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Babes in Toyland (1961) Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English & Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: NR
  • Runtime: 106 Mins.
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: December 11, 2012
  • List Price: $20.00

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:2.5/5]

This is Disney’s 1961 Christmastime adaptation of Victor Herbert’s 1903 operetta Babes in Toyland. The second such cinematic endeavor to rework Herbert’s tale, Disney’s version borrowed heavily from the 1934 rendition that featured comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. A visually stunning film that is like a living version of Candyland meets Oz, children have always seemed to be, and will probably continue to be fascinated with Toyland. The simple and catchy melodies of its musical numbers, broad characters and eye-popping sets are a natural for pre-adolescents to wile away the hours to. Unfortunately, Disney’s rendition of Herbert’s work has always seemed half-hearted at best, and that can still be evidenced to this day with this barebones Blu-ray release including a lossy Dolby Digital soundtrack (more on that below).

The story, set in Mother Goose Village, follows Mary Contrary (Annette Funicello) who is preparing to marry Tom Piper (Tommy Sands), but the evil villain Barnaby (Ray Bolger) desires Mary to be his own bride. Hiring two bumbling henchmen to get rid of Tom, Gonzorgo (Henry Calvin) and Roderigo (Gene Sheldon), Barnaby plots to make Mary his own, but greed gets the best of his minions. Rather than drowning Tom as they should have, they sell him to a band of Gypsies. This allows Tom the opportunity to sneak back into the village and rescue Mary. Meanwhile, as Mary’s younger siblings have wandered off into the Forest of No Return to look for her sheep, tended by Little Bo Peep (Ann Jillian), everyone heads off to search for them. They all eventually find themselves in Toyland where they aid the Toymaker (Ed Wynn) in his quest to churn out as many toys as possible for Christmas.

Simple, straightforward, or, more precisely, barely there, are the words that describe this haphazardly thrown together story. For adults, appreciating this version of Babes in Toyland may just be a matter of nostalgia, because it is awfully painful to get through, despite the catchy tunes. Much appreciation should be given to actors Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon, however, for taking on the impossible task of stepping into the roles that will forever be reserved for the immortal Laurel and Hardy. Sadly, with the material they are given, they aren’t even allowed to come close to competing. Ray Bolger as Barnaby seems to be playing some parody of Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Babes in Toyland looks luscious and oozes color. The film’s grain structure looks natural and clean with crisp details nicely extended, great contrast and vivid saturation. I really can’t find fault in this 1.75:1-framed AVC encodement from Disney considering the film’s age.

Audio Quality

[Rating2.5/5]

For as good as the transfer looks, the audio provided by Disney for Babes in Toyland is a miserly Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural track in English and a Spanish dub. Even for purists who can live with the original mono audio, this lossy audio does no justice to the sound. When it doesn’t sound a little bit dull, its higher frequencies sound harsh, such as the brass section of the orchestration. At least a lossless offering could have been provided and, even better, a new 5.1 lossless mix (assuming multitracks are available) for those with no qualms about not listening “as originally intended.”

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

Not a single thing, not even the trailer.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3/5]

Get Babes in Toyland for the kids, they’ll love it. Parents and other adults, well, if nostalgia doesn’t take over, you’ll find yourself hoping the kids don’t want to play it too many times. At least it looks fantastic.

Additional Screen Captures

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BestBuy.com:
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Purchase Babes in Toyland on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Babes In Toyland (1961)

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:2.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]


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