Many of us have movies that we watched repeatedly as children.
For my two older sisters and myself, it was the made-for-TV Disney horror comedy “Mr. Boogedy” (1986). My sisters saw it when it originally aired on Disney channel on a Sunday night in April of 1986. Eventually my parents recorded it off of the television to keep and we’ve had it ever since. I’ve watched it more times than I can count and can still quote along.
Our version of the VHS tape was recorded in the mid-1990s, complete with commercials for the New Mickey Mouse Club, an up and coming singer named Brandy Norwood and promos for movies such as “Angels in the Outfield” and “Batteries Not Included.” I’m re-watching this Pickens family favorite on the old VHS as I type.
The Davis’s new home, a “definite fixer upper”
The 45 minute movie follows the Davis family who moves to small town Lucifer Falls, New England to live in a in their very first house. The parents- Eloise (Mimi Kennedy) and Carleton Davis (Richard Masur)- apparently didn’t see the house in person before purchasing and just went by what the realtor said.
The family plans to open a franchise gag store, Gag City. Carleton is full of practical jokes and frequently quips “just kidding.”
When they pull up to the decrepit old house with wind blowing and lightening striking, Carleton excitedly exclaims, “Just what the realtor said, a definite fixer upper.” The rest of the family isn’t too sure- which includes two sons Corwin (David Faustino) and Aurie (Benji Gregory) and daughter Jennifer (Kristy Swanson).
It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals. In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.
Annette Funicello, Ray Bolger, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Ann Jillian, Brian Corcoran, Mary McCarty, Henry Calvin, Gene Sheldon
The film is introduced by Mother Goose (McCarty) and her goose Sylvester. Mary,Mary Quite Contrary (Funicello) and Tom the Piper’s Son (Sands) are to be married. However, evil Barnaby (Bolger) has other ideas. Mary will inherit a large sum of money when she marries and Barnaby wants it. He hires two crooks (Calvin, Sheldon) to kill Tom by throwing him into the sea. Barnaby is also going to steal Bo Peep’s (Jillian) sheep so that Mary no longer has income and will have to marry him. However, the crooks decide to make their own profit by selling Tom to gypsies, rather than drowning him.
While Barnaby is trying to woo Mary, the other children search for the lost sheep in the Forest of No Return. They all stumble upon Toyland, where the Toymaker and his assistant (Wynn, Kirk) are preparing for Christmas.
Annette Funicello as Mary Contrary and Tommy Sands as Tom Piper in “Babes in Toyland.”
-The first live-action musical made by Disney and it failed commercially. The next live action, full-length musical was “Mary Poppins” (1964).
-Walt Disney had Annette’s dark hair tinted red for the film, according to Funicello’s autobiography “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story.”
-Annette Funicello wrote in her book that “Babes in Toyland” was her favorite film making experience.
“It was one of those rare times when everything about making the film- from my director, my co-stars, the crew, the costumes, even the scenery- was perfect,” she wrote.
-Annette wrote it was a thrill to work with Ray Bolger who was “such a gentleman.”
-James Darren and Michael Callan were both considered for Tommy Sands role of Tom Piper, Funicello wrote.
Actress Ann Jillian in her film debut with actor Kevin Corcoran
-The “I Can’t Do the Sum” number was filmed using the Chromakey technique, as several different colored Annette’s jump out and also sing.
-At one point during the “I Can’t Do the Sum” number, Annette is walking on her hands, as her character thinks this could save money on shoes. Annette was really walking on her hands.
“Technicians had to wire all of my clothing, down to each layer of my petticoat, and I wore a wig, the strands of which were wired as well so that may hair wouldn’t fall in my face while I was upside down,” she wrote.
-Annette loved the wedding dress she wore in the film so much, that she contacted the film’s designer Bill Thomas when she was married in 1965 to design her dress.
-The stop-motion toy soldiers during Tom and Barnaby’s battle took six months to film.
-The film premiered in 1961 around Christmas.
-Version of the 1934 Laurel & Hardy “Babes in Toyland.”
-Walt Disney visited the set every day, Annette wrote.
-The voice of Sylvester the Goose was director Jack Donohue.
-Film debut of Ann Jillian.
