Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

A magical football match in ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ (1971)



Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks is not a soccer movie, but should be watched for its engaging 10-minute animation of a football game. Like all Disney animations, the quality is so good that the 50 year old film remains on par with today’s technology. 

The story takes place during World War II, when 3 children are evacuated from London to escape the blitz. They are placed in the home of Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), who is secretly studying to be a witch through a correspondence course from Professor Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson). Together the five travel to the tropical island of Naboombu to find the “Substitutiary Locomotion” enchantment that could save England in a German invasion.

A beastly soccer match

The beastly soccer match is played by the human-like cartoon animals who inhabit Naboombu and refereed by live action actor David Tomlinson. The rules vary according to the whims of the lion King of the island, so the animated play mixes in metaphors from basketball and other sports (probably to relate to the American market). As one child says, “Weird sort of game they play here.”

The Disney Video website used to host the soccer and other scenes, but unfortunately the links no longer work. There is a low-res version on youtube. Bedknobs and Broomsticks won an Oscar for best special visual effects, although probably due more to the “Substitutiary Locomotion” spell that animates museum armor. 

Watch it on Hoopla

Serendipity brought me to this soccer segment. I had watched the movie decades ago with my kids, but that was way before I became a soccer movie nut, so I had completely forgotten this scene existed. But I recently watched a documentary about Richard and Robert Sherman, the prolific songwriters who composed endearing music in abundance for Disney.

And when I scrolled through the rather meager selection of movies on the Hoopla service of my public library, there the film was. I watched it to reacquaint myself with the music and was very pleasantly surprised by the soccer. I was also struck by how much the movie seemed to pave a path for Harry Potter.

How did the English survive the trauma?

I researched but could not find how this movie fared in England, just 15 years after the trauma of WW2 bombings and relocating children. On Twitter, I used to follow the account WW2 Tweets from 1941 , which gives you a sense of the news and horrors of World War 2 as it would have occurred. I don’t know if a film with magical thinking about the war helps victims recover, or if it instead exacerbates bad memories.  But of course, the children who experienced this would be 70-80 years old today. Perhaps one of them will let me know.

7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7