The Great Disney Movie Challenge: Movies 31-40

Disney Movie Challenge

If you had told me a year ago that we were going to basically cancel 2020, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet, here we are. More than 7 months into this COVID thing, and Disneyland isn’t even open yet! We have been taking this as an opportunity to watch Every Disney Movie Ever Made. It’s been one of the most memorable and enjoyable things I have ever done at home and I’m super glad that we went for it.

To get a copy of our list and watch along with us, check out our first post with the whole printable list of all of the movies. Movies 1-10 here, Movies 11-20 here, and Movies 21-30 here.

This next set of movies covers “The Littlest Outlaw” to “White Wilderness.” You can tell that there are quite a few similarities with the live action movies up to this point. Walt obviously had an affinity for animals and the Civil War. The movies have similar themes during this time and in a lot of ways all blend together.

Included are some classics that our family had never seen like Davy Crockett’s first feature length film and Old Yeller. We’ve got more “True-Life Adventures,” including the first (and only) to be labelled as a “True Life Fantasy.” And then the rest of this set are live action movies that we had never heard of before! Some we enjoyed, many we did not. You may also be wondering why “Johnny Tremain” is BOLD on our list (meaning that it’s on our “must watch list” for Disney Park Connections)… more on all of that below!

Movies from this post:

31. The Littlest Outlaw (Dec 22, 1955)
32. The Great Locomotive Chase (Jun 8, 1956)
33. Davy Crockett and the River Pirates (Jul 18, 1956)
34. Secrets of Life (Nov 6, 1956)
35. Westward Ho the Wagons! (Dec 20, 1956)
36Johnny Tremain (Jun 19, 1957)
37. The Story of Perri (Aug 28, 1957)
38. Old Yeller (Dec 25, 1957)
39. The Light in the Forest (Jul 9, 1958)
40. White Wilderness (Aug 12, 1958)

 

Introducing Erica
A year ago in Disney 🙁

31. The Littlest Outlaw
watched March 28th, 2020

Release Date: December 22, 1955
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 73 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (rental), Amazon Prime (US)

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
6 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection: None (although visiting the Mexican Pavilion in Epcot at Walt Disney World is a good idea if you want a tie-in to the Mexican culture in this film)

About: 
A 10 year old boy named Pablito is the main character; he’s a little boy with a big heart, and you will find yourself rooting for him… especially in light of the cruel horse trainer that is his step-father. In charge of training a Mexican General’s horse for a jumping competition, the step-father unfortunately uses pain as a motivator. This causes the horse to no longer want to jump, and the horse is ordered to be killed. In comes our hero Pablito to save the horse, at great risk to himself. The rest of the movie follows him (and the horse) and their adventures as fugitives.

The film was made entirely in Mexico, and beautifully highlights Mexican culture. While not one of the top Disney live action films, it certainly has its charms.

Our Impressions:
The themes in this movie spoke to us. The idea of standing up for what’s right, even when it’s difficult, is a wonderful moral in the story. Standing up against abuse is also an important message, and as parents we sure used this movie to share that with our girls. We loved the little actor who played Pablito, and there are many memorable sound bites! As much as the movie isn’t super relatable to us today, there honestly is just something about these older movies that Walt had a hand in producing.

We didn’t like the animal cruelty in the film… both to the horse and during the bull fight. It’s just too much. I know it’s a cultural thing, and it wasn’t as big of a deal 70 years ago, but they are still animals, and it was hard to watch at times. There was also a scene where the abuse of the step-father involves Pablito (albeit he stepped in front of the horse), and that was very hard to watch.

Being one of four sisters, plus a mom of three girls, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in regards to gender equality… both in the quantity of roles in films and in how females are depicted on screen. There’s one line in this film that really stuck with my girls, “If I was a boy you would let me.” We always try to use these types of moments to explain what was, where we are now, and how far we still have to go.

Quotes:
“I’d bet my wife on that house,” and “don’t bet money you don’t have” were our favourite lines in the movie.