Actor quotes on the film:
-“This was the first, and unfortunately, the last movie I made in which I actually danced something besides the watusi or the swim. Not to put those other films down, but I always considered myself a dancer before anything else, and through the sets of Toyland and Mother Goose Village, I danced across the screen in a way I’d always dreamed of.” -Annette Funicello
-I thought he was delightful and so did everyone else. You couldn’t not like him. He was completely crazy and he was just as crazy offscreen as he was on. But it was all, of course, an act. He was a very serious, religious man in his own way, but he loved playing Ed Wynn, the perfect fool, the complete nut. And he was good at it. Actually I think the movie is sort of a klunker, especially when I compare it to the Laurel and Hardy Babes in Toyland. It’s not a great film but it has a few cute moments. It’s an oddity. But I’m not embarrassed about it like I am about some other movies I’ve made.” – Tommy Kirk on Ed Wynn
The Villians: Henry Calvin, Ray Bolger, Gene Sheldon
-The dance by the gypsies
-Any time Annette Funicello is on screen
-“I Can’t Do the Sum” sung by Annette Funicello
-“March of the Toys”
-“Just a Whisper Away” sung by Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands
-“We Won’t Be Happy Till We Get It” sung by Ray Bolger, Henry Calvin, Gene Sheldon
-“Nevermind Bo Peep” sung by Ann Jillian
-“Go to Sleep” sung by Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello
-“Forest of No Return” suny by some trees
-“Workshop Song” sung by Annette Funicello, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn, children
Annette Funicello in “I Can’t Do the Sum”:
Tommy Kirk as the toy eventer with Ed Wynn who is the Toymaker
Have you ever watched a movie that you REALLY want to love but just can’t?
That’s how I unfortunately feel about “Babes in Toyland” (1961). My family even owns this movie because we love Annette and really want to love this film.
Walt Disney was hoping to make “Babes in Toyland” to be on the same scale as “Wizard of Oz” (1939), but it somehow just didn’t pan out.
I guess I’m not alone in my dismay, since this was a commercial failure when it was released in December 1961.
It has it all- Annette, who I adore; an excellent cast, there isn’t an actor in this I don’t love; beautiful costumes; colorful sets; and it’s Disney! But somehow it falls short.
Though I love musicals, this movie is song after song after song. Probably because it is based off of a 1903 Victor Hubert operetta.
My favorite song by far is “I Can’t Do the Sum,” where Annette Funicello worries about how her family will pay the bills. I guess I also really like this song, because I related to it when I started living on my own.
I think another flaw is that the story line lags in places and 105 minutes seems a bit long for this story.
The villains in the film also are irritating. Though Ray Bolger, Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon are all wonderful actors, their characters are tiresome. When my mom and I revisited this film, we would groan every time they came on screen.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate “Babes in Toyland.” I just wish it could be better. For me, the best part of the film is any time Annette comes on screen. Annette was such a bright spot in anything she was in and is what makes “Babes in Toyland” worth watching at all.
I also love Disney regulars Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corchoran, who are both in the film, but sadly neither has very much screen time.
I’m not sure what could have made this film better. Fewer songs? Maybe shorter than 105 minutes? More Annette? I don’t know. I just wish Disney’s first full-length, live-action musical wasn’t such a klunker.
It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals. In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.
This week’s musical: Summer Magic (1964) — Musical Number 44
Hayley Mills, Burl Ives, Dorothy McGuire, Deborah Walley, Una Merkel, Peter Brown, James Stacey, Eddie Hodges, Jimmy Mathers
Walt Disney Studios
Set at the turn of the century, the Carey family finds themselves penniless after their father dies. The family moves from Boston, Mass. to Beulah, MN to a home Nancy (Mills) remembers the family admiring while they were on vacation. Once they arrive at the home, they find it run-down, but with the help of post master Osh Popham (Ives), the family fixes up the home. Surrounding the bustle of fixing up the home, the Carey’s snobby orphan cousin Julia (Walley) comes to live with them, and Julia and Nancy fall for the same boy (James Stacey).
Nancy (Mills) and Julia (Walley)
-“Summer Magic” is based off the book “Mother Carey’s Chickens” by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin
-The film is also a remake of the non-musical 1938 film “Mother Carey’s Chickens” starring Anne Shirley, Ruby Keeler, James Ellison, Walter Brennan, Fay Bainter, Virginia Weidler and Ralph Morgan.
