The Great Disney Movie Challenge: Movies 21-30

Disney Movie Challenge

My family had this crazy idea to watch every Disney Movie ever made. Although COVID has made this year really hard, one blessing has been the amount of family time that we’ve had together! We’ve loved (mostly) curling up together 4-5 nights a week and watching movies. Doing a family activity, snack or meal with them has only added to the memories!

Some highlights from the first twenty movies are classics like Cinderella and Alice and Wonderland; plus some surprise hits such as The Reluctant Dragon and Fun and Fancy Free, which we both really loved.

To hear about how long it took us to create the list, and for the printable PDF of all the movies, check out the first post here. If you want to read the post for the first ten movies click here, and the post for movies 11-20 is here. 

Disney movie night

This particular post highlights the movies from #21-30:

21. The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (Jun 26, 1952)
22. Peter Pan (Feb 5, 1953)
23. The Sword and the Rose (Jul 23, 1953)
24. Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue (Oct 26, 1953)
25. The Living Desert (Nov 10, 1953)
26. The Vanishing Prairie (Aug 17, 1954)
27. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Dec 23, 1954)
28. Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (May 25, 1955)
29. Lady and the Tramp (Jun 22, 1955)
30. The African Lion (Sep 14, 1955)

I’ll be honest, this was a bit of a hard stretch. Peter Pan was excellent, obviously, as was Lady and the Tramp. But five live action dramas was a lot, and some of the older movies are not as engaging as those coming up later. Then THREE movies from the “True-Life Adventures” series, which are certainly informative (great for “educational purposes” to supplement how little school the kids are getting in this season) but have some hard things to watch. There are a lot of animals killing other animals (sometimes quite graphically), so be aware of that! Over all though, we quite enjoyed this sequence of movies.

Quick Note: If a movie isn’t on Disney+ (or in our personal collection), we rent it for $5 on YouTube. Sometimes we luck out and it’s been uploaded on there for free!

Disney movie night snack

21. The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men
watched March 15th, 2020

Release Date: June 26, 1952
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 84 min
Where to Watch: Disney+, YouTube, Amazon, DVD
Awards: None
Jones Family Rating: 5 out of 10
Tagline: “The romantic adventure of the year!”

Disney Parks Connection: None

The second live action film produced by Disney thus far, this movie is based off the legend of Robin Hood. It is the 13th movie to be released about Robin Hood over all (not Disney) which I found incredibly interesting!

This rendition follows a young Robin Hood who is in love. He and his father enter an archery contest at the King’s palace. His father is killed by Prince John’s henchmen and Robin Hood becomes an outlaw. He gathers his band of Merrie Men in Sherwood Forest to avenge his father’s death and help those that Prince John is over taxing.

Our Impressions:
We thought it was middle-of-the-road good. Surprisingly it has some funny parts (and was therefore not as dry as Treasure Island, which holds the title of “worst movie” in our family’s book so far). We found some parallels with the animated feature (the minstrel sings with a guitar throughout the movie, and the bow and arrow contest), which is a real favourite in our house. 

It felt like a musical at times, and there was a song that reminded us of “Oo De Lally”. It was fun that he had trick arrows, but we found some of the parts difficult to watch (beating scene with public torture to name one). Little John fighting Robin Hood on the bridge was great fun, and we enjoyed seeing different versions of Friar Tuck and Maid Marian. Overall, it exceeded our expectations (although we did have very low ones!).

Suggested Special Activities:
Bow and arrow themed activities or snacks are your best bet here. A green hat with a red feather is simple and gets the point across as well… and it’s fun, especially for littles.

22. Peter Pan
watched March 15th, 2020

Release Date: February 5, 1953
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 77 min
Where to Watch: Disney+, Disney DVD/Blu-Ray
Awards: None
Jones Family Rating: 10 out of 10
Tagline: “It will live in your heart forever!”

