bedknobs and broomsticks 


By Bill Kallay

"Mary Poppins" it ain't. 

"Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Enchanted Musical Edition" is now available on DVD.

By 1971, when this film was released, the Disney studio was trying keep things running the way Walt did. And for a while, they did fine. "The Love Bug" signified the studio's draw at the box office for family friendly films. Re-releases of their classic animated features packed them in. Walt Disney World opened to great success.

When "B and B" came out, there were probably high hopes that the movie would succeed as "Mary Poppins" had years before. Combine a story about a magical English lady (Angela Landsbury) with songs by the Sherman Bros., nifty visual effects, and classicly styled animation, they had something that was potentially a hit.

I'm not sure how "B and B" did in theaters. All I know is that it's been a Disney home video staple for years. Does that mean it's a great Disney movie? I tend to think that Disney lumps it in with "Poppins" because of some of the simularities, not because "Broomsticks" stands on it own. Despite the excellent adult cast, great art direction by Peter Ellenshaw and John B. Mansbridge, and visual effects on par with "Poppins," the film falls far short of being a bonified Disney classic.

Taking place during World War II, Landsbury plays a witch who isn't very good at casting spells. She ends up taking care of three orphans and together they go off on wild adventures. She's got a magic bednob that transforms a bed into a traveling machine to magical worlds. Yep, that's the plot. Intertwined in the story are some musical numbers and a few scenes of animation headed by Ward Kimball. 

Sadly, the film never really takes off. As delightful as Landsbury and Tomlinson are as actors, they're given a flat story to act upon, and surprisingly dull score by the Sherman Bros. Like "The Happiest Millionaire" (1967), Disney was trying hard to capture lightening in a bottle again. "Broomsticks" has some fun scenes here and there, but overall, the film is dull and nearly forgettable.

The visual effects are filled with Disney's trademark look, even though black wires can be clearly seen. Clothing and armory dance around the screen and I had a difficult time figuring out how they did those effects. Alan Maley did the matte paintings (Harrison Ellenshaw was just getting his start in the studio matte department on this film). Overall, the film does look great.

The Sherman Bros. score is forgettable. There isn't a single song that stands out, and it's unfortunate. The Sherman Bros. created some of the most memorable tunes in Disney's music library. One moment they created a beautiful melody in "Feed the Birds," or write something catchy for Annette Funicello. They were clearly talented song writers. But on this film, the music isn't very strong.

The animated sequences, directed by Ward Kimball, are hit-and-miss. On one level, they're charming enough. On another level, they merely borrow elements from past Disney films. The animation department was winding down at this point and much of the magic was nearly gone. Most of the animators had retired or passed on. We see a rough repeat of Baloo in a bear character, and an uninteresting lion king. It's just not the Disney animation we'd grown to love.

Viewers of "Broomsticks" will no doubt find some elements in the "Harry Potter" series that appear here. Nothing blatent, per se, but the elements are there. I guess there's only so many magical ideas to go around. Later generation writers are bound to borrow from movies and stories they've seen before. Perhaps "Broomsticks" made a big impression on J.K. Rowling.

"Bedknobs and Broomsticks" has been a Disney video favorite for years. Whether die hard Disney fans and today's kids will watch it is unknown.          

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © BHVE. All rights reserved.

Lacks an exciting story and great songs

Director: Robert Stevenson  

Cast: Angela Landsbuy, David Tomlinson, Roddy McDowell 

Visual effects demo and more


Picture: Very Good
Sound: Very Good

Try and spot some similarities between this film and "Harry Potter"

Aspect Ratio (1.66:1)

dolby digital

September 8, 2009

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