Bedknobs and Broomsticks

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"You must face the age of not believing, doubting everything you ever knew.
Until at last, you start believing there's something wonderful in you!"

This 1971 Disney film, a take on a pair of novels by Mary Norton, is often regarded as a Spiritual Successor to Mary Poppins -- a live action fantasy musical with a substantial segment incorporating animation, with the same director, same scriptwriters, same songwriters, etc.

It is 1940 in the British coastal village of Pepperinge Eye, and among the children evacuated here from the ongoing London Blitz are three orphaned siblings, Charlie, Carrie, and Paul. They are taken in by Miss Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), a spinster whom they discover is secretly taking mail-order witchcraft lessons in hopes of being able to aid the war effort with magic. But the school abruptly closes, leaving her without the all-important Substitutiary Locomotion spell she needs. She and the children travel to London via bed -- in exchange for the children keeping her secret, she enchanted one of its bedknobs for them with a travelling spell -- and discover the "professor", Emelius Browne, is a fraud who was just selling her the pages of an incomplete spellbook he bought off a used book dealer. So begins a greater journey, from the market at Portobello Road to the Isle of Naboombu (land of animated talking animals), in search of the spell. Once Miss Price learns it, she'll have to use its power to bring inanimate objects to life to save her hometown from none other than the Nazis.


Tropes used in Bedknobs and Broomsticks include:
  • All Witches Have Cats: Miss Price, a witch in training, has a cat named Cosmic Creepers. She's also a spinster according to the old archtype.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: During the "Substitutiary Locomotion" number, Cosmic Creepers gets several cutaway shots. At one point, he seems to do the cat version of headdesking.
  • Animated Armor: Price animates a whole army at the climax
  • Baleful Polymorph: Ms. Price's spells tend to turn people into rabbits instead of frogs.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animals: The Naboombu soccer players.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Portobello Road.
  • Billing Displacement: Roddy McDowall is third-billed and, in the uncut version of the movie, he does indeed play a significant supporting character. However, in the theatrical cut of the movie, his role was reduced to The Guy Who Gets Attacked By Miss Price's Nightgown, but they still billed him right below Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson.
  • Blitz Evacuees
  • Bowdlerization: The German dub removed the entire Nazi plot or anything that relates to WWII, effectively cutting out a whopping 29 minutes of the movie -- including the entire climax.
  • Calvin Ball: Soccer matches on the Island of Naboombu. "Don't they have no rules?" "'Course they do. King makes'em up as he goes along."
  • Can't Take Anything with You: Miss Price goes to the Isle of Naboombu and gets the Star of Astaroth, but once she and her group return home, she realises not only that she couldn't take objects from different worlds, but that she didn't memorize the spell inscribed on the star.
    • Turns out there's an image of the Star, complete with inscription, in Paul's picture book.
  • The Cavalry: The finale.
  • Carnivore Confusion: The Isle of Naboombu. All the animals are anthropomorphic, but apparently the fish in the lagoon aren't seen as equals to the surface creatures, since the heroes' bed is hauled up to the shore when a bear fisherman's hook catches on to its frame.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The spell that turns people into rabbits, which Miss Price uses to save her and her companions from the enraged lion ruler of Naboombu. From there, Mr. Browne uses it to sneak into the castle the Nazis lock Miss Price and the kids in.
  • Children Raise You
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Mr. Browne can't use spells himself because, as far as he's concerned, "They're just nonsense words from an old book." At least until near the end of the film when he manages to transform himself into a rabbit.
  • Con Man: "Professor" Emelius Browne.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: Miss Price sees Mr. Brown about a spell book. She gets it and reads about the Substitutiary Locomotion spell, but the part where it talks about the incantation used to activate the spell is on a page that got torn out of the book. The group had to go to Portobello Road to look for it.
  • Correspondence Course: The entire plot is based on Eglantine taking one (in witchcraft!) and needing to finish the final lesson.
  • Covers Always Lie: On the 30th anniversary DVD cover, the taking animals were rendered much bigger than the leads, which could make some believe most if not all of the movie contains animation as opposed to live-action.
  • Crowd Song: "Portobello Road," to a rather ridiculous extent.
  • Cute Witch: Miss Price. A bit older than standard, but no less cute.
  • Cut Song: The film originally ran 139 minutes, but was cut by 22 for its initial theatrical release. Three songs -- "A Step in the Right Direction", "With a Flair", and "Nobody's Problems" -- were dropped in the process, and others were shortened (in particular, "Portobello Road"). The 1996 restoration used for the laserdisc and DVD releases restored most of the cut material, with the exception of the first song, as that scene had been lost.
    • The "story and songs" record had "With a Flair" and a full version of "Portobello Road".
  • Dancing Pants: A whole wardrobe's worth of clothes dance in the "Substitutiary Locomotion" number.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Miss Price often fills this role, especially with regards to Professor Browne's zaniness. The kids get some snark in at Miss Price's expense at the beginning.
  • Flying Broomstick: Right there in the title; really.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Hold on, are those women who sing "You'll meet all your chums in the Portobello Road" hookers? Sneaky, Disney, sneaky.
  • Have a Gay Old Time/Accidental Innuendo: The characters going on and on about Paul's knob is bound to inspire a few giggles nowadays.
    • At one point Charlie objects to Paul getting involved in magical "hanky-panky."
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Charlie, Carrie, and Paul.
  • "Hey You!" Haymaker: With a pair of gloves during the aforementioned Dancing Pants sequence.
  • Home Guard: The British Home Guard appears several times in the movie, including firing at the retreating Nazi commandos. They even have their own song, "The Soldiers of the Old Home Guard".
  • Hypocritical Humor: Miss Price, on the name of her cat:

Miss Price: I don't believe in giving animals ridiculous names. I call him Cosmic Creepers, because that's the name he came with.