Disney Parks Connection:
– Disneyland:
Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland. Peter is a popular character to meet in the Park, as well as Wendy and Captain Hook. Peter has recently been seen playing games with children like Hide and Seek.

– Walt Disney World: Peter Pan’s Flight is also in Fantasyland. The queue for this ride is the best that we’ve been in… you walk through the entire Darling house and parts of it come alive around you as Tinkerbell flies around!

– Disneyland Paris: Peter Pan’s Flight, Jolly Roger Pirate Galleon / Skull Rock

– Shanghai Disney: Peter Pan’s Flight (with a twist); considered to be the most different of all the versions because they have larger vehicles that accommodate 4 guests, and they can stop and change speed.

– Tokyo Disneyland: Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland, and an upcoming Peter Pan area in Tokyo DisneySea scheduled for 2022.

Peter Pan is certainly one of the better known classic Disney films. A boy from “the Never Never Land” visits the Darling home, where he hears the stories told by Wendy Darling to her younger brothers, and brings them back to tell the “Lost Boys.” One night, when Wendy is told it’ll be her last night in the Nursery, Peter Pan (and a sassy fairy named Tinker Bell) show up and take the children to Never Land, with the help of “a little faith, trust, and pixie dust.” Adventure ensues, including a run-in with the local Pirates (and their leader, the infamous Captain Hook) as well as the Indians and Mermaids of the island.

A clever fact I didn’t realize until I was an adult is that the Dad (George Darling) and Captain Hook are voiced by the same actor (this is true in the stage productions of Peter Pan as well). Another fun fact I learned while researching is that Walt himself once played the role of Peter Pan in a play. And two of the animators “animated” themselves into the film! Lost Boy in a bear costume is Ward Kimball, and Ollie Johnson is Smee!

Our Impressions:
We enjoyed this movie! The girls watched it a lot when they were younger, but didn’t pick up on many of the subtleties, and so it was fun to watch it now when they are a bit older! We enjoyed the mermaids, and the general sense of not wanting to grow up I think really struck a chord with them at their ages, particularly Audrey (who was almost 13 when we watched it).

We did have a long conversation with the girls about the outdated cultural depictions of Native Americans in this film. It hasn’t aged well at all, and it certainly isn’t a kind or flattering way to depict a people. Our girls’ school starts every assembly by honouring and recognizing the land that they are on. I’m glad to see how far we come, but recognize we still have a long ways to go.

Suggested Special Activities:
We made super simple cupcakes as our activity, but there are SO many ideas. A treasure map and treasure hunt, Tinker Bell crafts, even Mermaid slime! Elisia has some ideas in her post about Birthday Parties for Boys over here.

To make these Peter Pan cupcakes, we used boxed chocolate cake mix and dyed butter cream green. Then we made simple Peter Pan hats and voila! It was a great treat, and it was something the girls could make on their own. That’s a win-win for me!

Peter Pan cupcakes

23. The Sword and the Rose
watched March 17th, 2020

Release Date: July 23, 1953
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 92 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (free), Amazon, iTunes
Awards: None, although its been said that Walt originally green lit this film because he anticipated it being nominated for an Oscar (which it was not).
Jones Family Rating: 7 out of 10
Tagline: “Now.. Walt Disney brings new excitement to romance!”

Disney Parks Connection: None

This is the third of Disney’s British produced films (after Treasure Planet and Robin Hood), it’s based on a book, and has two previous screen adaptations. It takes place during the reign of Henry VIII. His sister, Mary Tudor, loves a man that is deemed unsuitable. When her love (Charles) leaves London, Mary runs after him, but Charles is locked in the Tower of London, only to be freed when she marries French King Louis XII. Enter the Duke of Buckingham to compete for Mary’s hand, and you’ve got a plot twist. Charles and Mary encounter obstacle after obstacle for their happily ever after.

