baby here, thank
goodness!!) Two problems come to mind, though. Real
life isn't like this, and I can't find a peewee at
Toy's 'R' Us!!!
This is the one I always remember watching when
I was very small. Before I had seen any other
L&H film I had seen Babes twenty or thirty
times. I still watch it every Christmas. It never
fails to bring back those warm memories of being a
I can honestly call this my favorite movie of
all time! It was hillarious and had a great story.
Laurel and Hardy are my favorite comedy duo, and
this was the best movie they ever made. I like the
uncut version where we get to see Tom Tom punch
A classic! My all-time favorite holiday film. No
film puts me in the holiday spirit like this one
does. I can't wait to watch it with my 3 year old
daughter this year, I'm sure she will love it.
As far as colorization is concerned, Baaaah!!! I
just don't like it. It's a real pain to have to
turn the color off on my TV prior to watching this
gem, but that's what I'll do every time I watch it.
Babes in Toyland is simply put the perfect
fantasy film. The reason: as it unfolds it astounds
us with mirth, music, and the stuff dreams are made
of. The cast of mostly unknowns fit the characters
to a tee!!! And Laurel and Hardy are delightful as
the child like innocents trying to outwit the evil
Silas Barnaby. Did you know that when Hal Roach
contacted Walt Disney for permission on the use of
the music "Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf" Disney
jumped right in with enthusiasm and okayed it
without hesitation since he was a huge L&H
fan!!! As all of us are...
I am now 44 years old and haven't seen this
movie for maybe 35 years. I have very vivid
memories of it though especially of the toys coming
to life and the game of Pee Wee. I had no idea that
there was anyone else in the world who knew about
or was even remotely interested in the movie. I had
totally given up hope of ever getting the
opportunity of seeing it again, thinking that there
was no print available. Imagine my surprise and
delight on the serendipitous experience of
stumbling on this site! I'm going to make immediate
enquiries on the availability of this movie on
videotape. (Unfortunately in Australia we don't
have laserdisc technology commercially available.)
I can't wait to lie down with my 5 & 8 year old
kids and share the experience of watching this
"Babes in Toyland" is very special L&H film
because it, like its characters, are geared towards
children. My six and seven year old children (Male
& Female) love the film. Of well over a
thousand laserdisc titles to choose from, it
remains a favorite.
I agree with your opinion of the colorized
version. I personally love black & white
photography but this film is surely a good excuse
for colorizing. I also agree that this film is the
best example of "colorizing" I've seen so far. I do
wish the original black & white version was
also available for comparison and authenticity. I
also wish the original "Babes In Toyland" titles
would have been used. At least the original
storybook introduction was restored. I once
purchased a Super 8 Sound print (before home video)
of this title from a company in England because it
included this opening title sequence and the
deleted ("March Of The Wooden Soldiers") song "Go
I consider the laserdisc in particular to be a
great collectors item for Laurel & Hardy fans.
The picture and sound quality is an excellent. I
only wish we could see more of this great team's
work available on laserdisc. Perhaps DVD?
--Alan R. Fontaine
As a film for children, on a scale of 1-4 this
film is a 5 with the Wizard of Oz as it's only
serious rival. As children during the 1950's, the
yearly showing of BABES IN TOYLAND during the
Christmas season was as highly anticipated an event
by my brother and myself as was Christmas morning
itself. There is simply no more cherished memory in
all of my childhood then waiting for, and watching,
Laurel and Hardy in BABES IN TOYLAND. And it is
still a cherished moment for myself and my
children, now nearly grown themselves, as we kick
off each Christmas season together with our yearly
viewing of the colorized recording.
Since I was a kid Thanksgiving in New York
wasn't Thanksgiving without "'March". How I wished
I could own the film! Well 36 years later I can and
I do ! What wonderful memories when I play it over
and over again! THANKS BOYS!!!
I'm not sure what to write, except that, I
really enjoy this film! My family has been involved
with Sons of the Desert (Blockheads tent - MN) for
a long time, and I've seen A LOT of older films,
not to mention plenty of L&H, and this is one
of my favorites! (I could go into all the reasons
why, but that would just take too long!)
Without a doubt, this is Laurel and Hardy's
greatest performance. The movie is extremely
entertaining, and has become practically a "cult"
movie for the X-Generation. Quite possibly the
greatest juvenile movie of all time. In other
words...THIS MOVIE KICKS ASS!!!!
A little gem of the boy's many efforts to
diversify from the standard deadpan they were
famous for. While not perfect in any one category,
it is enjoyable throughout, and belong's in any
family's Christmas collection, ahead of some of the
drivel existing today, and whether or not you are a
Laurel & Hardy groupie. Also makes for a nice
twist on the many different versions of the
Nutcracker that seem to keep getting more and more
popular each Holiday season. And finally it IS one
of those rare kids films that adults can sit thru
and maybe even enjoy in part or whole.