The 1934 classic film starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.


Story | Cast | Music | Reviews | Home

Plot | Background | Behind the Scenes | Pee-Wee



Black and White, Feature Film. Released November 30, 1934

Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee do their best to keep Mother Peep from being evicted by the evil Silas Barnaby. When that fails, Bo Peep reluctantly agrees to marry Barnaby to save Mother Peep. Thanks to Stan and Ollie's trickery, the marriage is botched and Mother Peep's overdue mortgage is ripped up. Barnaby takes out his revenge by rounding up the Bogeymen to finish off Toyland. The boys and the Wooden Soldiers come to the rescue and save the day.



The film is based on the Victor Herbert operetta of 1903 and includes much of the original score throughout the film. However, the operetta consisted entirely of a musical revue, without an actual story. Of course, this would not play on the big screen. So a plot, involving many of the classic fairy tales characters, was developed specifically for the film.

Babes in Toyland has undergone several changes over the years. When it was later re-released as March of the Wooden Soldiers, about nine minutes had been removed. The film has also been edited by local television stations, to include additional commercials and remove "violent" scenes. It has been renamed at least five times, with other titles such as Laurel & Hardy in Toyland, Toyland, March of the Toys, and Revenge is Sweet. Today, it is most commonly known as March of the Wooden Soldiers, supposedly to avoid confusion with other films.

The most recent change came with addition of computerized color. Although we do not generally approve of the colorization of black and white films, Babes in Toyland may be the one exception. Stan himself had wished this film was shot in color. The colorization is actually very good; probably the best we've seen! Too bad they didn't have the budget to use color film in the first place, to avoid this entire controversy.

Even Walt Disney was involved in the original film. He allowed the use of his "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Woolf" theme to accompany the appearance of the Three Little Pigs. An animal that resembles Mickey Mouse is even seen in the film. Of course, the Walt Disney Studios remade the film in 1961, with Ray Bolger and Annette Funicello. Disney remade the film once again in 1986, for television, with a cast that included Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves. Needless to say, neither remake came close to the original.


Behind the Scenes

Behind the scenes, there was a great bit of turmoil in Toyland. The advent of the double-feature was marking the end of the two-reeler and Hal Roach knew he had to make features in order to survive. So he headed to New York to purchase the rights to the operetta, Babes in Toyland.

Unfortunately, this acquisition included plenty of music but no plot. So Roach wrote the story himself, on the train back to Los Angeles. He was very proud of his creation when presented it to Stan Laurel, upon his return. Needless to say, they disagreed entirely on the way this film should be made. The story that we see today is what Stan wanted. But Mr. Roach was uneasy about relinquishing control of such an important picture; he felt this was the film that would make or break him in the feature business, and "The Boss" didn't want some actor messing things up!

Fortunately, Stan made a great film that was both a critical success and popular. But to his dying day, Roach seemed convinced that his concept for the film would have been more successful. Although studio records indicate that the film was a financial success, Roach insisted that it was not. It was a real battle of egos--a battle that eventually caused Laurel and Hardy to leave the Hal Roach Studios.

While the studio worked out these problems with the story, the film had to be put on hold for several months. During this time, both Stan and Babe's personal lives were in a bit of turmoil. There were rumors in the press that the team was splitting up. There were also changes among the directing and writing staff at the start of the picture. Yet somehow, none of these tensions come through in the final film. It is a real tribute to the talent of the cast and crew members involved.



In the film, Stan plays a game called Pee-Wee. He uses a stick to hit a small, round piece of wood that is tapered at both ends. By placing the Pee-Wee on the ground and hitting one of the tapered ends, it will fly up into the air. At that point you hit the Pee-Wee like a baseball. In the film, the Pee-Wee returns, like a boomerang.

As many Sons of the Desert know, there is a biannual Pee-Wee contest at most International Conventions. The object is to see who can hit the Pee-Wee the farthest. It really is a lot harder than it looks!



Copyright ©1996-2002 Way Out West Tent. All Rights Reserved.