Babes in Toyland

  • Directors: Gus Meins, Charley Rogers
  • Producers: Hal Roach
  • Writers: Frank Butler, Nick Grinde, Victor Herbert, Glen MacDonough, Hal Roach
  • Genres: Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical
  • Actors: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Although the 1934 film makes use of many of the characters in the original play, as well as several of the songs, the plot is almost entirely unlike that of the original stage production. The film’s story takes place in Toyland, which is inhabited by Mother Goose and other well known fairy tale characters. Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee (played by Laurel and Hardy, respectively), live in a shoe (as in the nursery rhyme There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe), along with Mother Peep (the Old Woman), Little Bo Peep, a mouse resembling Mickey Mouse (and actually played by a live monkey in a costume), and many other children. The mortgage on the shoe is owned by the villainous Silas Barnaby, who is looking to marry Bo Peep. Stannie and Ollie set out to get the money for the mortgage from their boss, The Toymaker. But after the Toymaker finds that Stannie has mixed up an order from Santa Claus (building 100 wooden soldiers at six feet tall, instead of 600 soldiers at one foot tall) and one of the soldiers wrecks the toy shop, Stannie and Ollie are fired without getting the money.

The two then hatch a plan to sneak into Barnaby’s house and steal the mortgage, but are again foiled by their incompetence. Barnaby has them arrested on a burglary charge, and the two are sentenced to be dunked in the ducking stool and then banished to Bogeyland. But Barnaby agrees to drop the charges if Little Bo Peep will marry him. She reluctantly agrees, but not before Ollie suffers the humiliation of the dunking.

Ollie and Stan tell their story to Old King Cole (the King of Toyland) and the townspeople as two Bogeymen scale the wall and open the gate. The crowd flees in panic as the army of torch-wielding Bogeymen attack Toyland. Ollie and Stannie run and hide in the toy shop. There they discover boxes of darts and use them to fight off the Bogeymen. Stan and Ollie then empty an entire box of darts into a cannon, but as the two search for the last remaining darts, they realize instead that they should unleash the wooden soldiers. The “march” alluded to in the film’s title begins as the soldiers march out of the toy shop (filmed in a stop-motion animation sequence by Roy Seawright[2]). The scene changes to live action as the soldiers attack the Bogeymen with the bayonets of their rifles. Barnaby and the Bogeymen are defeated and driven back into Bogeyland, where alligators appear to feast on them, although this is never made clear. The kingdom of Toyland is saved. Stan and Ollie decide to give the Bogeymen a parting shot with the dart-filled cannon. As Stan aims the cannon and lights the fuse, and Ollie turns away to avoid the loud blast, the barrel of the cannon flips backwards and unleashes the barrage of darts on Ollie, covering his back with darts. The film ends with Stan pulling them out one by one as Ollie winces.

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