Our Impressions:
We had extremely low expectations going into this film! We didn’t think it would be very good, but we actually really enjoyed it! It was clever and fun and well paced. We were surprised to see a young Glynis Johns in the film (she is in a ton of films, including Mary Poppins and Rob Roy). It was really enjoyable, and if not for this Movie Challenge, we certainly wouldn’t have watched it.

A few things that we noticed… The beginning of the film has a thinly veiled David and Goliath reference. There are also some word use that wouldn’t be remotely ok nowadays (such as the King saying to his sister, “You clever little wench”). All in all, we would recommend this film, and talk often about it being a pleasant surprise. 

Suggested Special Activities:
Simple cardboard sword fights are fun! We looked up some ideas and found this. I gave the girls free rein to make cardboard swords and they did. We put painters tape on the road in front of our house, read the rules, and went at it. It was not too bad… depending on how into it your kids are, it’s fun as a pair up with the movie for certain.

24. Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue
watched March 22nd, 2020

Release Date: October 26, 1953
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 81 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (paid), iTunes
Awards: None
Jones Family Rating: 4 out of 10
Tagline: “Every minute flames with furious action”

Disney Parks Connection: None

Rob Roy, in the early 18th Century, leads his McGregor clansmen to fight King George I’s forces, who are commanded by the Scottish Duke of Argyll. Order in the Highlands is of the utmost importance, and yet Argyll does sympathize with the “bonny blue bonnets” he is fighting. A battle takes place, and Rob Roy has a love interest in Wendy. 

Set and filmed in beautiful Scotland, this film had a tough road towards release. It was first written in 1938, but then put off due to WWII, only to get back on the schedule for 1945 and then put off again! Disney took interest in this “Costume Tale” because of his success with the others he oversaw. He announced the star would be Richard Todd, the same actor from the previous film, The Sword and the Rose. Disney felt this film would appeal to a wide audience, being historical, but it didn’t do as well as originally thought or hoped.

Our Impressions:
We knew little to nothing going into this film; about the only thing we did know was that it was Scottish! It hasn’t aged overly well, in our opinion, and just wasn’t all that interesting. Definitely a “one and done” as far as we are concerned. Our favourite quote from the film is, “Why are we dancing with flame?!”

There was one scene with Rob and a waterfall that’s worth watching over and over because the effects are just so bad! We giggled uncontrollably and watched it about 6 times; each time it was more funny than the last.

Suggested Special Activities:
Since this movie is about Rob Roy, we had to make a “Rob Roy” adult beverage… and by we, I mean Elisia and her husband, because I’m allergic to alcohol! The drink was first made in honour of Rob Roy McGregor (the hero of our movie of course) in Manhattan for the Operetta “Rob Roy” in 1894.

For my family, we did a Roy Rogers, which is similar but not really, considering that it was named for the cowboy Roy Rogers. If you look up “non-alcoholic Rob Roy” a Roy Rogers comes up, so that’s what we did, even though they aren’t necessarily related. But since they both have cherries, we went with it.

Who doesn’t love a delicious drink and movie night combo?

25. The Living Desert
watched March 19th, 2020

Release Date: November 10, 1953
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 69 min
Where to Watch: Disney+
Awards: Academy Award Winner (Best Documentary Feature)
– Fun Fact: The Oscar that Walt Disney won for “The Living Desert” helped him make history as the individual with the most Academy Award wins in the same year.
Jones Family Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Tagline: “Mammoth excitement! Triumphant! Beautiful!”

Disney Parks Connection: None

A “True-Life Adventures” film, The Living Desert is set and filmed in Arizona. It is the first feature length film in the “TLA” series (there are several entries before this film, but they are considered “short” features). The inspiration for this movie is a 10 minute “film” of a tarantula battling a wasp battling, which Walt had seen. He is quoted as saying, “This is where we can tell a real, sustained story for the first time in these nature pictures.”

