It was made by Canada's Nelvana Limited & France's Ellipse Programmé and distributed by New Line Cinema. It was also the last animated feature production by Nelvana until 1997's Pippi Longstocking and another Babar film in 1999 Babar: King of the Elephants.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
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.
Then, Babar's cousin, Celeste 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' 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 Babar
- Elizabeth Hanna - Queen Celeste/The Old Lady
- Lisa Yamanaka - Isabelle
- Marsha Moreau - Flora
- Bobby Becken - Pom
- Amos Crawley - Alexander
- Gavin Magrath - Young Babar
- Sarah Polley - Young Celeste
- Stephen Ouimette - Pompadour
- Chris Wiggins - Cornelius
- John Stocker - Zephir
- Charles Kerr - Rataxes
- Stuart Stone - Young Arthur
- Carl Banas - Old Tusk
- Ray Landry - Croc
- Angela Fusco - Celeste's Mother
- Christopher Andrande - Additional Voices
- Christopher Britton - Additional Voices
- Scott Brunt - Additional Voices
- Jason Burke - Additional Voices
- Katie Coristine - Additional Voices
- Barbara Mantini - Bird/Elephant/Monkey
- Frank Perry - Additional Voices
- Chris Robson - Additional Voices
- Norm Spencer - Additional Voices
- Lea-Helen Weir - Additional Voices
- Charles Kerr - Guard Rhinos
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. However, it opened at only 510 North American venues and grossed US$1,305,187.
The Chicago Tribune deemed "Babar: The Movie" a box-office flop, although it did regain its losses though the home video release.
The film was given mixed reviews from critics.
Rita Kempley from the Washington Post said that it was "tired material, a toddlers' introduction to sexism and elitism."
Tracy Moore from Common Sense Media called it "an animated elephant adventure with some peril."
James Plath from Movie Metropolis said, "Babar: The Movie feels like a film in search of an audience."