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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 film 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.
Tropes used in Babes in Toyland include:
Barnaby: Mark this down.
Gonzago: Mark this down!
Barnaby: Item 1.
Gonzago: Item 1?
Barnaby: Kidnap Tom.
Gonzago: Kidnap Tom!
Roderigo: *Makes throat-slitting gesture*
Gonzago: No, no, kidnap him.
Barnaby: Item 2.
Gonzago: Item 2?
Barnaby: Throw him in the sea.
Gonzago: Throw him in the sea!
Roderigo: *Repeats gesture*
Gonzago: No, no, just throw him in the sea!
Barnaby: Item 3 ... Steal the sheep.
Gonzago: Steal the sheep!
Roderigo: *Stabbing motions*
Barnaby: No, steal them!
- Big No: Bill Francouer's version gives one to Barnaby and his henchmen shortly after their defeat sequence.
- Blooper: In the Disney version; an extra accidentally closes her nightgown into the door as she walks into her house.
- Bride and Switch:Little Bo Peep agrees to marry Barnaby so that he'll settle the mortgage on Mother Peep's shoe house. However, he's tricked into marrying Stanley Dum, who had dressed up as the bride and hidden his face with the veil.
- 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.
- Chekhov's Gun: The soldiers in the Laurel and Hardy version.
- Chekhov's Skill: The game Stan is playing at the beginning.
- Dastardly Whiplash: Mr. Barnaby, especially as depicted by Ray Bolger.
- 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.
- Expy: The hero's girlfriend has different names in various versions, but a fairly consistent personality.
- 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.
- Fluffy Fashion Feathers: When Mary and Tom marry at the end of the 1961 version, Mary is given a red cape trimmed with white feathers, and a white feather muff.
- 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.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Today, "babe" is more commonly used to mean "attractive woman" than "child"; the odd (to modern ears) choice of words in the title being retained by remakes is probably the Grandfather Clause at work.
- Living Toys
- Mr. Exposition: Georgie Porgie serves as this in the 1986 film.
- Neutral Female: In at least one 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!
- Some have actually imagined that she didn't do this because she could have easily caught the hero, too.
- Or she just didn't think she could live with committing a cold-blooded murder...
- Spelling Song: The Cincinnati Song from the 1986 version.
- Sugar Bowl: Though not without an admixture of Satire and occasional elements of Nightmare Fuel.
- 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!"
- 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.