Unsurprisingly this film was made by the same team as made Mary Poppins 7 years prior. Disney, to their great credit, have managed to create a film with enduring magic. What surprised me when watching again was how much of it I remembered from my childhood and the aspects which struck me then still striking me now. Why did I happen upon this film? Well, I showed Nick the avocado Matthew is growing, in a pot of water initially, and I made the remark that it was bobbing along. Nick, who had regrettably not yet seen the film, did not get the reference. I showed him the infamous video. The rest is history.
Angela Lansbury, one of those actors who arrived fully middle-aged, takes over from Julie Andrews as the kooky, genial pseudo-mother figure — here a proto-witch on a magical correspondence course rather than a flying nanny — and does a fair job with the necessary blend of the ethereal and stoical English pragmatism. Empire
Ain’t it lovely how we get along, swimmingly? Some choice rhyming aside, this did inspire many hours of laughter between Nick and I, a testament to the consistent quality of the film.
My favourite scene must be the Naboombu football game under the sea, with the most bizarre rules known to man or cartoon. I remember being amazed by this as a child, and perhaps it sourced by distaste for the sport. 1971 animation here folks, that’s the really astonishing part. 50 years have passed and the animation is still as fresh as day 1 and can perhaps compete with some more modern cartooning.
For the Naboombu soccer sequence, the sodium vapor process was used, which was developed by Petro Vlahos in the 1960s. Animator and director Ward Kimball served as the animation director over the sequence. Directing animator Milt Kahl had designed the characters, but he was angered over the inconsistencies in the character animation. This prompted Kimball to send a memo dated on September 17, 1970 to adhere to animation cohesiveness to the animation staff. Because of the heavy special effects, the entire film had to be storyboarded in advance, shot for shot, in which Lansbury noted her acting was “very by the numbers”. Wikipedia
Overall, while I could not get away from the knowledge that this was a children’s film, although perhaps the stock uninteresting children in Ms Lansbury’s care were only put there as ciphers for children watching, this film was squarely aimed at a wider audience. The plot is relatively dense, the comedy is consistent and the animation is fantastic. An enduring, magical special piece of cinema.