During the month of December in my Walt Disney Maniacs group on Facebook, we covered 30 Fun Facts about the Disney film, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It was a very interesting film to cover as it has so many references to the situation in England during World War II. I hope you enjoy reading these tidbits of information, and please comment below on your thoughts of this classic Disney film.
1. While Julie Andrews initially turned down the role of Miss Price, she eventually reconsidered, believing she owed her film career to the Disney studio and wanting to work there again. However, when she told the studio she changed her mind, Angela Lansbury had already accepted the part, having signed her contract for the role on Halloween of 1969.
2. The song The Beautiful Briny Sea was originally written for a sequence in Mary Poppins (1964) that was ultimately dropped.
3. Angela Lansbury hated what she called "by the numbers" acting in this film. Due to the heavy special effects, the entire film had to be storyboarded in advance, shot for shot. Lansbury found this approach constraining to her performance, as it meant every moment was pre-determined and the actress wasn't free to explore the character naturally.
4. Many people in the film, both on and off screen, have actual connections to WWII. Angela Lansbury, Roddy McDowall and Robert Stevenson all emigrated to the US from the UK due to the outbreak of war, while David Tomlinson served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force and Robert B. Sherman served in the United States Army and was one of the first Allied soldiers to see the Dachau concentration camp. He used his time recuperating from a gunshot wound to the knee to learn about the English people and their culture. On the other side, Manfred Lating and Fred Hellmich were native-born Germans who had actually lived under Nazi rule.
5. The castle in the background of the town is real and situated in Dorset, England. Both the castle and the town where it resides are called Corfe Castle, where many Thomas Hardy adaptations have been filmed since.
6. This was the last Disney-branded film to receive an Academy Award until The Little Mermaid (1989), though others received nominations and two Touchstone films, The Color of Money (1986) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), received awards before that.
7. The armor in the climactic battle with the Nazis was authentic medieval armor, previously used in Camelot (1967) and El Cid (1961). When any item of armor was to be destroyed, exact fiberglass replicas were created and used.
8. This is the last feature film that longtime Disney studio songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman wrote songs for until The Tigger Movie (2000), although they briefly returned in the early 1980s to write songs for EPCOT Center.
9. While the name of the King of Naboombu is never spoken in the film or mentioned in the credits, all merchandise and peripheral material related to the film refers to him as "King Leonidas," named after the Spartan king who died at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
10. In the establishing shot of the animated soccer game, a bear wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt can be spotted in the crowd on the right side of the picture.
11. GOOFY HOLLER: heard during the soccer game when the king kicks the hyena.
12. The Sherman Brothers wrote two songs that never made it past pre-production despite Richard M. Sherman's protests. The first, "The Fundamental Element," had Miss Price explain her kindly philosophy to the children after turning Charlie into a rabbit. The second was a Music Hall pastiche called "Solid Citizen," which Miss Price would have sung to distract King Leonidas and get the magic star; ultimately, the soccer game replaced it. Both of them went unheard until demos performed by Richard M. Sherman appeared on the CD soundtrack reissue.
13. The film's opening credits sequence is a homage to the Bayeux Tapestry, a seamless linen cloth made by the French in medieval times which tells the story of the Norman Conquest of England.
14. Walt Disney bought the film rights to the two Mary Norton books in the early 1960s, around the same time as work on Mary Poppins (1964). When "Poppins" author P.L. Travers stonewalled on the movie rights negotiations to her books, most of the story development along with many of the songs for this film were written at this time. Had Travers not granted the film rights to her own books, Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) would have been made instead.
15. 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.
16. During the final battle the bottom half of a knight's armor (from the waist down) is seen with a German soldier apparently seated in the armor with his kicking legs sticking out in front. The actor playing the soldier actually did the walking while two electrically operated kicking special effects legs stuck out in front.
17. Ron Moody and Peter Ustinov were considered for the role of Mr. Browne before David Tomlinson was cast. Moody refused to do the film unless he was billed first, which the studio would not allow.
18. The only non-European cast member is Sam Jaffe, who was born in New York.
19. This was the last feature film for Anthony Eustrel and Reginald Owen.
20. This was the last Disney film released while Roy O. Disney was still alive. He died a week after its US premiere.
21. Roddy McDowall's the third in the cast list, but he appears less than 10 minutes in the film.
22. When Disney restored the film as close as they could to the original cut, they found that not all the original audio tracks for the dialogue survived, requiring the use of ADR for a handful of scenes. Of the original cast, only Angela Lansbury and Roddy McDowall were able to return. Coincidentally, Tessie O'Shea died shortly before ADR work began.
23. Lennie Weinrib based his performance of King Leonidas on Robert Newton's performance as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1950).
24. Treguna Mekoides Tracorum Satis Dee. Treguna Mekoides Tracorum Satis Dee was the incantation to the spell that make objects come alive. Paul found this out from his book, that was about the Isle of Naboombu. The Substitutiary Locomotion spell was in this book because this was where it originated. Miss Price cast the Substitutiary Locomotion spell at the very end to ward of the Nazis.
25. To make the bed fly you had to tap the knob three times and a quarter turn to the left. Paul was little and had to figure out which hand was his left. His sister Carrie told him.
26. The children see Ms. Price flying her broom and she crashes so they decide to blackmail Ms. Price into giving them what they want in exchange for keeping secret the fact that she is a witch.
27. Emelius Browne is played by David Tomlinson who also played the Mr. Banks in "Mary Poppins" of which he is most recognized from. In "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" he is a more friendly and joyful soul.
28. The movie is set during World War II and the children Carrie, Paul, and Charlie are sent to the countryside because the Nazis are bombing London. This is revealed by Mrs. Hobday (played by Tessie O'Shea).
29. The man who played Colonel Heller was John Ericson. John Ericson played in many lesser known films throughout his film career, although he studied at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts with many major film stars including Grace Kelley and Don Murray.
30. Mary Norton was born in London but came to America in 1941 to help with the World War 2 effort. She began writing her famous series, "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" during her time in America. "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" is actually a set of three stories; "The Magic Bedknob" (1943), "Bonfires and Broomsticks" (1947), and "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" (1957). This information was found in Mary Norton's biography.