The purpose of the film is to show that there is more to the desert than what first appears (rocks… lots of rocks); the desert is , in fact, alive. Of this it does a good job for sure. The one important note about this film, and the other “True-Life Adventures” films as well, is that because they are aiming to be realistic, it can be quite graphic. It goes from cute and adorable to animals killing other animals very abruptly.

Our Impressions:
We haven’t really cultured our girls with documentaries of this sort before, so we didn’t really know what their enjoyment level would be for the film. We paired it with the next movie, “The Vanishing Prairie”, another True-Life Adventures film, which was a good idea.

Some parts kept their attention, while others felt more educational than entertaining (which in COVID, we didn’t really mind all that much!). We did have a vested interest in the film because a few years ago we drove through many of the areas in which the film takes place as part of our “Mystery Trip” road trip with our girls (to read more about this, check out our Road Trip: 9 States in 12 days). Also, our family friend has been to Death Valley many, many times so we were able to mention that to the girls as well.

We liked the addition of funny, engaging music (for which they received criticism), as it adds a “Disney” flair to the otherwise common concept of “Nature film”… and for this we are thankful. We especially liked the scorpions doing the Do-Si-Do! There is also a Tarantula Hawk in the film, which we are (unfortunately) familiar with from our travels through the Mexican Baja… do yourself a favour and look up this bad boy!

Suggested Special Activities:
We had Arizona Burrito Bowls for dinner (in truth, this was quite lazy as rice bowls are nearly a weekly occurrence for us over here) and they were delicious! Sometimes it’s just as simple as scheduling something that is common but making it intentional with the movie. Simple, delicious, and to the point. (We could’ve had rabbit or quail as a protein, I suppose, but that would’ve been almost cruel, don’t you think?) Another suggestion is shaved ice for dessert, as it’s common in Arizona (according to the Google), where the film was shot.

26. The Vanishing Prairie
watched March 19th, 2020

Release Date: August 17, 1954
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 71 min
Where to Watch: Disney+
Awards: Academy Award Winner (Best Documentary Feature)
Jones Family Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Tagline: “The real earth! Triumphant! Beautiful”

Disney Parks Connection: None

This film is another entry in the “True-Life Adventures” film series, which is why we paired it up with the previous movie for a double-header. It was filmed partly in Yellowstone Park (which we drove through as part of our “Mystery Trip” with the girls, as mentioned in the previous section), so we felt a sense of connection with the material in the movie.

The main focus of “The Vanishing Prairie” is the exploration of various plant and animal life in the American prairie. It briefly talks about extinct animals that previously lived in the area, and gives a lot of details about endangered species at the time. (We paused the movie to find out more about these species that were endangered in the mid-50’s as it’s obviously been almost 70 years.)

The three animals they focus on in the film are the Buffalo, the Prairie Dog, and the Whooping Crane (all of which, we are happy to report, are still alive today!). In fact, the Buffalo and Prairie Dog populations are no longer considered endangered. The Whooping Crane, however, is a protected species. The movie follows the animals around and notes how difficult it is to survive throughout the seasons. Interestingly, this film was banned in the State of New York for showing the birth of a Buffalo. Walt is quoted as saying, “(The) birth scene would never have appeared on the screen if I believed it might offend an audience. It would be a shame if New York children had to believe the stork brings buffaloes too.”

Our Impressions:
One of the wonderful by-products of watching this movie is the good talk we were able to have with our girls about taking care of animals so that they don’t become extinct. As previously mentioned, we paused the film to find out the current status of the endangered species from the 50’s. We learned that at the time of filming there were only 21 Whooping Cranes in the world, and now there are over 800!

Most memorable scene in the film was definitely the ducks that were sliding around on the  frozen ice. We even watched it back, as it was just so cute! (Perhaps a little nod to a famous Bambi scene?)

We did notice that there seems to be some “stock animal footage” lying around Walt Disney Studios, as there are plenty of familiar shots “sprinkled” into many of the live action films in the 50’s and 60’s.

