During World War II, three children are evacuated to the English countryside. A priest arranges for them to live with an eccentric guardian. Her name is Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) and unbeknownst to the priest and villagers, she’s a witch in training. Eglantine is rather clumsy and hasn’t yet mastered any spells but she is determined to complete her education. Her hopes are dashed however when the school she’s been receiving courses through closes down. So she and the children set out on a flying bed to find the headmaster Emilius Brown (David Tomlinson) so she can resume her training.
I really had no idea what to expect with Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It’s a bizarre fantasy adventure with lots of eclectic elements. The one major disappointment is Roddy McDowall’s limited screen time. He played a priest, which deserves more than just the few minutes he got.
The opening credits assured me that I’d be a fan, though. Music by the phenomenal Sherman Brothers and a handful of Walt Disney’s favorite animators (9 Old Men) responsible for the animated sequences.
The film reminded me of Mary Poppins (1964), because it’s a live action-animation hybrid, and because of the presence of David Tomlinson, who played Mr. Banks in the aforementioned film.
The animation is particularly impressive. Walt’s animators still had a lot to teach before they eventually retired and handed the reins to a new generation. These portions of the film reminded me strongly of the Disney shorts, particularly the slapstick ones starring Goofy. A scene in the lagoon as well as the musical sequence Portobello Road are the most eclectic scenes of the film. The film itself is like a patchwork quilt of different designs and colors that makes a lovely whole.
The love story between Eglantine and Mr. Brown is also quite sweet, as they’re not traditional romantic leads. We need more stories about older people falling in love.
The war fades away until the Nazis show up, but the film is never heavy or dark. It’s a delightfully weird chapter in the Disney library.
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