German Sergeant:It's a witch sir!
Colonel:Don't be a fool, there's no such thing as a witch!

    • Is Followed later by --

Colonel:There is the witch.
German Sergeant:You said there was no such thing as a witch, sir?

  • It Was with You All Along: The incantation for the Substitutiary Locomotion spell turns out to be in an illustration in the picture book Paul finds at Mr. Browne's place and carries with him from that point on. The words couldn't be read there, though.
  • Keystone Army: Mrs Price's army of armors.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: If a whole army of empty medieval armors kicking the ass of Those Wacky Nazis counts.
  • Large Ham: Emelius Browne; his Cut Song, "With a Flair," even notes -- "It doesn't matter what I do so long as I do it WITH A FLAIR!"
  • Last-Name Basis: Miss Price insists on being addressed only as such. But then, if your name was Eglantine, so would you.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: When Miss Price starts to recite the rabbit spell on a Nazi, only to forget how it ends.
  • Lions and Tigers and Humans, Oh My!: The human actors stick out rather on the all Funny Animal Isle of Naboombu.
  • Limited Wardrobe: The children wear the same clothes for most of the movie, but most of it takes place on the same day and they finally get different clothes in the last scene, which takes place the next day. Still, they seem to have worn their regular outfits for about three days straight, ending with the day most of the movie takes place on.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: A major part of the comedic tone in the climatic battle. A German soldier removes the upper part of an armor and gets his ass kicked by the lower part. Another soldier gets his ass kicked repeatedly while dangling on a halberd. Another animated armor swings its sword on some fleeing Germans' butts.
  • Magical Incantation
  • Magical Land: The Isle of Naboombu.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: Portobello Road. The singers and dancers there are easily a hundred or more.
  • Medium Blending
  • Mobile Kiosk: Everything in Portobello Road that isn't nailed down. As well as Professor Browne's nifty suitcase act.
  • Muggles: Professor Browne at first, but he believes once he sees (or rather, once he gets turned into a rabbit). And, amusingly, the Nazis, who don't believe.
  • No Ontological Inertia: After Nazis plant a bomb by Miss Price's workshop, blowing up all the agents that gave her powers, all of the suits of animated armour wind down and collapse on the spot.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Paul spends close to half the movie trying to tell the adults that he has an image of the Star of Astaroth, complete with inscription, in the picture book he found in the nursery. No one listens until their attempt to get the star from Naboombu fails.
  • Ominous Pseudo-Latin Chanting: Well, it becomes ominous after Eglantine and company quit singing it: Treguna. Macoides. Trecorum. Satis. Dee.
    • Especially when the animated suits of armour start chanting it. If the Nazis weren't absolutely petrified before, they were after hearing that echo through the air.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The Nazi officer speaks fluent German with a strong accent even when speaking English. When he orders his men to fire on the enchanted armour a second time however, his accent sounds very much like how a northerner English man would shout it.
  • Padding/Shoot the Money: The original cut of "Portobello Road" is a serious endurance test, regardless of how talented the performers are.
  • Plot Coupon: The heroes first seek the remaining pages of the spellbook; when they find it, they learn it doesn't actually have the words to the Substitutiary Locomotion spell. It does say that the Star of Astaroth has them, so now the quest is to find that and get the spell.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: STOP! THAT! BALL!
  • Reality Subtext: Supposedly, "The Age of Not Believing" is "really" about the Disney Company's struggle to continue after the death of Walt Disney.
  • Road Sign Reversal: Something similar in intention is done by a British villager in the beginning of the film. He's painting out the signposts in order to confuse any possible invading Nazis.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect
  • Say My Name: The song "Eglantine", as sung to her by Mr. Browne, much to her displeasure.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: The entire Isle of Naboombu subplot is rendered completely pointless once it's discovered that there's a picture of the Star of Astoroth in the book Paul found with the spell inscribed on it, clearly legible.
  • Shipper on Deck: Mrs. Hobday.
  • Shooting Superman/Bang-Bang-Bang Uh-Oh: The Nazis take a while to get it through their heads that shooting Animated Armor is not very effective.
  • Silent Snarker: The cat Cosmic Creepers.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Mary Poppins.
  • Talking Animal: The Isle of Naboombu is inhabited by these.
  • Tap on the Head: Two German commandos are knocked unconscious by the animated suits of armor.
    • Also: "WHY! DIDN'T! YOU! SAY! SO?!?!??!!!!"
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Variation -- the heroine is the Secret Project Leader looking to turn the tide in the war in favour of the British, and the Nazis are flummoxed by her abilities because they don't believe in magic.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The ostrich in the soccer match.
    • The Nazi leader. "Es gibt keine Hexe! (There's no such thing as witches!)" Okay, then how do you explain the floating armour army and the flying lady on a broomstick?
      • Well, perhaps he thought the army was just another decoy trick (British Intelligence had dozens of such operations set up throughout the war. I hope we all have seen the footage of a soldier tipping over a tank with one hand). And Ms Price on the broom? Perhaps he thought it was an ultra-light spyplane for the British (?).
    • Charlie at the beginning of the movie. Despite his siblings telling him that maybe trying to blackmail a witch is a bad idea, he persists until Miss Price turns him into a toad rabbit. Then, when he transforms back after almost getting attacked by her cat, he tries extortion again.
  • Unnecessary Roughness: In the animals' soccer/football match.
  • Words Do Not Make the Magic: Professor Emelius Browne, despite having sold a correspondence course in "witchcraft" based on the (half of a) medieval grimoire he owned, could not use the spells in it, but Miss Price could because she actually believed in magic. It took a great deal of concentration before he could finally get a spell to work after being shown numerous times that magic existed.