-The movie was originally supposed to star Annette Funicello
-The song “On the Front Porch” is songwriter Robert Sherman’s personal favorite song from his own work, according to Sherman’s 1998 book “Walt’s Time: Before and Beyond”
-Walt Disney didn’t like the song “Ugly Bug Ball” sung by Burl Ives. Sherman persuaded Disney to keep the song and it went on to be a popular song from the film, according to Sherman’s book.
-The youngest brother, Peter Carey, is played by Jimmy Mathers—brother to Jerry Mather’s of “Leave It To Beaver” fame.
-Dorothy McGuire’s singing is dubbed by Marilyn Hooven
Osh (Burl Ives) sings “On the Front Porch”
-Most of the songs are silly and forgettable but are still pretty catchy, lighthearted and enjoyable. Some of my favorites include:
– Femininity- Nancy (Mills) and Julia (Walley) sing this song to Lallie Joy Popham (Wendy Turner) so that Nancy’s brother Gilly (Hodges) will notice her.
The song tells Lallie Joy to “hide the real you,” “men adore good listeners” and “don’t laugh too loud”
-Pink of Perfection- Gillie (Hodges) and Nancy (Mills) sing a song making fun of Julia saying she is a “dainty baboon,” has the “the charm of a moose” and has knock knees. The song is sung in their distain when they hear Julia is coming to stay with them.
-Ugly Bug Ball sung by Osh (Ives) and Peter (Mathers). It’s not personally my favorite song in the film and is mainly footage of different bugs crawling, but it’s catchy and cute.
-Flitterin’- sung by Mills, Hodges and McGuire (dubbed). The family sings it when they get a player piano as they are packing to Maine. It’s a brief little tune, but it’s catchy. Really, I enjoy it because I sang this song in the four times I have moved in the last two years.
I’ll never forget the summer my mom introduced “Summer Magic” to my sisters and I. My dad was out of town on a business trip and she recorded it special off the Disney Channel for us to watch.
Since then, it has been a special favorite, filled with color, catchy Sherman brothers’ songs, and an outstanding cast. The turn-of-the-century costumes by Bill Thomas are also beautiful. Thomas dressed Deborah Walley in pink and Hayley Mills in yellow and it’s just gorgeous to see.
“Summer Magic” isn’t as well known as other Disney films such as “Old Yeller” or “The Parent Trap,” but it is a lot of fun and is a movie I grew up on.
If you like Hayley Mills films, you can’t go wrong with this one. But aside from Hayley, the supporting cast is gold! Dorothy McGuire as the mom and Burl Ives and Una Merkel are a hilarious treat as a quarreling married couple. Not to mention James Stacey and Peter Brown who round out the cast as handsome male leads (though Peter Brown disappointingly has very little screen time). You also see pre-Bonnie and Clyde Michael J. Pollard.
This is a remake of the 1938 film “Mother Carey’s Chickens,” starring Anne Shirley, Ruby Keeler, James Ellison, Frank Albertson, Fay Bainter and Donnie Dunagan (the voice of Bambi). While that is a fun (non-musical) film, I do prefer this one better. “Mother Carey’s Chickens” shows the audience when the father (Ralph Morgan) passes away. But I don’t feel like we get as deep into the romance aspect as “Summer Magic.” Also, Donnie Dunagan’s character is just annoying.
I would have loved to see what this movie would have been like had it really starred Annette Funicello, but it’s still pretty wonderful with Hayley Mills.
Even through it’s silly, forgettable songs and sometimes crazy plot, “Summer Magic” is one of my favorites. I’m fairly certain you will be “flitterin'” also.
Nancy (Mills) enters the Halloween party with handsome Tom Hamilton (Peter Brown) in “Summer Magic”
Check back next week for Musical Monday.
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Annette Funicello has always been a source of happiness in my household. Her films, the Annette mystery book series, her music- she has always been a favorite of the Pickens’ family.
Though I didn’t grow up in the 1960s, I grew up with Annette. My mom was a huge fan so I was introduced to “The Shaggy Dog” (1959) and “Babes in Toyland” (1961) at a young age.
