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13 Magical Facts About Bedknobs and Broomsticks

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Long before Angela Lansbury was the victim of magic as human-turned-teapot Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, she was performing magic as Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Here are 13 magical facts about the beloved Disney classic.

1. THE MOVIE WAS BASED ON TWO BOOKS BY MARY NORTON.

Rather than adapting a single book for the film, Disney took elements from two novels by Mary Norton: The Magic Bed-Knob and Bonfires and Broomsticks.

2. DISNEY WANTED JULIE ANDREWS FOR THE LEAD ROLE.

Because Mary Poppins had been a great success for Disney, they tried to get lightning to strike twice by asking Julie Andrews to star in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Like Mary Poppins, Bedknobs featured magic, music, animated segments, and even the same director (Robert Stevenson) and co-star (David Tomlinson, Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins). Afraid of being typecast, Andrews turned it down. When she changed her mind a few months later, Angela Lansbury had already signed on.

3. THE RIGHTS TO BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS WERE PURCHASED BEFORE MARY POPPINS.

Thanks to the movie Saving Mr. Banks, it’s now fairly well known that Walt Disney had a tough time negotiating movie rights with Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers. But he wasn’t too worried: He told the Sherman Brothers not to worry about not securing the rights to Mary Poppins because he would just use their songs in Bedknobs and Broomsticks instead. When Mary and the Banks kids finally got approval, Disney decided to push the “other” film about magic back several years because the two stories were similar.

4. ONE OF THE FILM'S SONGS WAS WRITTEN FOR MARY POPPINS.

Walt ended up being right about the songs being suitable for either movie: The Sherman Brothers actually repurposed one of their discarded songs from Mary Poppins for Bedknobs and Broomsticks. “The Beautiful Briny” would have been performed while Mary and the children sailed off in an adventure in Admiral Boom’s ship house.

5. WALT DISNEY FELL ASLEEP DURING THE SHERMAN BROTHERS’ SONG PRESENTATION.

When the famous songwriting duo originally pitched some of their tunes to the team early on, Walt was, well, not terribly engaged. According to Richard Sherman, “We were so carried away telling our story and singing loud, 'Eglantine, Eglantine, oh how you shine!,' showing how the phony guy, who finds this real witch who’s capable of doing magic, is so excited when he figured he’d make a fortune with her. This is the fun of the show, and Walt was sort of toddling off! He might have been tired that day.”

6. DESPITE HIS APPARENT DISINTEREST, DISNEY LIKED THE SONGS A LOT.

One of his favorites was “Substitutiary Locomotion.” “He loved that song,” Robert Sherman said. “He said, ‘That’s wonderful but we should do a little of that counter melody.’ We had done a few counterpoints and he loved the idea of that. So we came up with the actual magic words—Treguna, Mekoides, Trecorum, Satis, Dee—and put them with the verses we had already written.”

7. ANGELA LANSBURY REFERS TO IT AS “ACTING BY THE NUMBERS.”

Lansbury felt that shooting Bedknobs and Broomsticks was very scheduled and regimented. Each shot was determined strictly by what had been storyboarded for it, right down to every each expression the actors had on their faces.

8. LIKE EGLANTINE PRICE, LANSBURY WAS A WWII EVACUEE.

In fact, it may have affected her entire career. “The story reminded me of my teens,” Lansbury told D23. “Like Miss Price, I was in England when World War II broke out. My mother gave me a choice of being evacuated from London to a boarding school in the country or studying acting at home. I chose the latter without hesitation.”

9. THE MOVIE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH LONGER.

Disney wanted to present the movie at the New York City Hall Christmas show, but had to meet certain time constraints in order to be considered. As a result, the movie was cut substantially. Many songs got the axe, including one called “Nobody’s Problem,” sung once by the children and once by Eglantine.

“Unfortunately, both versions were totally and completely ripped out of the picture. I’ll never forget how miserable we felt,” Sherman said in 2009. “That was the heartbeat of the picture and they took it out. I still feel very pained about that. Now, they found one version of it, the reprise and did a restored version with a beautiful vocal by Eglantine. But it would have had twice the poignancy if you’d heard those three little war orphans singing 'Nobody’s Problem' early in picture. Then, you would have really cared about those kids. It was a very, very, very important song. Here I am, going off on a rant on that, 40 years later; but we put our lives into this picture, we truly did—we put our sweat, our blood, our dreams in it and they just sliced it out! You know what happened: they decided to obliterate the picture and they just sliced out songs, one after the other. So, for the first release version, we lost so much. It was so denuded of emotion that it was upsetting.”