Suggested Special Activities:
The movie is filmed and set in Mexico, so anything to do with honouring the culture is your best bet! Fish tacos would be delicious. We went with a simple Taco Popcorn Mix that I saw on Food Network. It is SO delicious.
Here’s the recipe!

32. The Great Locomotive Chase
watched March 28th, 2020

Release Date: June 8, 1956
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 85 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (rental)

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
5.5 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection:
Railways of some kind can be found in every Disney Park around the world. It is widely known that Walt had a love for trains, and was quoted as saying, “I suppose I’ve always been in love with trains.” So not a direct link between movie and park, but certainly a connection none-the-less.

– Disneyland: Disneyland Railroad takes you around the entire park with stops on Main Street, New Orleans Square, Toontown/Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

– Walt Disney World: Walt Disney World Railroad circles Magic Kingdom park but has been closed since 2018 for the construction of the TRON Lightcycle Rollercoaster. Fort Wilderness Railroad operated from 1974 to 1980 at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Wildlife Express Train runs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom from Harambe, Africa to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and back again.

– Disneyland Paris: Disneyland Railroad, used for transportation to various areas of the park or to experience “The Grand Circle Tour.”

– Hong Kong Disneyland: Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad is different in that it’s not a steam engine like the rest, but diesel powered.

– Tokyo Disneyland: Western River Railroad is an attraction only, as it has just the one station.

About:
The first of way too many (in my opinion) Civil War movies, this film is based off of a true story from 1862. It stars Fess Parker, who we already know as Davy Crockett, and who is definitely a “featured actor” in this period of Disney movies. Parker plays James Andrews, who is the leader of a group of Union Soldiers from Ohio that volunteer to steal a Confederate train outside of Atlanta, and bring it back to Tennessee. Things don’t go planned as they are pursued along the railroad and the mission takes on new twists and turns.

As previously mentioned, Walt had a real thing for locomotives and railroads, which is evident in the fact that he spent a good deal of time on set… even though Disneyland had opened only months before. Interestingly, the locomotive from the true story (the “General”) can still be seen in Georgia today. The film wasn’t as successful as Disney had hoped, and opened to mixed reviews.

Our Impressions:
While it’s an impressive and interesting premise, the movie was rather dull. We really wanted to enjoy it, because the story is so promising, but it just didn’t keep our interest all that much. It kind of needs to figure out where to land… part historical drama, part adventure flick, even some attempts at interjecting musical elements… all jammed into one. Bottom line, if you know the story, love Fess Parker, love trains, or enjoy American History, then this here is your film. (Full disclosure, my husband loved the movie and still talks about it all these months later!)

As is true in all of these earlier films, there are dated references and moments that would nowadays be classified as culturally insensitive. What surprised us in this movie is that a family friendly brand like Disney would ever think it’s okay to green light name calling such as “white trash” and “Damn Yankees.” Let me tell you, we had some conversations about name calling after this movie in our house.

Suggested Special Activities:
We made a snack train! It was real easy, we just found an engine (from our Christmas boxes, if we’re being honest) and placed white containers on the track. Just fill it up with snacks you have around the house and voila!

33. Davy Crockett and the River Pirates
watched March 29th, 2020

Release Date: July 18, 1956
Original Release: Theatrical Release (comprised of the final two episodes of the television miniseries)
Run Time: 81 min
Where to Watch: Disney+

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
8 out of 10

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.

About:
The first Davy Crockett film, comprised of the initial three episodes of his television miniseries, proved to be so popular that Disney created two more episodes… strangely they took place BEFORE the other movie. In fact, if I wasn’t doing this movie challenge chronologically I would suggest watching this one first, and King of the Wild Frontier second.

As the film is made up of two episodes there are two separate stories. In the first part, Crockett and his best friend Russell are transporting pelts from their home in Tennessee to Kentucky, and they have a run-in with villain Mike Fink, who calls himself the “King of the River.” Hilarity ensues with a keelboat race between the two friends and Fink. In the second part, Crockett and Russell seek out traders to buy horses; however, they discover that pirates have disguised themselves as Indigenous people and must bring justice to save the day.

