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No 'March of Wooden Soldiers' has viewers up in arms

Still image from the movie

Still image from the movie "Babes in Toyland" also known as the "March of the Wooden Soldiers." Credit: handout

WPIX was trying to do something special for football fans on Thanksgiving Day, but instead it got itself into a nice mess, as Oliver Hardy himself might have called it.

With Channel 11 set to simulcast the NFL Network's coverage of the Broncos-Giants game Thursday night, the station decided to replace its regular fare with a daylong slate of football-themed programming.

Classic movies on the schedule include "Knute Rockne, All American,'' in which Ronald Reagan plays George Gipp, and "Brian's Song."

"The thought was to make it a celebration all day long," said John Zeigler, Channel 11's director of marketing. "We thought it was a little more appropriate than Jerry Springer and Maury Povich."

Station executives were aware that meant postponing the 1934 Laurel and Hardy film "March of the Wooden Soldiers" - originally "Babes in Toyland" - a decades-old tradition on Thanksgiving.

Instead, they scheduled it for Dec. 19 and 25.

"I don't think we knew how big that was going to be," Zeigler said.

"We figured, we'll run this thing Christmas Day and it'll be OK."

Um, no. When a viewer uprising ensued, including a Facebook page dedicated to protesting the move, WPIX made partial amends Tuesday, announcing the movie would be shown at 9 a.m. Thursday on LATV, a Spanish-themed station that has an affiliation with Ch. 11.

It can be seen over the air on digital Channel 11.2, or on Cablevision 198, Time Warner 166, Comcast 250 or Verizon FiOS 461.

Zeigler said it was "way too late to try to manipulate the programming,'' by the time fans protested, so this was the best available solution.

"We tried," he said. "I think if we would do it all over again, we'd have left 'Wooden Soldiers' at 9 and started the football stuff afterward."


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