Barnaby is based on the character from the original 1903 operetta by Victor Herbert.
Barnaby at the very beginning is shown to be a greedy miser and schemer, and also with a quick temper when he confronted his henchmen, Gonzorgo and Roderigo, for their incompetence. He is also extremely determined to let nothing stand in the way of his evil objectives.
Role in the film
Barnaby watches through a telescope from his house of all the people of Mother Goose Village preparing for Tom Piper and Mary's wedding.
He is disgusted, knowing that if Mary marries him, then she will inherit a lot of money, so he decides to get rid of Tom, so he can marry her and get the money himself. He hires Gonzorgo and Roderigo to kidnap Tom, drown him in the sea, and steal Bo Peep's sheep so that she won't have any means of security and will be forced to marry him.
Gonzorgo and Roderigo set out to do the job, but Barnaby doesn't know that they sold Tom to gypsies instead to gain money from them as well as Barnaby.
Barnaby pays Mary a visit who is there with Mother Goose wishing her the best with her future. Suddenly Gonzorgo and Roderigo appear telling everyone that Tom drowned and read a phony letter saying that he has left her and she would be better off marrying Barnaby. He tries proposing to her and sings to her "Castle in Spain", but fails when she turns him down, thinking love is much more important than wealth. Later the gypsies come to Mother Goose Village and one of them is revealed to be Tom. Barnaby is furious and immediately realizes that Gonzorgo and Roderigo deceived him.
They go off to the Forest of No Return following Tom and Mary who were looking for the children who were trying to find Bo Peep's sheep that Gonzorgo and Roderigo stole and wait until dark before they make their way to Mr. Toymaker's house. They watch as his assistant, Grumio, shows him his latest invention, "The Poof Gun", which has a special formula that shrinks any large items down to toy size until Grumio warns that more than one blast can make the item disappear completely.
Mr. Toymaker throws the Poof Gun out of the window when he finds out that there are no large items to shrink. Barnaby catches it and comes up with a devious plan to finally get Mary to marry him.
He firstly shrinks Mr. Toymaker and holds him prisoner in a birdcage saying that he will need him. Suddenly Gonzorgo and Roderigo turn against him when they find out that he plans to shrink Tom as well and threaten to expose his cruel intentions. He responds by shrinking them as well and locking them in the birdcage with Mr. Toymaker.
Barnaby then goes into Mary's room where she is staying with the children and helping them build toys. He shows the now shrunken Tom, threatening that unless she marries him, he will shrink Tom again to make him disappear forever. She gives in and goes with Barnaby to be wed.
Barnaby leaves Tom by the birdcage with Gonzorgo and Roderigo still imprisoned in it and orders Mr. Toymaker to start the ceremony, getting infuriated with the constant delaying, not knowing that he is giving Tom time to escape. He does so by Gonzorgo and Roderigo and comes back with a large army of soldiers and war based toys.
Barnaby furiously fights back with the cannon of a toy boat until a toy zeppelin flies above him dropping thousands of marbles for him to slip on. Deciding enough is enough, he's about to shrunk Tom once more to get rid of him forever when he hears Mary calling out his name and firing a marble from the cannon that shatters the Poof Gun, splatters the formula all over him, and he ends up getting shrunk.
While trying to escape, Tom corners Barnaby and aims his sword at him. He responds by drawing his own sword concealed in his crooked cane and they engage in a fierce sword fight. Barnaby tries every single despicable trick to defeat him but ends up failing when Tom wins, stabs, and sends him falling over the edge and down into a box.
It is unknown what happened to Barnaby. The film shows that after he fell in the box, he never emerges while everyone else is being restored to normal size with Grumio's restoring formula which suggests that he may of died either by the stabbing, the fall, or maybe even both as Tom's sword was sharp enough to cut through ribbons and falling is an element often used in Disney villain death scenes, while movie tie-ins like the storybook say that he merely fell into the box accidentally and then was imprisoned in the same birdcage that he imprisoned Mr. Toymaker, Gonzorgo, and Roderigo in.
- In the original stage show, Barnaby's fate was drinking a cup of poison meant for his nephew.
- In the film adaptations, it is common to stage Barnaby's final fate as up for debate with other films making it unclear as to whether he is eaten by goblins or alligators.
- Even Barnaby's fate in this version is unknown, one book shows him locked in the birdcage at the end of the story. Still, another one says that he was bound and gagged in his little form.
- Dean Jones, Hans Conried, Vincent Price, Don Rickles, Neville Brand, David Niven, Burt Lancaster, Joby Baker, Christopher Lee, Vic Tayback, Ron Moody, James Mason, Keenan Wynn, Jim Dale, Ray Milland, George Sanders, Patrick McGoohan, Donald Sutherland, Christopher Plummer, John Mills, Boris Karloff, Geoffrey Keen, Robert Loggia, John Laurie, Claude Rains, Stuart Whitman, Dub Taylor, Peter Finch, Gregory Peck, John McGiver, Eddie Albert, Walter Pidgeon, Victor Jory, Phil Silvers, Marlon Brando, Roddy McDowall, Sebastian Cabot, David Tomlinson, Terry-Thomas, James Coburn, Vic Morrow, Richard Harris, Jack Albertson, Darren McGavin, Donald Pleasance, Olive Reed, Victor Kilian, Eli Wallach, Chuck Connors, Jason Robards, Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Paul Lynde, Charlton Heston, Albert Finney, Burgess Meredith, Robert Stack, Tony Randall, Lionel Stander, Walter Matthau, Karl Malden, and Richard Boone were all considered for the role of Barnaby.