Our Impressions:
When we told the girls the next movie was a second Davy Crockett film, we were confronted with extremely loud boos and chants of protest. Thankfully they settled in, and we definitely enjoyed this one more! The story was more compelling, and the villain was truly excellent… Mike Fink was everything that you want in a villain! We found it to be funny and engaging, and there are scenes we would watch again and again. The songs, story and humour redeemed the Davy Crockett blues for the girls and we gave it a solid 8/10. I don’t know if it’s just because we are Canadian, but we have no real ties or nostalgia when it comes to the real history of Davy Crockett. Our dad was born and raised in Ohio and he’s always loved Frontierland, and we do too… but not for the same reasons I think.

Suggested Special Activities:
With the big keelboat race down the river being a main plot point, we decided to grab some bath toys of various sizes and have our own race! The local water park usually has something that works great, or you could find a stream or creek. We had a bit of a fail the first time around, but then moved to a second location and that worked much better. Kids of all ages will love racing boats/rafts down any amount of water!

34. Secrets of Life
watched March 30th, 2020

Release Date: November 6, 1956
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 70 min
Where to Watch: Disney+

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
3.5 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection: None… although one could wonder if A Bug’s Life was inspired by this film, and consequently A Bug’s Land in DCA, which is no longer with us (R.I.P.).

About:
Another film in the “True-Life Adventures” series, this movie spotlights “never before seen footage” in nature including the sun, moon, planets, insects and volcanoes. It’s meant to highlight aspects of life that we haven’t really thought much about through the use of time-lapse video and musical film sequences. The quote, “the spark of life is vital,” seems to be the theme of the film. It explores the idea that there are two dilemmas every living thing faces: survival and reproduction. Bees, ants, spiders, water, lava all take centre stage in this movie, which declares itself to be “the most amazing and miraculous True-Life Adventure feature.”

Our Impressions:
As you might’ve guessed from our score, we enjoyed this film the LEAST of all the “True-Life Adventures” films so far. It was like watching paint dry. To be fair, it’s just not a novelty to see close-ups of insects and animals anymore. I get that at the time it was likely pretty fascinating, but with newer documentaries (not to mention “A Bug’s Life” and other animated favourites) it’s just feels dated and dull. Occasionally there would be a short sequence that would keep our attention (we liked when they showed the male crabs trying to get the females attention). It felt more educational than entertaining, and was extremely scientific. The film boasts “state-of-the-art” techniques to answer (IMO) questions that no one is asking.

Suggested Special Activities:
Remember the after school snack “ants on a log” that your mom made? Well I didn’t have Cheez Whiz, so we used what I did have, and made some insect on a log snacks. It was a huge hit!

  • Ants on a Log: peanut butter and raisins
  • Spiders on a Log: Nutella and chocolate chips (this was the universal favourite for the kids)
  • Beetles on a Log: strawberry cream cheese and craisins (this was a bit sweet, might try regular cream cheese next time)

Secrets of life

35. Westward Ho the Wagons! 
watched March 31st, 2020

Release Date: December 20, 1956
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 90 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (rental)

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
3 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection:
– Disneyland: 
When you enter Frontierland, on the right hand side, you will see the store “Westward Ho, Trading Co.” This is a huge pin store, and a direct connection to this film.

Westward Ho the Wagons

About: 
The first (and certainly not the last) of the Disney “Western Film” genre, this film follows a few families that decide to move to Oregon together in 1846. It is based off of a book called “Children of the Covered Wagon” and stars the infamous Fess Parker, who plays “Doc” John Grayson. The group faces obstacles and challenges along the way, and fear they won’t make it to Oregon. Grayson helps save the son of a Sioux Chief, and that helps the gang get safely to their destination.

