Below-par Walt Disney musical about a good-natured witch, played by Lansbury, and some children who help the British war effort in the early 1940’s.
The film seems disorganised, despite the elaborate production, and is pale compared with the popular Mary Poppins (1964), which it tries to imitate – Both were period pieces set in London, both involved precocious children and their magic caregiver, both combined live action with animation, both featured frequent spontaneous musical numbers and both featured supporting performances from David Tomlinson.
Angela Lansbury plays Eglantine Price, an eccentric woman forced to care for orphans Charlie, Carrie and Paul during the early stages of World War II. The children are bored with the quiet village until they discover that Eglantine is actually an apprentice witch, studying through the Correspondence College of Witchcraft in London.
The children promise to keep her hobby a secret if she enchants an object for them. The subsequent casting of a “famous magic travelling spell” on one of the children’s bedknobs sets off a magical journey that takes the group on their flying bed to London, to an undersea kingdom, to a grudge soccer match between animated jungle animals, and finally to a climactic magic battle with invading Germans versus headless knights!.
Academy Award-winning special effects and some of the cartoon sequences are handled well, but unfortunately, the unfair comparisons to the classic Mary Poppins overshadowed the film in its initial release.
Time, television and the rise of the VCR redeemed Bedknobs and Broomsticks, giving it a place of its own among favourite children’s films.
This was the last film from the Disney studios to receive an Academy Award until The Little Mermaid in 1989.