When Walt Disney was preparing a film based on the beloved children’s book Mary Poppins, there was an uncertainty as to whether or not they would be able to get the rights. Walt knew he wanted to tell that kind of story and during that waiting period he discovered a very similar book entitled Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Set during WWII, the story contains a magical character put in charge of unruly children who develops a bond with them over the course of several song-filled fantastical adventures. There is even an extended sequence where our live-action characters visit a cartoon world. Songs were written and scripts were worked on, but eventually Mary Poppins was put into production. Seven years later, Mary Poppins was a smash hit, and it was decided that Bedknobs and Broomsticks could be the film to replicate that success.
The problem with this scenario is that Bedknobs now appears to be a simple rip-off, even though it was technically being worked on before Poppins ever began production. The movie is staged exceptionally well. There are extremely high production values and great acting from Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson (from Mary Poppins, of course). And the music by the Sherman Brother is, as expected, fantastic.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and I genuinely believe that if Poppins had never been made there would be higher acclaim for this film. The film was successful upon release, and even won an Oscar for Visual Effects. It just doesn’t seem as popular now as it deserves to be.
The DVD release reveals that up until the 25th Anniversary edition, there was over a half an hour that had been removed from previous releases. All of that footage has been restored, with the exception of a musical number entitled “Step in the Right Direction.” One of the bonus features includes a reconstruction of this missing piece staged to photos from the set. To me, this song is almost identical to “It’s a Great, Big, Beautiful Tomorrow,” also by the Sherman Brothers. That being said, it is fascinating to see the only missing piece of the film.
The only negative inclusion on this set is an extremely grating special effects segment hosted by Jennifer Stone from The Wizards of Waverly Place. I have never seen the show, but I found Stone to be incredibly overbearing and not suited for this material. There was a small portion of this segment that was genuinely interesting and actually focused on Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Unfortunately, they mostly focus on the Waverly Place visual effects. I can appreciate that they are trying to get kids interested in effects work, but I wish they could have done so by actually focusing on the movie the feature is attached to.
Featurette: A Step In the Right Direction- Lost Song (Bonus)
However, my favorite feature actually did pertain to the film. Entitled Music Magic, it is a showcase of the Sherman Brothers running just over 10 minutes long. They just discuss their thoughts and feelings about the film and the evolution of the music, and even play a song that was regretfully never recorded. I love watching the creative process at work, and there is a lot of footage of them actually in the process of writing the music. It was a fascinating segment, and I wish it had gone on longer.
Overall, this is a great DVD for an underrated movie. Despite the inclusion of the Waverly Place segment, I found it be a solid set of extras, and would definitely recommend adding this to any family’s collection.