The movie was filmed on a ranch in Thousand Oaks California, now known as Wildwood Regional Park. True Disney fans will also notice that four of the original Mouseketeers are in the film (Tommy, Doreen, Cubby and Karen). One thing that makes these films uniquely Disney is the addition of music. Parker’s song “Wringle Wrangle” was released as a single and you can listen to it on YouTube hereyou’re welcome! Reception of the film was middle of the road, but people sure did love Fess Parker.

Our Impressions:
While the tagline sounds pretty exciting (“Walt Disney tells the real story of the fighting families who won the West!”), the movie is anything but… it didn’t keep any of our interests and was pretty forgettable. This is where we started to notice that many of the movies are pretty formulaic… similar topics (nature and animals, the American frontier, historical adventures) repeat themselves over and over.

Our youngest, Lex, when one of the boys was taken, said, “I wouldn’t take other people cause they might have the coronavirus, or the fleas”… which really speaks of the times we are living in, doesn’t it?

Funny comments aside, with a score of 3/10, this is one of our lowest ranked movies so far.

Suggested Special Activities:
We kept things super simple for this movie and made an Oregon Trail Mix. You can really use anything that you have, but all of the recipes I found used either dried cherries or blueberries (I used cherries and cranberries), hazelnuts (always!), dark chocolate chunks, some sort of seed (we used pepitas), and then I added pretzels for a salty element. Some of the kids liked the hazelnuts, some didn’t, but I thought it was delicious!

Oregon Trail Mix

36.  Johnny Tremain
watched April 3rd, 2020

Release Date: June 19, 1957
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 80 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (rental)

Awards: None 
Jones Family Rating:
6 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection:
During the time of production for this movie, Walt was planning an expansion of Main Street in Disneyland that would be called “Liberty Street.” It never came to fruition, but after he passed, Disney Imagineers created “Liberty Square” in Walt Disney World based on Walt’s original concept. The Imagineers even transported a 100 year old live oak tree that was growing on property about 6 miles from the Magic Kingdom into the area. The
“Liberty Tree” as it has come to be known contains 13 lanterns that represent the 13 original American colonies.

Liberty Square is one of the six “lands” in the Magic Kingdom, and was present on opening day. It holds classic attractions like the Haunted Mansion and Hall of Presidents. It also houses the Rivers of America, and the Liberty Belle Riverboat. There is a replica of the Liberty Bell in this area, and it is where you will find one of the more popular quick service restaurants, “Columbia Harbor House.” Here where you can enjoy lobster rolls, chicken pot pie, grilled shrimp and fish, and more!

About: 
Based on the Newbery Award winning novel of the same name, this children’s book turned movie retells key historical events that take place in Boston before the American Revolution. Johnny Tremain is a silversmith’s apprentice who becomes a messenger for the Sons of Liberty, secretly informing members of the whereabouts and times for their meetings. There are plenty of twists and turns as Johnny finds himself front and center for the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s Ride, and The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.

UBI:
The tagline for the movie, “Run.. Johnny… Run!,” hit us in the funny bone because it really has very little to do with anything in the movie as a whole.

Our Impressions:
I wish we had realized while watching that there is such a strong park connection as that always makes things more interesting for us! The movie was pretty memorable, certainly we felt for Johnny and were rooting for him during the film. While it was still “another war movie,” this one at least had an interesting plot.

We noticed quite a few references to Christianity, or at least the Christianity of that day. For instance, there is a bell rung for evening prayer and they read the Bible (and even quote it). Most notably is when Johnny breaks the Sabbath to work; he is told, “We could go to jail for breaking the Sabbath!,” and Johnny replies, “Only if we get caught!”