10. THERE’S A HIDDEN MICKEY IN THE MOVIE.

If you look closely at the audience during the animated soccer match, you’ll find a familiar face: There’s a bear wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt.

11. YOU PROBABLY RECOGNIZE THE VOICE OF BEAR.

The animated bear who pulls Eglantine, Emelius, and the children out of the sea is voiced by Dal McKennon. McKennon was also the voice behind Gumby, Archie, and various small parts in Mary Poppins, Sleeping Beauty, Lady and the Tramp, and 101 Dalmatians. He’s also the guy who tells riders they’re about to enjoy “the wildest ride in the wilderness!” before they board Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney theme parks.

12. THE ENTIRE MOVIE WAS SHOT IN CALIFORNIA.

Despite the very British setting of the film, nearly the entire movie, including Portobello Road and the castle scenes, was shot at Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The only thing shot off-lot were some coastal scenes of the Nazi soldiers, which were shot at a nearby beach.

13. THE ACTUAL MAGICAL BEDKNOB IS STILL AROUND.

It’s now at the Walt Disney Archives, housed in a display case in their reading room. Other Bedknobs props at the Archives include the Isle of Naboombu book, Professor Emelius Browne’s suitcase, and Eglantine Price’s flying broom.

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15 Facts About Disney's Jungle Cruise
Flicrk // Thomas Hawk // CC BY-NC 2.0

Everyone turn around and wave goodbye to the folks back on the dock … they may never see you again. But then again, you probably never saw them before, either. Here are 15 facts about Disney's Jungle Cruise.

1. WHEN IT DEBUTED, IT WAS A VERY SERIOUS TRIP THROUGH EXOTIC LOCATIONS.

For the first few years, the Jungle Cruise was more of a documentary-style attraction. All of the funny scenes and jokes were added years later—and thank goodness. The ridiculously bad jokes delivered with perfect apathy (“And now, we’re approaching beautiful Schweitzer Falls, named after the famous African explorer, Dr. Albert Falls.”) are the best part of the ride for many people.

2. WALT DISNEY WANTED TO INCORPORATE LIVE ANIMALS.

 Baseball legend Stan Musial and his family are seen on the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland Park in July, 1965 in Anaheim, California
Disney/Disney Parks via Getty Images

When the ride was still in development, Walt Disney wanted to use live animals. When a zoologist explained that many of the animals were nocturnal, which would leave daytime guests gazing at catnapping creatures, Walt opted for creatures he could control. For a time, however, the ride queue did feature live alligators.

3. DISNEY DROVE A CAR THROUGH THE DRY "RIVERBEDS" TO PROMOTE THE RIDE.

As Disneyland was being constructed, Walt often gave TV viewers a preview of what was being built. Before the Jungle Cruise had water, he drove a Nash Rambler (one of the show’s sponsors) through the “riverbeds” to show off Schweitzer Falls and the crude mechanics of the animals.

4. IT'S THE RIDE THAT LED DISNEY TO VIEW HIS PARKS AS NEVER BEING COMPLETE.

It may be apocryphal, but the story goes like this: Walt was strolling through Disneyland when he heard a young boy asking his mom to take the eight-minute trip through the jungle. Not even slowing her stride, the mother replied something to the effect of, “No, we did that last time we were here.” Hearing that, Walt decided he had to keep changing and improving things in order to keep guests coming back.

5. SOME JUNGLE CRUISE SKIPPERS HAVE GONE ON TO BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS.

Famous wisecracking skippers include Kevin Costner and Ron Ziegler (Richard Nixon's press secretary). 

6. MOST OF THE "EXOTIC" JUNGLE PLANTS AREN'T EXOTIC AT ALL.

Jungle Cruise at Disneyland in Anaheim, California
Boris Dzhingarov // Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

How do you get the tropical aesthetic provided by exotic plants without shelling out the big bucks for shipping and maintaining them? Just use Disney’s tactic: “plant” an orange tree upside down and let vines grow and twine around the exposed roots.

7. THE WATER IS CLEANER THAN IT LOOKS.

That murky water passengers sail through is dyed brown, dark green, or muddy blue. The coloring serves two purposes: It provides a more realistic portrayal of swampy waters, of course, but it also conceals the fact that the cruise ships are on a track in a pool that’s less than four feet deep in most areas.

