Matt’s Walt Disney Pictures Live-Action Reviews: Old Yeller

Old Yeller

Released on December 25, 1957

Budget: N/A

Box Office: $6,250,000

Starring: Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, Kevin Corcoran, & Tommy Kirk

Director: Robert Stevenson

Plot: When the father of the Coates Family of Texas leaves his wife and two sons to run the ranch, so he can go on a cattle run to Kansas.  Little did he know the adventures that would befall his family.  His oldest son Travis is in charge of all the day to day chores around the house.  When one day will working in the garden, a yellow dog comes barging onto the property thus changing the lives of the Coates family.  Though the mother and younger son Arliss fall in love with the dog instantly, Travis remains skeptical.  But, when Old Yeller saves Arliss’s life from the attack of a bear. Travis warms up to him.  After that they were inseparable, and would have many great adventures.  Until a wolf tries to attack the family and Old Yeller comes to the rescue only to fall ill due to the attack.  

Final Thoughts:  I have been looking forward to this movie, since I started doing these reviews.  I remember watching this with my sister on VHS, over and over again.  It’s amazing to see it now and to realize how much I either missed or didn’t understand at the time.  I never realized until this viewing that the talk of rabies had come up before Old Yeller was infected with it.  Which shows how long it has been since I have seen this movie.  It was also a lot of fun to see scenes of this movie that frightened me as kid. Like the scene where Arliss throws a rock at a man who is trying to take Old Yeller back home (turned out he was the original owner of Old Yeller.   I just remember when that man fell off his horse, I was scared he was going to take it out on Arliss.  But seeing the movie now, the scene is completely different than how I remembered it.  

                              This movie is the start of the Disney career of Tommy Kirk.  Kirk to me is the first true Disney kid.  He would be used regularly whenever Disney was in the need of someone to play an All-American teenager as they saw it.  But, until now I never realized how many of the actors/actresses in this movie go on to star in other Disney movies as well.  The entire Coates family is played by repeat Disney actors.  The father is Fess Parker, which if you read my last two reviews you would know him as Davy Crockett.  Dorothy McGuire the mother would also be the mother of both Tommy Kirk & Kevin Corcoran in Swiss Family Robinson.

                            Though out the movie I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the things Arliss does throughout the movie.  Mainly because I can see my kids doing most of the things that he does.  I wouldn’t put it past my daughter to try to lure a baby bear to come closer to her.  

                            The movie itself is a great family movie, though it probably has the most depressing moment in Disney movie history when Travis the boy who learned to love Old Yeller the most, was forced to shoot Old Yeller at the end.  Usually I try not to spoil movies like this but I figured everyone knows at this point.  Most of you are probably not like Phoebe from Friends, whose mother would always turn off the movie after Old Yeller saves the family from the wolf.  Tommy Kirk was especially good in his role as Travis, I am looking forward to see how his Disney acting career pans out from here.  

                            A bit of trivia for you that I find interesting is that in the animated movie Lady and the Tramp during the fight scenes where you hear the dogs growling.  That growling is actually the voice of Old Yeller when he was suffering the effects of rabies.  

                           If you are looking for a good old Disney movie to watch with you family I would highly suggest this one.  It has a great mix of action and depicts a true sense of love between a boy and his dog.  It also has a song from the opening credits that will be swirling in your head for days after viewing it.    

Final Score: 3 out of 5

Next Review: The Sign of Zorro (1958)