Suggested Special Activities:
As you may or may not know we live in Canada, so in school we learn Canadian History, and very little to no American History at all. I felt like this was an appropriate way to explain a little more about the Boston Tea Party to the girls. I sat them down and we went over the details, explaining the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The activity I chose, which ties into both the movie and the history, is a “Tea Bag Challenge.” I gave our girls 10 minutes to find things around the house (the only rule being it couldn’t be something that seals already) and make something they thought could keep a tea bag dry. It was a fun 10 minutes of searching followed by a fun 30 seconds of watching their tea bags get drenched, and then a not so fun 20 minutes cleaning up all of the mess! (But isn’t that always the way?) Hopefully they have some takeaways from this hands on experiment and lesson.

37. The Story of Perri 
watched April 4th, 2020

Release Date: August 28, 1957
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 75 min
Where to Watch: Disney+

Awards: Nominated for an Academy Award (Best Music, Score)
Jones Family Rating:
7 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection: None

About:
The Story of Perri is the fifth of the “True-Life Adventures” films, and weirdly, the only one labeled as a “True Life Fantasy” film. It’s a hybrid of a fictional story and and educational/documentary film. The story was originally written by Felix Salten, who also wrote Bambi. It was filmed in Uinta National Forest in the state of Utah and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. (We love that some of these “True Life Adventures” films have been set/filmed in the North and Western States, as we did a really fun “9 states in 12 days” road trip with our girls a couple of years ago… you can read about that trip here.)

The film starts with beautiful little animals and scenery. It follows a family of pine squirrels and shows how difficult it is to survive in the forest. *Spoiler Alert*: Don’t get too attached to the squirrel family! The movie shifts tone quickly, moving from the peaceful and lovely into harrowing life or death adventures!

The Story of Perri was well received at its time of release. Interestingly, Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew, is one of the photographers. Walt originally wanted Bambi to be live action, and since Perri was also written by Salten, it’s not a stretch to think that Walt may have pushed for Perri to not be animated. Walt is quoted as saying about the film: “It’s a very unusual story; different from anything we’ve ever done. And to bring it to the screen we wanted to create something entirely new in motion pictures. We would combine the real and the unreal. Nature’s truth with the fantasy of fiction. In short: create a True-Life Fantasy.”

Jackson Hole Wyoming
A playground we visited in Jacksonville Wyoming

Our Impressions:
First of all, did Disney think it through to have this film and Old Yeller released back to back in 1957? Definitely a bad year for cute and lovable animals on film. Besides the difficult pieces though, it really is very cute and has a sweet story. It seems that in all of the “True-Life Adventures” films there is some tragic ending for at least one beloved animal. Audrey (our oldest) actually said at one point, “It’s like Avengers Endgame for animals.” If you are sensitive to animal tragedy, you could in theory skip minutes 4 to 17 of Perri.

Suggested Special Activities:
We made really cute acorn doughnuts! If you want to be real extra, then you can get fall shaped sprinkles. We just went super simple and got beige/brown doughnuts from Tim Hortons (honey and pumpkin spice flavoured), melted a little chocolate (literally any will do, I melted down a Spider-Man chocolate from Easter, haha!), dipped the doughnuts, and then stuck part of a pretzel in the top. Voila! A perfect snack pairing for this movie.

38. Old Yeller
watched April 4th, 2020

Release Date: December 25, 1957
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 83 min
Where to Watch: Disney+

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
9.5 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection: None

About: *spoiler alert*
One of the more familiar live action films in the Walt Disney catalogue, Old Yeller is the story of two boys that adopt a stray dog. The dad has to go off to a cattle drive and leaves Travis as “the man of the house” on the Texas ranch where they live with his mom and brother Arliss. The dad is played by Fess Parker (who we know by now as Davy Crockett), and the boys are played by Kevin Corcoran (Arliss) and Tommy Kirk (Travis), two of the original Mouseketeers (who we recognized from Swiss Family Robinson, which we’d seen a few times before this challenge).