8. DISNEY WAS THRIFTY WHEN IT CAME TO THE AIRPLANE USED IN THE RIDE.

If you pony up the cash for a Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior airplane, you might as well get your money’s worth, right? Disney used the back half for the scene near the Jungle Cruise's hippo pool at the Magic Kingdom, and the front half for the Casablanca scene in "The Great Movie Ride" at Hollywood Studios. 

9. SOME OF THE SPECIAL EFFECTS ARE PRETTY LOW-TECH.

You might think that getting the animals’ eyes to glow as you make your way through the Asian temple is a high-tech trick, but it’s really just the opposite. Their eyes are really just marbles painted with a reflective coating.

10. LOOK FOR INSIDE JOKES HIDDEN IN THE QUEUE.

At the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, a pair of crates sits bundled with some barrels as if they’re cargo ready to be shipped. A close look at the addresses reveals that one is going to “Thomas Kirk, Esq., M. Jones, Cartographers Ltd. Field Office, Island of Bora Danno.” The other is addressed to “Kenneth Annakin, Director of Imports, Wyss Supply Company, Colony of New Guinea.”

This is a reference to the Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson. Tommy Kirk played Ernst Robinson in the 1960 film, then went on to play the title character in the 1964 movie The Misadventures of Merlin Jones. James MacArthur, the actor who played Fritz Robinson, later played Danny Williams—you know, “Book ‘em, Danno” on Hawaii Five-O. So that’s the first crate explained. The second crate refers to Ken Annakin, the director of Swiss Family Robinson, and “Wyss Supply” is a little wink to the author of the original book, Johann Wyss.

11. A JUNGLE CRUISE MOVIE STARRING TOM HANKS AND TIM ALLEN WAS PLANNED, AND SCRAPPED.

Buzz and Woody meet Jumanji? It almost happened. Entertainment Weekly first reported on a Jungle Cruise movie starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen back in 2011, which clearly never came to be. But that doesn't mean that a movie isn't happening: Though no release date has been set, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Emily Blunt, and Jesse Plemons have all signed on for starring roles in the film.

12. ONE OF THE BOATS ACTUALLY SANK.


Wikimedia Commons // DearCatastropheWaitress//CC BY 2.5

Perhaps its name was prophetic, because “Sankuru Sadie” at the Magic Kingdom did, in fact, sink. In 2004, the boat took on more water than it could hold and went under—though, given how shallow most of the water is, it probably didn’t go far. The boat was refurbished and put back into rotation.

13. THERE USED TO BE A KATHARINE HEPBURN CAMEO.

The ride was largely inspired by the movie The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. As a somewhat macabre homage to the film, the Florida Jungle Cruise once featured a little nod to Hepburn—literally. Near the end of the ride, Trader Sam the headhunter cheerily holds up a couple of shrunken heads. “Trader Sam has a deal for you. Two of his heads for one of yours,” is how the joke typically goes. Riders who looked closely would have noticed that one of Sam’s shrunken heads looked an awful lot like Hepburn.

14. ED SULLIVAN RODE THE JUNGLE CRUISE IN A 1959 KODAK COMMERCIAL.

If you want to see what the Jungle Cruise looked like just a few years after Disneyland’s opening day, check out this commercial for Kodak’s innovative new Brownie camera, available for just $74.50!

15. DISNEYLAND'S JUNGLE CRUISE FEATURES A PALM THAT PRE-DATES THE PARK.

Located just outside the entrance of the Jungle Cruise in California is a large palm tree. Referred to as “the Dominguez Palm,” this bit of vegetation has been around way longer than Mickey has been; it dates back to 1896. It’s named after the family who lived there before the land became a theme park. The rancher who sold the land to Disney requested that this particular tree be spared, and Disney obliged, moving all 15 tons of tree from the parking lot area to Adventureland.

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See the Spot That Inspired Sleeping Beauty's Castle
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When Walt and Lillian Disney took a European vacation prior to the construction of Disneyland, they were particularly inspired by one location in southwest Bavaria, Germany: Neuschwanstein Castle. Built by King of Bavaria Ludwig II starting in 1869, the castle was meant to have serious dramatic flair; the king hired a stage designer from Munich, Christian Jank, to design it.

Walt Disney went on to use Neuschwanstein as the basis for Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland, but Ludwig II—known as the "fairytale king" for his love of plays, stories, and music—had far from a fairy-tale ending. In fact, he only lived in the still-unfinished castle for six months before his cabinet had him declared insane and replaced him. He died under mysterious circumstances, found drowned in waist-deep water, not long after.

You can learn more about the castle, and see some beautiful footage, in this video from Great Big Story.

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