Suggested Activity:
Might we suggest a trip to a local bird sanctuary, or conservation center. If you want to get real official, have the kids do a book report (or just a verbal report if they are little) about a species that interests them. Our kids did find it particularly interesting to learn about endangered species, which got them fired up to be more conscious of this important issue. If you can get to a local zoo to see prairie dogs that’s also excellent, and a trip to Yellowstone Park to see the Buffalo is totally worth it!

27. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
watched March 23rd, 2020

Release Date: December 23, 1954
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 127 min
Where to Watch: Disney+, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube (paid)
Awards: Won 2 Academy Awards in 1955 and was nominated for another (Won: Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction – Colour; Nominated: Best Film Editing)
Jones Family Rating: 6 out of 10
Tagline: “The mightiest motion picture of them all”

Disney Parks Connection:
– Disneyland: Submarine Voyage – I learned something new while researching this ride, because I always was told it was “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” themed. However, the ride in Disneyland was actually just a Submarine Voyage and was narrated by a generic captain. It opened in 1959 and closed in 1998 where it sat empty for 9 years and then became Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
– The organ in the Haunted Mansion is the very same organ that was played on Captain Nemo’s submarine!

– Walt Disney World: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage – Resident in Magic Kingdom from 1971 to 1994. It was 20 minutes long and hosted by Captain Nemo. Interestingly it was extremely close to the DL counterpart (you rode through a lagoon of sea creatures and mermaids) and yet the overhaul intentionally included the movie. It was replaced by Ariel’s Grotto in 1995, then Pooh’s Playful Spot, and now the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

– Disneyland Paris: Les Mysteres du Nautilus (The Mysteries of the Nautilus) is a walk-through attraction in Discoveryland. It is considered to be an “updated version” of the ride at WDW. Guests travel through 6 different rooms of the submarine from the film.

– Tokyo DisneySea: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Considered to be similar to the original rides in DL and WDW, and yet completely different. Guests board a small submarine that was developed by Captain Nemo himself, tour the underground sea, get attacked by the Kraken and end up in Atlantis.
– Fun Fact #1: The ride never travels through real water, rather it uses special effects to simulate the experience.
– Fun Fact #2: The ride is found in the area of DisneySea called “Mysterious Island”. While this area is based off the Jules Verne novel of the same name, it also features Captain Nemo’s secret base of operations (including a harbor for the Nautilus and a lab inside of a volcano!).

Submarine Voyage

Set in 1868, the story starts with a mystery… ships are sinking without explanation in the Pacific Ocean. Rumours circulate of a “monster” attacking the ships and fear is growing among the sailors. Men are commissioned by the US Government to form an expedition and figure out just what exactly is going on. This film stars Kirk Douglas as an overconfident Harpoon Master (Ned Land), Peter Lorre as Conseil, Paul Lukas as Professor Pierre Aronnax, and James Mason as Captain Nemo.

The crew finds nothing for months but eventually witness a ship explode and sink courtesy of the “monster,” which quickly sets its sights on the ship with our main characters. Ned, Conseil and Aronnax are attacked and have to abandon ship… and now the real fun begins. They are captured and brought aboard a submarine (the “monster”) by Captain Nemo and his crew. He allows them free rein on the submarine, but they may not escape.

They travel the ocean and see new sights. We learn the back story of the complicated Captain, and the characters face a variety of adventures together. There are some random parts (a pet sea lion, for one) and some long drawn out scenes, but it lands with these haunting words near the end, “There is hope for the future. And when the world is ready for a new and better life, all this will someday come to pass… in God’s good time.” – Captain Nemo.

It is categorized as a “science-fiction adventure film,” and is also considered a predecessor to the steampunk genre. Filmed in parts of Jamaica and the Bahamas, it has a lot of beautiful cinematography. Watching the Disney movies chronologically has really helped us see when there are “leaps and bounds” in regards to quality, and this is one that you can tell was big budget and maximum effort.