Arliss is the star of the show as a trouble maker who’s always bringing bugs and animals into the house. When a dog shows up on their property, they keep him, much to Travis’ dismay. Arliss and Old Yeller get into a world of trouble together, as a dog and a boy often do. Travis’ opinion of Yeller changes from dislike to love after the dog (named after the colour of his fur and the sound he makes when he howls) saves Arliss from a bear attack. Yeller and Travis start to grow really close, when the movie takes a dark turn and Yeller contracts rabies after once again saving the family (this time from a rabid wolf). Travis has the horrible and scarring task of having to “take care” of Yeller in order to keep the family safe.

Thankfully, the movie ends with the family finding a fresh start; Old Yeller and the neighbour’s dog had puppies, and ends in a warm way.

Our Impressions:
Can I just start by saying, who thought it was a good idea to release this movie on CHRISTMAS DAY?!?! I mean, I think we all know what happens… even if you haven’t seen the movie, if you’ve seen Friends or know pop culture in any way, you know what’s going to happen, right? (Anyone else hear Phoebe’s voice saying, “What are you doing with that gun, Travis?”) Why we thought it was a good plan to watch this as a double feature with Perri, I have no idea!

That being said, it’s a VERY good movie. It gets you in the feels, it’s cleverly written, it’s heart-warming, and has more funny parts than we ever imagined! Little Kevin Corcoran is fantastic as the annoying little brother. We laughed pretty much every single time he was on screen, whether he had lines or not. His character created some much needed comedic relief! 

We had a lot of good conversations after the movie, which up to this point in the movie challenge wasn’t super common. It must’ve been interesting to go to the theatres and NOT know what to expect. In an age without social media, I wonder how long it took for audiences to have the ending spoiled?

There were a few notable things as well…

  • At one point the wife says, “Goodbye, Jim Dear,” which I feel has to be an homage to Lady and the Tramp?
  • Our favourite quote (I guess we like dark humour?) was when Arliss says, “Well you were sick. Why didn’t we shoot you too?”
  • And then the tearjerker moment when Arliss asks, “How far off is heaven?”

I’ve often wondered why this movie is a classic and something that people continue to watch knowing the outcome. Now that I’ve seen it, I would definitely watch it again! (And kind of wish that I had seen it when I was younger.) We learned that there is also a much lesser known sequel called “Savage Sam” (#82 on our list), which features Yeller’s son. (Son? Is that the right term?) I also read that this movie was added to the coveted “Library of Congress National Films” list in 2019. This list is meant to preserve American History and films must be deemed culturally relevant in order to make the list.

Suggested Special Activities:
We made golden yellow cupcakes, and really simple cupcake toppers. My oldest’s dog illustration is significantly better than anything that I can draw, haha! I used circle cutters, pencil crayons, tape and toothpicks. It was the perfect pick-me-up treat to go along with this movie!

39. The Light in the Forest
watched April 5th, 2020

Release Date: July 9, 1958
Original Release:  Theatrical Release
Run Time: 83 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (free)

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
4.5 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection: None specifically… but you could spend some time at the American Pavilion in Epcot at Walt Disney World, and view the Native American art at the “Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art” exhibit“.

American Pavilion

About:
Certainly not one of the more culturally sensitive films, this movie is set in 1764 and follows the events of the peace treaty between the English settlers and the Indigenous Delaware tribe. The film is based off of the book of the same name. The two groups agree that the British will stop invading the Delaware land in exchange for the captives. Included in the captives is Johnny Butler (played by James MacArthur, who we see in many more theatrical releases). He was raised by the Delaware tribe, taking on the name True Son, but is forced to go back with his family.

This proves to be difficult for him and his birth parents, but he eventually learns how to integrate back into the family and culture… and wouldn’t you know, the help of a pretty girl (Myra) doesn’t hurt. He faces many challenges as he transitions back into a world he never knew, including an Uncle that hates the Indigenous people, and struggles with how to fit in. Enter the man himself, Disney Legend Fess Parker (aka, “freaking Davy Crockett,” as our girls loudly proclaimed!), as Johnny’s interpreter, Del Hardy. Through Del, Johnny is able to see that not all white people are bad. Enter the moral of the story: skin colour doesn’t determine whether a person is good or bad.

