Treasures from the Disney Vault - 3/25
Once again, we proudly present a collection of entertaining classics from the Walt Disney Library. Returning as host is our resident expert on all things Disney, Leonard Maltin. The entries in this installment have lovable animals and stirring outdoor adventure as their subjects.
Elmer Elephant (1936) is a "Silly Symphonies" cartoon short directed by Wilfred Jackson. The good-hearted Elmer suffers teasing from other animals but becomes a hero when he uses his trunk to put out a fire in the treehouse of Tillie the Tiger. A precursor of sorts to Disney's Dumbo, Elmer later appeared in comic strips and had a cameo in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The Country Cousin (1936) is another entry in the "Silly Symphony" series, this one an animated short based on Aesop's The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. The storyline involves the misadventures of a mouse named Abner who comes from his country home in "Podunk" to visit his urbane cousin, Morty. The action is built around a musical score by Leigh Harline. This cartoon, also directed by Wilfred Jackson, won an Oscar as Best Animated Short Film.
The African Lion (1955) is a feature-length documentary, shot in Technicolor, about the lion's role in the African ecosystem. The film, directed by James Algar, is part of Disney's "True-Life Adventure" series. It won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Yellowstone Cubs (1963) is a 48-minute film concerning the adventures of two bear cubs, Tuffy and Tubby, who become separated from their mother and spend the summer exploring Yellowstone National Park. Charles L. Draper directed and Rex Allen narrates.
Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar (1967) is a feature-length family film in which the title animal has adventures after being rescued as a cub by a young man named Jess (Ron Brown) and growing up in a logging camp. The movie, shot in Washington State and Idaho, is co-directed and narrated by Rex Allen.
The Wild Country (1970) is an adventure film about a family of the 1800s that moves from Pittsburgh to Wyoming to become farmers and face such difficulties as a tornado and a threatening rancher. Steve Forrest and Vera Miles are the parents, and their young sons are played by brothers Ron (billed here as "Ronny") and Clint Howard. Robert Totten directed.
The Bears and I (1974) is a feature about a young man (Patrick Wayne) who moves to the Canadian wilderness, where he adopts three motherless bear cubs with the intention of eventually releasing them back into the wild. As the bears become like pets, a local Native American leader (Chief Dan George) warns of dangers ahead. This adaptation of a Robert Franklin Leslie novel was directed by Bernard McEveety, with music by John Denver.
Benji the Hunted (1987), the third entry in the Benji movie series, finds the lovable dog star lost in the wilds of Oregon while filming a movie there. As his trainer, Frank Inn (playing himself), searches for him, Benji becomes the protector of four orphan cougar cubs whose mother has been killed by a hunter. Benjean, the daughter of original star Higgins, takes over as Benji in this film written and directed by Joe Camp.
Cheetah (1989) is a family drama shot in Nairobi, Kenya, in which an American boy and girl (Keith Coogan and Lucy Deakins) adopt an orphaned cheetah cub while living in the area. They plan to return the animal to its life in the wild, but it is kidnapped by poachers. Accompanied by a young African goat herder (Collin Mothupi), they head into the wild on a rescue mission. Jeff Blyth directed.
by Roger Fristoe