It took a very large crew to pull off a movie of this magnitude and they faced challenges on set, which led to reshoots of expensive sequences (like the Kraken attack). It cost a whopping $9 million dollars to make (the budget was only $5 million, which means they went over by almost double!) and was the most expensive film ever made up to this point. Luckily it did okay at the box office (grossing the third highest amount for any film in 1954).

It was widely praised for its pacing (which is laughable to us), forward-thinking film making (particularly the underwater scenes), and honouring of the original book. It is revered as a good movie of the time, and even comparatively to modern day movies.

Our Impressions:
We had high hopes for this movie. However, we found it long and slowly paced, certainly not the adventure flick one pictures or hopes for based on the legends and talk of the movie. Maybe because we grew up with the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean and other modern Disney adventure films, our expectations were set too high. You could certainly tell that they spent more money and time on this film than the ones before it.

There were some things we did like. We have heard “Whale of a Tale” multiple times on our Classic Disney CDs, so it was great to see the scene in context… very enjoyable! The submarine was neat, and some of the underwater scenes are fun. Nemo’s meals were memorable and he made for a great anti-hero. What we didn’t like was the lack of females in the film. It made Audrey (our oldest) right mad! Overall, we thought it was just sort of okay (a remake would be AWESOME!). It’s not one we’d watch over and over, but we are definitely glad that we watched it!

Suggested Special Activities:
There are lots of ideas for this movie! Anything submarine or Kraken-themed works great. You could have the kids design a room for the Nautilus. We saw a very cute snack/lunch idea on Pinterest (see the original here) and went with it, but it kinda turned out terribly! It’s meant to be a whale with a spout… can you see it? It’s our “whale of a tale” sandwiches! I’m pretty good at ideas, and not so good at execution (this is where my sisters all excel!).

28. Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
watched March 24th, 2020

Release Date: May 25, 1955
Original Release: Theatrical Release (comprised of three episodes from the Davy Crockett television miniseries)
Run Time: 92 min
Where to Watch: Disney+, Youtube (paid)
Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
3 out of 10
Tagline: “Story of a fabulous fighting man”

Disney Parks Connection:
– Disneyland
: Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes (available seasonably in Critter Country) is a gentle ride around the Rivers of America.
– Davy Crockett Arcade (1955-1957) and Davy Crockett Museum (1955).
– Crockett & Russel Hat Co. in Frontierland was named to honor Fess Parker (who plays Crockett). He became a Disney “legend” in a 2004 ceremony, and now the name of the store front and window honour him.

– Walt Disney World: Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes closed in 1994.
– “Crockett’s Tavern” is a lounge in Fort Wilderness Campground. 

– Disneyland Paris: Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch is a campground with nearly 600 wood cabins. It consists of a village with Crockett’s Tavern (a restaurant), Tree Top Trail Adventure, Davy’s Farm, a REALLY amazing pool, and more!
– Legends of the Wild West: Wax characters including Davy Crockett.

– Tokyo Disneyland: Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes was short lived at Tokyo Disney and has been renamed “Beaver Brother’s Explorer Canoes” in Critter Country.

Davy Crockett was a real life hero, known for being a frontiersman and soldier. He is referenced in pop culture as the “King of the Wild Frontier,” so it’s only appropriate that this feature film shares the same name. The film is actually a compilation of three episodes from the television miniseries that ran for five episodes on “Walt Disney’s Disneyland.” It focuses on three story lines: he and his friend George Russell fighting in the Creek Indian War, Crockett being elected to Congress, and then Crockett and Russell traveling to Texas for the last stand at the Alamo.

The title character is played by Fess Parker, who happens to have a contract with Disney so we see a lot of him in movies coming up on the list. The TV show did so well that they decided to make it a theatrical release and it was Disney’s most successful TV film project of all time. It inspired two more episodes to be released on TV for the Disneyland show, which serve as prequels to this film (and were released as another film later on as well).