“I had Annette books, coloring books and paper dolls growing up,” my mom, Lisa Pickens, said. “I really liked her a lot. Since she was only in movies while she was young, we didn’t see her age. There was something special about Annette.”
Annette was an original Mousketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club. She autographed a photo for me in 2008
Even in the past two years, summer afternoons were spent downloading her songs on iTunes and watching old Mickey Mouse Club episodes and the Annette series. In the serial Annette was a “country cousin” who moves to the city to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle.
“Throughout all the years we were friends she never changed from that sweet person who cared so much about others,” said Mousketeeer Sharon Baird, on the Official Disney Fan Club. “She always had time for everyone; family, friends and fans alike. It’s no wonder she was America’s sweetheart.”
In the 1950s, Annette Funicello stood out as a Mousketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club. Her background was Italian and she looked different than the other, Anglo-Saxon children.
She even suggested that she change her last name to “something more American,” but Walt Disney disagreed, saying her own name made her more unique, according to IMDB.
And her uniqueness is what made her the most popular of the original Mousketeers.
“The Disney studio wasn’t like other studios. It was just like home – it always had a small-town, family atmosphere,” she said.
Along with The Mickey Mouse Club, Annette starred in Disney films such as “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones” (1964) and “Babes in Toyland.”
Her fame brought her to recording career, with records like “Hawiaannette,” “Itallianette” and “Danceannette,” but Miss Funicello didn’t think she could sing.
“The Sherman Brothers wrote a song for me for the Annette series called ‘How Will I Know My Love,’” she said in an interview. “They told me we have to put this on a single. People are writing us like crazy wanting to buy it. I told them I don’t sing. And they said, ‘Well I’m signing you to a recording contact, young lady.’ And I said yes sir, and that’s what started my singing career.”
Composer Tutti Camarata was the one who created “The Annette Sound.” This is where she would sing the song once. She then would listen to the song with headphones, while trying to sing along as exact as she could, she said.
“It gave me that larger sound that I needed, because my voice is very small with a range of about of three notes,” she laughed. “It worked. I think my favorite song was ‘Pineapple Princess.’ I was lucky enough to have five songs that made the Top 10.”
Stevie Wonder, early in his career, with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in “Muscle Beach”
Annette was also one of the first performers to sing with the Beach Boys as they were growing in fame.
“I really shouldn’t put down my singing career, because I’m so appreciative of everything that came my way,” she said.
In interviews and in her autobiography “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” Annette seems like somebody you would run in to at the store. Annette was sweet and down to Earth, making her more relatable for her fans.
With Tommy Sands in “Babes in Toyland”
Even while she was in movies, her father still worked at a gas station, and Annette wasn’t allowed to date until she was 16, according to her New York Times obituary.
In real life, she stayed friends with fellow teen stars Frankie Avalon, Shelley Fabres and fellow Mousketeers Doreen Tracey and Cheryl Holdridge, who passed away in 2009. She was good friends with Jimmy Dodd from the Mickey Mouse Club until his death in 1964.
While she was 21-years-old and still under contract at Disney, she was approached about roles in beach films. Walt Disney approved Annette doing the films as long as she didn’t show her belly button in bathing suits, according to the New York Times.
Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in “Beach Party”
Annette retired from films, only making a few appearances, after she married her first husband in 1965 to raise her family.
“She was always there for car pools, Hot Dog Day and the P.T.A,” her daughter said in 1994.
After they divorced, she remarried in 1986 to Glen Holt. They remained married until she passed away.
Annette returned for a few appearances in the 1980s including “Back to the Beach” (1987) with Frankie Avalon, and an appearance on the TV Show “Full House” where Michelle pronounced her last name as “Funny-Jello.”
It was in 1987, she learned she had Multiple Sclerosis and established the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases.
Miss Funicello passed away today at the age of 70, and the world seems a little dimmer.
“Everyone who knew Annette, loved and respected her,” said Walt Disney’s daughter Diane Miller. “She was one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known, and was always so kind to everyone. She was also the consummate professional and had such great loyalty to my father. Annette will always be very special to me.”
Rest in peace, Annette. You will always remain in our hearts as you chant “Meeska-Mooska-Mouseketeer” and surf the beaches of California.