None of the film versions of "Babes in Toyland" follow the plot of the stage version, and the stage version itself is seldom revived today with the original plot. (There is a one-hour videotaped 1960 TV version which does follow the original plot more or less, and there were earlier one-hour versions on live TV in 1950 and 1954 which may have also done so, but it is difficult to tell since they are rarely if ever shown. The 1960 TV version is available on DVD as part of the "Shirley Temple Storybook Collection".) The 1961 Disney film uses many of the same characters and much of the same music as the stage version, but the stage version has a longer musical score . It also has a more old-fashioned, "operatic" flavor, as in the 1934 Laurel and Hardy film of "Babes in Toyland". The lyrics in the stage version are almost completely different from those in the Disney film, as are the tempos of some of the songs; for instance, the song "Toyland" is a happy march in the Disney film, while in Herbert's original score, it is a slow ballad and rather sad.
The plot of the original stage version and the Disney film are almost completely different, but many of the characters are the same. In the original 1903 stage version, although Barnaby is still a miser, he plots to get rid of his niece Jane and his nephew Alan, not Tom. Alan and Jane are shipwrecked due to Barnaby's machinations, but survive and end up in Toyland, where they meet all the Mother Goose characters. The toymaker is evil in the stage version, not comical and lovable as in the film. He is killed by his own toys who turn on him in the stage version, but Barnaby sees to it that Alan is blamed for the death, and there is a trial. At the end of the stage version, Barnaby prepares a glass of poison for Alan and Jane, but somehow accidentally drinks it himself, and dies. Tom and Mary are brother and sister in the stage version, not lovers, and Mary is forced to marry Barnaby, but after his death, marries Alan, whom she has fallen in love with. Because of an obscure law exonerating a condemned man who marries a widow, Alan is saved from being hanged for the toymaker's death.