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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 27: Bedknobs and Broomsticks"

(Originally published on 7/8/22)


Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Run time: 118 min.

Release Date: December 13, 1971.

Where/when I first saw it: ON-TV (cable), 1981-2

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Tuesday afternoon

“Bedknobs” was one of Walt’s projects he had in mind while trying to get “Mary Poppins” off the ground and it’s easy to view this movie as a close cousin of that film. Both storylines involve someone with magical abilities (in this case, Lansbury) coming into the lives of children and completely taking over their situation. Both have bright and cheerful musical numbers, courtesy of mainstays The Sherman Brothers. Both exceed the running time of just about every Disney animated movie. Both mix live action with animation to the degree that pushed special effects forward a few steps back when they were released. Both were acclaimed and successful (more so “Poppins”, but still).

And also like “Poppins,” I feel like I should like it more than I do. I remember seeing it as a kid on ON-TV (Chicago based cable system of the early ‘80s) and being wowed by the magical elements and mostly delighted by the animated segments. The final sequence was a stunner and I tried like hell to remember the magic words, but could never get them right. When I watch it now, though, even though I try to make the adjustment to the film’s time period when it was made, it just doesn’t excite me. The formula seems too familiar (through no fault of the original writers of the source materials). The pace lags and the animal sports segment goes on too long and likely served as the inspiration behind the incredibly dull “Animalympics” (1980).

But that final sequence is still quite great as the invisible knights on horseback take hold of the countryside, much to the shock and confusion of the Nazis. The special effects artists here take what they learned on “Poppins” and go many steps further when the actors are interacting with floating clothing and mixing with animated fish underwater. There is much to admire here on the technical side and the cast works just as well. Supposedly, there was supposed to be 20 minutes of additional material, which would have enhanced the big dance number at the center of the film, which feels choppy and without much purpose in its current form. It’s worth looking at the deleted scenes to see what they were going for, but at the same time, the film doesn’t need to be any longer.

So again, like with “The Aristocats,” it’s nice to see the Disney artists plowing ahead post-Walt and succeeding where they could. I just don’t see myself going back to this one very often.


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