While the film itself is fictional, there are some “true story” elements. The town of Paxton is historically relevant, and several of the people in the film are based off of real people. If you’re a history buff, there are several sites that you can visit to get the ins and outs of these details.

Our Impressions:
While maybe not the intent of the film, let’s be honest, it hasn’t aged overly well and is rather “cringe-worthy.” Walking the line between honouring both American History and the culture of the Indigenous Delaware people proves to be tricky, and comes across as rather stereotypical and demeaning. However, we did learn a lot from the film and good conversations were had about history and its impact on our modern culture.

There are some endearing parts; the scene where Johnny and his friend Half Arrow steal a canoe was pretty funny. We drew some parallels between this film and Tarzan, in that Johnny didn’t feel like he really belonged in either world. Our favourite line was the mention of “the art and trade of house wifery” (the girls got a real kick out of that one). Overall, we are grateful that we were able to find the movie and watch it, as it does speak to what we can do better and how we can improve as humans. Some days it feels like we have further to go than others!

Suggested Special Activities:
After watching the movie I felt strongly that we needed to do something honouring of the Delaware Tribe. Our girls’ school does an amazing job of recognizing that we are on the land of the Salish people. They start all assemblies, and end all emails, with, “I gratefully acknowledge that the land on which we work, learn, and play is the traditional and unceded territory of the Katzie, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and other Coast Salish Peoples.”

I knew that it would be a good idea to pause and do some teaching with my girls. We spent some time on the Delaware Tribe website, and then drew the crest. I hoped it would be educational and honouring of the tribe, rather than an hour and a half movie soon forgotten.

40. White Wilderness
watched April 5th, 2020

Release Date: August 12, 1958
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 72 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (rental)

Awards: Won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Music, Score
Jones Family Rating:
7.5 out of 10

Disney Parks Connection: None… though several scenes did remind us of the Polar bear scene from “Soarin’ Around the World” in Epcot and Disney’s California Adventure!

soarin'

About:
ANOTHER of the Disney “True-Life Adventures” films (it really feels like, despite how long it must’ve taken to film these, they pumped them all out in a big lump!) this film highlights animals that live in the “white wildness” of the Arctic, like the polar bear, walrus, beluga whale, and lemming.

The movie has come under fire for several reasons. The first being that when it features the lemmings, the narrator states that they participate in a “mass suicide.” It’s even been covered by Snopes! Unfortunately, it appears the filmmakers coerced the lemmings off the cliff into the water to “simulate” what happens IRL in the Arctic Sea. There was even a documentary made about “White Wilderness,” called “Cruel Camera,” that exposes this fact. Unfortunately, this was legal at the time of filming. The movie is also said to have filmed one of the polar bear scenes in studio. We have no way of knowing if Disney himself knew or approved of such tactics. 

Our Impressions:
Blissfully unaware of any controversy at the time of watching this film (we try to go into each film with as few spoilers as possible, and then researching more AFTER we watch), we found it both enjoyable and interesting. The cinematography of the bears and belugas is fantastic. We rated it the highest of the “True-Life Adventures” films in that we all found it to be enjoyable. Certainly had we known about some of the tactics used it would’ve likely tainted the viewing experience and the enjoyment level. (We did pause the film to research the “mass suicides” of the lemmings as that struck us as being quite strange.)

Suggested Special Activities:
We kept it uber simple for this one. Vanilla yogurt, mixed with Greek yogurt (for added protein and less sugar of course), plus bananas and blueberries to make polar bears. It was super cute, tasty, and not a huge time suck! Really happy with this one!

white wilderness
That’s all of the movies for now! I am so thankful for the distraction and joy that this challenge has brought… even when we have to pull some teeth to get the kids to watch!

I feel like I’m a more rounded Disney fan now, and able to appreciate things about the parks and history of Disney in a whole new way!

Have you seen any of these movies? We’d love to hear from you!

Have a magical day!
Erica

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