Friday, December 11, 2009

Magically Enchanting

An Academy Award Award winner for Best Visual Effects, Bedknobs and Broomsticks features a spellbinding mix of live action and animation that makes it one of Disney’s most delightfully endearing classics.

Screen legend Angela Lansbury gives a bewitching performance as an amateur witch who reluctantly takes in three precocious orphan children. The children soon find themselves swept aboard a flying bed, its magic brass bed knob their ticket to one fantastic adventure after another-- including a visit to an enchanted island inhabited by wondrous animated animal characters! The foursome eventually join forces with an amusing professor to track down an ancient incantation that could save the country from hostile invaders!

Now it’s *your* turn to take a ride of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a fun-filled flight of fantasy, music and Disney magic for all ages!

Title: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Release: December 13, 1971
Genre: Family- Musical
MPAA Rating: G
Based On: Bed-Knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
Writer: Bill Walsh & Don DaGradi
Director: Robert Stevenson
Music By: Sherman Brothers
Produced By: Bill Walsh
Distributed By: Walt Disney Pictures aka Buena Vista Distribution
Run Time: 117 minutes (theatrical version)/ 139 minutes (new version)

After Walt Disney died, many of the movies that the studio were working on beforehand that had his personal input on were pushed through. Including one that Walt had bought the rights to while waiting for P.L. Travers to give in and sell the rights to her Mary Poppins books. The rights he bought were to Mary Norton’s (author of The Borrowers) two books The Magic Bedknob; Or How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1947) which were both loosely adapted and became the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This film was also nominated for five Academy Awards, but won only one for Best Special Effects.

Often compared to Disney’s Mary Poppins because not only does it have actor David Tomlinson (supposedly Julie Andrews was offered a part as well but had other commitments) and an animated sequence in common but even the song writers are the same (one of the melodies not used in Poppins became the song The Beautiful Briny Sea). Those songwriters are my favorite composer duo: the Sherman Brothers (their song The Age of Not Believing was an Academy Award nominee)! However, Bedknobs and Broomsticks was actually more expensive to make than Poppins. Because of the expense put into the movie, the special effects are actually incredibly well done and though you occasionally can see strings on some of the actors and props, everything still holds up to the test of time. The Academy Award win was well-deserved in this case.

In this special 25th Anniversary edition, most of the missing 30 minutes (which includes a few songs and chunks of the Portobello Road number) cut from the original film has finally been replaced. Thanks to the hard work of Scott McQueen, this film is almost the way it was originally intended to be seen. The edited version that most people have seen takes a great deal out of the picture so there were lots of things that were explained (the kids are orphans, Roddy McDowell was an even more annoying secondary character trying to court Miss Price for her property, and there were tons of songs cut as well) that had previously seemed a bit like holes in the story to me, even when I was younger. As interesting as it is, the 12 minutes of the Portobello Road sequence could have continued to stay edited in my opinion though I still enjoyed the salute to the nation dances.

That’s not to say that this film is any less wonderful edited or unedited though. Ward Kimball’s wonderfully directed animation sequence alone is worth watching this but add in The Sherman Brothers’ songs… it’s just magic. I’ve always loved Angela Lansbury and she’s wonderful in this Disney World War II musical. This is a great film because it “really doesn’t matter what it [does] as long as it [does] it with a flair.”

Featured Songs
The Old Home Guard
A Step in the Right Direction (not used in the film)
The Age of Not Believing
With a Flair (only in new versions)
Portobello Road
The Beautiful Briny Sea
Substitutiary Locomotion
Nobody's Problems (only in new versions)
Finale (Reprise of the Old Home Guard)

I created a quiz for this movie at Fun Trivia in 2005
Several major film clips from the movie are on ReelzChannel
There is a great article on the film at D23
Wikipedia article on the movie's page
Scanned article pages on Bedknobs and Broomsticks at Tulgey Wood

Animated Views with song writer Richard Sherman (includes lots of great photos)
TCM has a few interesting things on their site about Bedknobs and Broomsticks including an orginal press book which has interviews with just about every one involved in the film including one of Disney's 9 Old Men Ward Kimball in it who directed the animated section of the film, Angela Lansbury, David Tomlinson, the kids in the film, and many, many more!


Substituary Locomotion Battle


  1. It's been ages since I last saw this movie. It's one of my mother's favorites. :-)

  2. I loved this movie as a child! You've just made me want to watch it again.

  3. I loved the football match-hillarious!

    Some of the songs were a bit 'iffy though.

  4. I loved this movie when I was a kid! I am excited to see that there's missing stuff in the anniversary edition and so I am now going to put it on my MUST HAVE THIS DISNEY FILM! list. heh.

    Funny though, I think I always thought Julie Andrews was in the movie, too! h

  5. When I was at the D23 Expo, Richard Sherman talked about his work at the studio and it was interesting to hear about how after Walt died, the studio pretty much stopped using them because they were "Walt's favorites" and people were jealous of that. So the music they did for the post-Walt films, such as 'The Aristocats' and 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks,' were written in the early story changes and they were only called back to tweak them or add a song. That is why the Sherman brothers didn't do music for subsequent Disney films until 'The Tigger Movie.'

    Also, if anybody is interested in owning the film, I recommend hunting down the out of print 30th anniversary edition. The actual film transfer is the same as the new Magical Musical Edition, but they removed a photo gallery of production photos, film facts, and 2 shorts to make room for a special feature that is 1/3 about this film and 2/3 about Disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place.

  6. Thats very interesting about the Sherman brothers Alex. No wonder 'Bedknobs' lacked a bit in the music.

    I certainly enjoyed visiting your blog about the Disney films. Particularly your summary of Disney's Story of Robin Hood (1952) which as you probably know is the subject of my blog.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Wendy: It's a pretty good film :)

    Bermudaonion: Make sure you get an unedited version! There really is a lot taken out.

    Clement of the Glen: I like a few of the songs but I agree with you, some aren't very good. The cut ones especially.

    Cat: Nope, she's definitely not in this one. I think Poppins and The Princess Diaries are her only Disney films. Hope you get a chance to see it!

    Alex: Wow! Thanks for the info. Yeah, I really hated that Wizards of Waverly Place ad on the special features. I won my copy online or else I would buy the one you're talking about.

  8. lOVE THIS MOVIE! I love the scene where they're on the bed with the bubbles. Floating. I haven't seen it since I was like, 10, but I'm pretty sure they were floating in the scene. "I like to laugh" is the song, I believe.
    Great choice for a review!

  9. Brizmus: Oh I love the bed floating scenes too. You're thinking of The Beautiful Briny Sea. I Love to Laugh is from Mary Poppins but it's easy to get those songs confused since they were written by the same people!

  10. I LOVE THIS F'N MOVIE! The songs are incredible. My favorites are Portobello Road and Substitutiary Locomotion. I also adore the animal soccer game at the end.

    Such an awesome movie. Great review.

  11. I didn't know that about the missing 30 minutes - but it makes sense. There always did seem to be some jumps or holes in the movie. I must get the restored version! Thanks for the review.

  12. I really enjoyed this as a kid. I had no idea so much was cut out!!

  13. I remember loving this! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  14. Paxton: I really love Portobello Road too. The number itself is a little long but it's great. Thanks!

    Darla D: That always bothered me as a kid so I was so pleased to see that there was actually missing footage and such a pleasure to see it!

    Rebecca Reid: Weird to see so much restored too when you know what's supposed to happen next and a completely new scene pops in!

    Alyssa Kirk: Glad I could bring back fond memories :)

  15. What a classic - magically enchanting, indeed!



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