Our Impressions:
While my girls had no context for Davy Crockett, I knew that he was a “legend” of sorts and that his name is used in and around Frontierland in many of the Parks. However, what I envisioned  his movies to be like, and what we actually watched, was a different story. You know “perception vs. reality?” Yah, that really happened for us in these films.

We expected Crockett to be a sort of “Indiana Jones meets Thor,” but what we actually got was more “nerdy frontier dad.” He came across as just sort of underwhelming to us. Where he may have been seen as a hero 60 or 70 years ago, he just didn’t translate well today. The girls have a love/hate relationship with these movies… we found it comical that a relatively neutral movie/character created such a visceral response.

Truthfully, it feels like he’s just one of those characters that they love to hate! Addie wrote a paper on him for a school assignment (by her own choice), and Lexie started drawing Davy Crockett’s hat everywhere and on everything. My personal favourite is “Peanut Davy.”

The biggest issue, though, was how culturally insensitive the films have become. We are seriously confused as to how these films are on Disney+, especially when other films that are far less offensive haven’t made it on yet. I don’t know if it’s because the film is quite nostalgic for some people, but it’s quite insensitive and represents indigenous people unfairly in our opinion. We tried to use this film (and others like it from the same era of film) to teach our girls about the importance of not stereotyping entire groups of people, realizing how far we’ve come, and the work that we still need to do. There is also a scene where Davy lets his buddy kiss his wife clear on the lips… very shocking!

Our final thoughts are that it doesn’t feel like a movie, and is quite disjointed and dated. If the movie (or legend) has some nostalgia for you, I could see how it could be enjoyable in that light. As it was, we found it hard to explain to the girls, and we needed to have a lot of follow up conversations about the “Cowboys and Indians” stereotypes in culture at the time.

Suggested Special Activities:
Davy is known for his “coonskin hat,” which is exactly what we went for in a simple activity. I provided white, black, and brown construction paper, as well as tape, and the girls made hats. They complained about it, but truthfully I think they really liked it! It was quick and easy, and they still have the hats so they couldn’t have hated it THAT much!

29. Lady and the Tramp
watched March 25th, 2020

Release Date: June 22, 1955
Original Release: Theatrical Release

Run Time: 76 min
Where to Watch: Disney+, Disney DVD/Blu-Ray, iTunes, YouTube (paid)
Awards: None
Jones Family Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Tagline: “It’s the doggone happiest!”

Disney Parks Connection:
– Walt Disney World: Tony’s Town Square is a table service restaurant in Magic Kingdom with a water fountain statue of Lady and Tramp, and classic food like Spaghetti and Meatballs.
– Outside of the restaurant if you look down on the pavement you will see a heart with Lady and Tramp’s “paw prints” inside of it!

– At Pop Century Resort you can see a larger than life Lady and Tramp in the 1950’s area.

– Disneyland Paris: Pizzeria Belle Notte is an Italian Bistro in Fantasyland where you can get Pizza or Pasta in a romantic atmosphere.

Lady and Tramp’s “paw prints” in front of Tony’s Restaurant

Set in “white picket fence land” as our dad used to say, a newly married couple is having Christmas together when Jim Dear surprises Darling with a hat box that contains a cocker spaniel puppy that they name “Lady.” The movie unfolds from the dog’s perspective, so you mostly only see the people from the waist down. It follows her adventures and transition from being the one and only love of the couple, to being “replaced” by their baby. (Other dogs warn Lady that she will be replaced and she doesn’t believe them.)

Chaos ensues when Aunt Sarah (who we realized is also the voice of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella) arrives and Jim Dear and Darling leave. She clearly doesn’t like Lady and favours her two obnoxious (and culturally insensitive) Siamese cats. Lady escapes and meets a street wise dog named “Tramp” who shows her the ropes around the town. They eventually make their way back to the house, save the baby from an intruder, and (finally) become a beloved part of the family.

