Children’s short films are synonymous with Christmas day. Bellies stuffed with Christmas pudding and attention spans wavering after all the excitement from the visit from Santa, a short film is the best thing to ease everyone into Boxing Day. The BBC have done this for years with the likes of The First Snow of Winter, Robbie the Reindeer and The Gruffalo. Writer and Director AJ Lamb has crystallised childhood nostalgia in the most perfect Christmas time setting – a toy shop.
This is a toyshop which rejects the shackles of modernity. No consoles or tablets deck the shelves. Instead, the toy shop is comfortingly old fashioned. There are cuddly toys propped up on the windowsill, a car painted like TV icon Brum, and a Victorian-style cash register in the corner. Emma (Angelique Joan) is a struggling actress. She just can’t get her words right, and she frets that she’ll never be able to live up to her mother’s (Michèle Belgrand) talents. But with the help of her Grandfather (Jack Warner) and the magic of the toy shop, she starts to believe in her own worth.
Warm and fuzzy, The Magical Toy Shop borrows the best bits from classic children’s TV shows. While the Brum car toy is an obvious nod to bygone days, the cluttered shop is reminiscent of the shop in The Queen’s Nose. The gentleness of the short evokes the same nostalgia found in The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends. The yellow glow recalls a warm crackling fireside while the wisps of animation seen in a largely live-action film are nothing short of magical. The winking theatre cutouts and soft toys are nothing less than enchanting.
Emma’s dilemma might be easily solved with the old mantra “believe in yourself”, but The Magical Toy Shop is wonderfully sweet without being saccharine. Even though the motto might seem a little trite and adults may scoff, it’s easy to suspend your disbelief while watching this. Encased in this short film is a rare bit of magic which warms the cockles of your heart.
The Magical Toy Shop is as comforting as a mince pie and as good-natured as Rudolph. The old toys that live in the shop awaken a hidden nostalgia in adults. This is a brilliant family film, and our heroine's worries and the comfort she finds from the toy shop and her grandfather are universal – regardless if you’re five or ninety-five. And if you can’t enjoy magic at Christmas, when can you?