With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country.
During WWII in England, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul Rawlins are sent to live with Eglantine Price, an apprentice witch. Charlie blackmails Miss Price that if he is to keep her practices a secret, she must give him something, so she takes a bedknob from her late father's bed and places the "famous magic traveling spell" on it, and only Paul can activate it. Their first journey is to a street in London where they meet Emelius Browne, headmaster of Miss Price's witchcraft training correspondence school. Miss Price tells him of a plan to find the magic words for a spell known as Substitutiary Locomotion, which brings inanimate objects to life. This spell will be her work for the war effort. Written by
Matthew Anscher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film premiered at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City, a booking which had serious repercussions. The Music Hall's Christmas stage show ran so long, whatever film premiered there had to be under two hours. After much debate, Disney cut the film down to 117 minutes rather than cancel the booking. After seeing the same thing happen to The Happiest Millionaire (1967) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968), the Sherman Brothers decided not to renew their contract with Disney. In 1995, Scott MacQueen, who headed Disney's restoration department, discovered that two of the cut songs, "With a Flair" and "A Step in the Right Direction" were still on the soundtrack album and quoted throughout the underscore. When he learned the extent of the film's edits, he persuaded Disney to reconstruct the longer cut. See more »
When Miss Price arrives on her motorcycle early in the film you can clearly see that it is not Angela Lansbury riding it until the cut to the close-up as she stops outside the post office. See more »
This Disney piece has its great strengths in casting the great Angela Lansbury as apprentice witch Eglantine Price, in teaming live action with cartoon, and in some enjoyable special effects. The songs, by the Shermans, are in the main memorable - 'The Age of Not Believing', 'Portobello Road', 'Eglantine', and 'The Beautiful Briny'. Sterling support from David Tomlinson (who was also Mr Banks in 'Mary Poppins') and a trio of Cockney kids round off the movie.
Miss Price - who has a scene-stealing cat who can put across disdain and embarrassment better than any human! - finds that the 'spells' she has received from Mr Brown's college of witchcraft actually work, much to his amazement when she speeds down to London to tell him so (on a bed, naturally - that's where 'The Age of Not Believing' comes in with great charm). She takes in Charlie, Carrie and cute little Paul as evacuees and win them over with her magic dabbling. Her goal is to find the spell for locomotion and this takes them to the evocative flea market of Portobello Road and on to the magical island where the cartoon part of the movie kicks in.
The cartoons are inventive as always, although lacking the quality of the studio when Disney himself was in charge - there's a ballroom where the fish dance in various styles to a swing band and some jazzy singers (and are upstaged by the live action adults who win the dancing cup); then there is a great football match between creatures like hippos, elephants, ostriches, and the like with hapless Mr Brown as the referee. Special effects come into their own when inaminate objects start to have a life of their own (shades of 'Mary Poppins'), especially in the final sequences where an ancient army of knights and heralds take on the Nazis.
'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' drags at times but when it is in full flow, it is a lot of fun. Highly recommended for kids of all ages, and all those Disney devotees out there.
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