Old Yeller, a 1957 classic from Disney’s live-action canon. A teenage boy forges a bond with a stray dog- the best dog- whose spirit and devotion to his 19th century family carry them through a season with dad away on a cattle drive.
I’ve learned to approach ANY Disney family film about a pet, especially a dog, with trepidation. You just know what’s going to happen in the end, and that is the type of thing that generally keeps me far away from those “feel-good/we-love-our-family-pet-so-much” family films. By the end of the film, when the family has moved on, I still haven’t. It’s just really no fun. (Insert childhood memory of two days of wallowing after reading the end of Where the Red Fern Grows.) But I have to say with Yeller, *and sorry for the inherent spoiler here*, it wasn’t so sad that I couldn’t move on with the rest of the family. I didn’t need to spend the afternoon looking at my own dog with the sads, you know? Leave it to Disney to make the recovery more impactful than the let-down. This film lands itself at number 2 in my Very Unofficial Live-Action Ranking.
Musings on Yeller…
It’s a Mother
It struck me–this is the first film on my list with a mother figure in a prominent role, with actual contributions to the plot and resolution, who doesn’t die as a means of furthering a coming-of-age storyline. In fact, this mother stays alive for the whole film! Katie Coates is raising two boys in the freaking wilderness. She’s patient, resourceful, and doesn’t shirk away from taking matters into her own hands, even when doing so will most definitely break everyone’s heart.
God, is anyone more insufferable than this guy? GO HOME, Bud!
Just when you thought we were through with Crockett…here comes Fess Parker ready to reprise his role as Man of the Land. Here’s hoping we get less Fess and more Chuck Connors in the future. Truly, my husband and I were so excited to see The Rifleman ride up to the cabin. Connors beats Fess any old day, okay?
Again with the music. I can never get enough of a theme song for an old live-action flick. The theme for Old Yeller doesn’t disappoint. Keep it coming, Disney.
Old Yeller is available for streaming on Disney+!