On the night of Elephantland's Victory Parade, Babar tells his four children the story of his first days as King of the elephants.
On his first day as king, he is asked to choose a name for Elephantland's Annual Parade. Babar promptly selects one, but is informed by the bureaucratic-minded lords that the matter must be thoroughly examined by committee. Babar's cousin, Celeste, then interrupts to tell Babar that her home has been attacked by Rataxes, the rhinoceros lord, and his horde. The chancellors scoff and rubuff her, but Babar orders an elephant army to be called up immediately to defeat the rhinos, if partly because he wants to impress Celeste.
But, due to the heel-dragging of his ultra-conservative ministers, Babar learns that the muster will take at least three days. Not willing to wait any longer, Babar tells his cousin Arthur, Celeste's brother, to take care of his job as King while he ventures off on his own to help their mother, amid dangerous jungle. He finds Celeste's village aflame; the rhinos are taking the adult elephants as slaves so that they can work on building a rhino city. Babar tries to intervene, but is knocked senseless for his trouble.
When he comes to, Babar rescues Celeste out of the town well, and they set off to rescue her mother, and the other pachyderms, from Rataxes' wrath. Along the way, they meet a monkey named Zephir, who gives them the location of the rhinos' base. The two come face to face with Rataxes himself, who plans to invade Babar's kingdom by twilight, and are put in jail, but they both escape along with Zephir, and race back to Elephantland to save it.
Heading into the rhinos' tents, they disguise themselves as one of the warriors, asking for "special detail" of their plans for attack, but to no avail. They get away from Rataxes quickly, launching from a catapult and landing in a fountain, much to the surprise of Babar's advisors.
The evil rhino proclaims Elephantland will be destroyed in an hour, absent unconditional surrender. To buy time, Babar orders the two ministers to distract Rataxes with their "committee" procedure. The elephant army takes some action into their hands, and a giant elephant float, built by Babar and company, scares off Rataxes and his soldiers.
At sunrise, Babar's friends congratulate him on saving the day and his town, but are surprised to learn that their very first Victory Parade will be held during the afternoon. It has gone by that name ever since, the older Babar recalls, because the committee could not find any other name for it.
As Babar finishes his tale, he finds that his children have all gone to sleep. Right after he closes the door, they re-enact scenes from the story, until their father tells them to get back to bed.Gordon Pinsent - King BabarElizabeth Hanna - Queen Celeste/The Old LadyLisa Yamanaka - IsabelleMarsha Moreau - FloraBobby Becken - PomAmos Crawley - AlexanderGavin Magrath - Young BabarSarah Polley - Young CelesteStephen Ouimette - PompadourChris Wiggins - CorneliusJohn Stocker - ZephirCharles Kerr - Rataxes/Guard RhinosStuart Stone - Young ArthurCarl Banas - Old TuskRay Landry - CrocAngela Fusco - Celeste's MotherChristopher Andrande - Additional VoicesChristopher Britton - Additional VoicesScott Brunt - Additional VoicesJason Burke - Additional VoicesKatie Coristine - Additional VoicesBarbara Mantini - Additional VoicesFrank Perry - Additional VoicesChris Robson - Additional VoicesNorm Spencer - Additional VoicesLea-Helen Weir - Additional Voices
In May 1989, the Toronto-based animation studio Nelvana announced that Babar: The Movie would debut in over 800 U.S. theatres by 28 July of that year. The film, however, opened at only 510 North American venues and grossed US$1,305,187; the Chicago Tribune deemed it a box-office flop, although the film did regain its losses though the home video release. It was the last animated feature production by Nelvana until 1997's Pippi Longstocking, and another Babar film in 1999, Babar: King of the Elephants.
A book adaptation of the movie, written by Cathy East Dubowski and illustrated by Renzo Barto, was published by Random House in November 1989.
The film features five main songs, performed by the likes of Molly Johnson, Judy Tate, The Nylons, and by cast members Stephen Ouimette, Chris Wiggins, and John Stocker.
The songs are (in order of appearance):"Elephantland March" - written by Maribeth Solomon; performed by The Nylons, Judy Tate, Debbie Fleming (as Debbie Flemming), John Rutledge, and Neil Donell"The Committee Song" - written by Philip Balsam (creditied as Phil Balsam); performed by Stephen Ouimette, Chris Wiggins, and The Nylons"The Best We Both Can Be" - written by Maribeth Solomon; performed by Molly Johnson"Monkey Business" - written by Maribeth Solomon; performed by John Stocker, Judy Tate, Debbie Fleming (as Debbie Flemming), John Rutledge, Neil Donell, and The Nylons"Rataxes" - written by Kevan Staples, Marvin Dolgay and Carole Pope; performed by Charles Kerr
The film was given mixed reviews from critics.