Fun Facts:

  • First animated film to be filmed in widescreen (CinemaScope).
  • Based off of a short story in Cosmopolitan magazine from 1945 called “Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog.”
  • Met with mixed reviews upon release but is considered to be one of the best animated films produced by Disney.
  • The scene with Lady being presented in a hat box is inspired by the time when Walt presented his wife with a chow puppy in a hat box (because he forgot about a dinner he had planned with her… oops!).
  • Walt didn’t like the famous spaghetti scene as he thought it wasn’t necessary and off-putting to see dogs sharing food. 
Thanks to Lucy McStuffins (Auburnlucy on Instagram) for this photo!

Our Impressions:
We had just watched the “live action” version on Disney +, so this was a movie we were excited to watch again and compare. It’s stood the test of time in the sense that there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in the movie. The famous spaghetti scene at Tony’s, the cute parts (Lady as a puppy), the funny parts (Lady and Tramp at the zoo), and the intense parts (the climactic finale). We definitely all enjoyed it… the movie gets you in the feels and is fun for all ages. We love the music, as always, and Peggy Lee is just fantastic singing “He’s a Tramp.” In researching the film I learned that she actually sings three of the songs (“La La Lu,” “He’s a Tramp,” and “The Siamese Cat Song”).

Suggested Special Activities:
We went really obvious here… spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, and the girls “recreated” the spaghetti scene. It was awkward and hilarious and we totally recommend it!

30. The African Lion
watched March 28th, 2020

Release Date: September 14, 1955
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 75 min
Where to Watch: Disney+, Disney DVD/Blu-Ray
Awards: None
Jones Family Rating: 6 out of 10
Tagline: “Here comes entertainment!”

Disney Parks Connection:
– Walt Disney World: It’s hard to know if it’s a stretch to call Kilimanjaro Safaris in Disney’s Animal Kingdom a connection, but we are going to say that there’s a connection. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, one of the places from the movie. The animals you see in the attraction are the same ones you see in the movie. So we are deeming it a “loose” connection, but certainly a convenient one.
– Animal Kingdom Lodge is African Savanna themed and also has a strong tie-in (whether intentional or not).
– Jungle Cruise: An attraction in Adventureland that is found in 4 different parks (Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland); it is often cited to be inspired by “The African Lion.”

This film was a definite labour of love. It took almost 3 years (30 months) to shoot the footage and only 6% made it on film. It was filmed in the countries of Kenya, Tanganyika (now Tanzania), and Uganda. The film features a myriad of animals. We made note of 43 animal species including lions, zebras, water buffalo and wildebeest. Fun Fact: It highlights most of the animals we see in The Lion King! The footage is remarkable, especially considering that it was filmed nearly 70 years ago.

The story is of a mama lion that gives birth to lion cubs. It follows them through the seasons as we see the natural struggles of the lions, and also shares about the different areas of Africa, as well as the ecosystem of Africa. It weaves in and out of the lions’ story, while also telling of other animals. One of the most memorable moments in the film is the rhino stuck in the mud… reports state that once the filming crew got the footage they rescued the rhino and were promptly “thanked” as the animal charged towards them!

Our Impressions:
We always enjoy the “True-Life Adventures” films. It can be hard to mentally prepare for some of the more difficult or graphic scenes. So far we just watch them together and deal with things as they come up. I am thankful that while we aren’t able to go to Africa, we can at least watch movies like this and see things we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.

Suggested Special Activities:
We love to cook internationally, so we used this opportunity to make Kuku Paka (Kenyan Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce) and it was delicious! It’s always a good idea to try new foods. If you are hesitant to branch out, a movie night is a great way to go about it! 

African Lion


Which of these movies have you seen? We’d love to hear from you!  Hope you are your family are staying well! For the next 10 Movies, check out the next post Movies 31-40 here.

Have a magical day!

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