The Great Disney Movie Challenge: Movies 41-50

The Disney Movie Challenge

We are really enjoying watching Every Disney Movie Ever Made! In a lot of ways, this challenge has exceeded my expectations. There is no other way that I would’ve been able to a) watch this many Disney movies in a year and b) convince my husband and three daughters to watch these movies over some of the things they individually enjoy. There have been so many movies we just wouldn’t have watched otherwise, or truthfully even known about!

If you’d like to print or view the complete list, head on over to the first blog post: Every Disney Movie Ever Made. I’ve written blog posts on the previous 40 movies including Animated Classics (like Snow White, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland), new favourites (like The Reluctant Dragon, Old Yeller) and movies we’ve loved to hate (Davy Crockett!). To catch up, check out the posts Movies 1-10, Movies 11-20, Movies 21-30, and Movies 31-40.

In this next set of Disney movies (41-50) there are several that relate strongly to Disney Parks (in bold), the Animated Classic “Sleeping Beauty,” the first made for TV Disney “movie” (in italics), “The Shaggy Dog,” and several films we’d never watched (or truthfully even heard of). As you will read in the breakdowns, we did quite enjoy this section of movies! Continue reading for our thoughts, any Disney Park connections from the films, and an activity or snack/meal that pairs nicely for a Family Movie Night!

Films in this post:
41. Tonka (Dec 25, 1958)
42. Sleeping Beauty (Jan 29, 1959)
43. The Shaggy Dog (Mar 19, 1959)
44. Darby O’Gill and the Little People (Jun 24, 1959)
45. Zorro, the Avenger (Sep 10, 1959)
46. Moochie of the Little League (Oct 2, 1959)
47. Third Man on the Mountain (Nov 10, 1959)
48. *Journey to the Center of the Earth (Dec 16, 1959)
49. Jungle Cat (Dec 16, 1959)
50. Toby Tyler, or 10 Weeks with a Circus (Jan 21, 1960)

41. Tonka
watched April 6th, 2020

Release Date: December 25, 1958
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 97 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (rental)

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
4 out of 10
Tagline: “The untold story behind the west’s strangest legend!”

Disney Parks Connection: There is no direct connection, but you can definitely see how the entire Frontierland area in Disneyland and Walt Disney World (as well as “Western Land” in Tokyo Disney) is closely tied to this movie (and others like it). Frontierland takes you back to the days of cowboys, pioneers and the “good ‘ole west”.


Tonka (aka “A Horse Named Camanche”) is based off a book about a heroic horse and was filmed in Bend, Oregon. (Fun Fact: Bend, Oregon is the only place in the world that still has a Blockbuster Video!) Simply put, this movie is about a “young Indian brave” named White Bull. White Bull is determined to tame a wild stallion that he names “Tonka” (hence the movie’s title). Plot twist, White Bull’s cruel cousin takes Tonka for his own and abuses him, so White Bull sets Tonka free in a true test of love. Tonka then ends up in the possession of a captain in the US Calvary, where he remains until the paths of all the characters come together at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Our Impressions:
Truthfully, this movie was just not memorable. It felt very cookie cutter for the “adventure film” genre of the time. We didn’t think it was terrible, but certainly isn’t on a repeat watch list. The one quote that stuck with us is: “That horse runs like a scared Comanche with a load of buckshot in his breeches.” Which also caused us to pause and look up the meaning of the word “Comanche”: an Indigenous nation/people from the Great Plains of America.

Suggested Special Activities:
We kept it real basic for this one and did a western photo booth. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. You can print photo booth props, or use things from around the house. We used the cowboy stuff from our dress up bins, and moustaches from the game Moustache Smash. (You can also purchase a 48 pack of mustaches here.)

42. Sleeping Beauty
watched April 7th, 2020

Release Date: January 29, 1959
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 77 min
Where to Watch: Disney+, Disney DVD/Blu-Ray

Awards: Nominated for Academy Award (Best Scoring of a Musical Picture)
Jones Family Rating:
8.5 out of 10
Tagline: “Wonderous to see, glorious to hear…A magnificent new motion picture”

Disney Parks Connection: Aurora is one of the main princesses that can be seen in many different locations throughout all of the Disney Parks, including parades, character meals (when they are available), and meet & greets. With COVID, much of this has changed, but she still has a presence in the parks, as well as plenty of merch. Maleficent also plays a big part in Fantasmic!, which is one of the shows we see every time we visit.

– Disneyland: 
The castle at the end of Main Street is none other than Sleeping Beauty Castle. What I hadn’t connected, however, is that it was built in 1955. Sleeping Beauty wasn’t released until 1959, so the castle was used as promotion for the movie! The castle sits at the centre of Disneyland; not only can you walk across the drawbridge (connecting the main hub of the park with Fantasyland), but you can walk inside the castle where there are storybooks and scenes from the movie throughout. This part of the attraction opened in 1957 (two years before the movie itself was released).

– Disneyland Paris: This version of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is a bit smaller than the one in Disneyland, but it’s Sleeping Beauty none the less. It doesn’t have a walk through attraction like Disneyland, but instead you can enter the dungeon where you can see the dragon. There is also a balcony area with stained glass windows and shops.

– Hong Kong Disney: The castle used to be Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (literally a carbon copy, just different colours), but was changed in November 2020 to the Castle of Magical Dreams which celebrates 14 Disney princesses (including Sleeping Beauty). 

– Shanghai Disney: Dine at Aurora, a fine dining restaurant with views of Enchanted Storybook Castle (which celebrates many of the princesses, not just one in particular).

One of the more iconic animated feature films, and a “Princess film” too boot, Sleeping Beauty is classic in every way. Interestingly, it is the last of the “fairy tale” films that Walt (and the company itself) produced for quite some time, in that the next one was 30 years later with “The Little Mermaid.” Sleeping Beauty didn’t do as well as the studio had hoped, opening to mixed reviews and underwhelming crowds.

The movie took nine years to develop (it was pitched in 1950, and released in 1959). The score is adapted from the “Sleeping Beauty Ballet” written by Peter Tchaikovsky. Stylistically, it looks very different than the other films in that it leans more medieval and art deco, and is the last Disney Animated film to use traditional ink cels.

Our Impressions:
It always surprises me how I love the IDEA of this movie more than the film itself. While it is very beautiful, and Aurora is lovely, and the fairies are quirky and fun, it is equally as slow moving and under developed. It’s certainly not a film I need to watch over and over again. There are plenty of memorable parts (the fairies making Briar Rose’s birthday cake or the dance sequence with “Make it pink! Make it blue!” for instance), but IMO it leaves a lot to be desired.

Maleficent is magnificent, as any villain should be. And is it interesting to anyone else that the first THREE “Disney Princess” movies all have female villains? (Incredibly iconic ones at that!)

There are a lot of similarities between this and Snow White. For instance, they barely know their “princes,” and yet they fall head over heels in love. Plus they both have an affinity for woodland animals.

I find it to be a hard sell for kids. The girls loved certain parts, but got a bit restless for others. It’s not a long movie, so at least when they were “lost” for a few moments, they came back quickly.

Suggested Special Activities:
There are no shortage of ideas when it comes to Sleeping Beauty. (This donut cake from Disney Family is ADORABLE!) We did a simple snack mix. I really wanted to find a cereal that looked like a spinning wheel, but I couldn’t find one (at least not in Canada!). Honeycomb cereal, pretzels, and popcorn worked well… add pink and blue candies and you are good to go! (I used a spring mix of peanut M&M’s and then picked out the pink and blue ones).

43. The Shaggy Dog 
watched April 8th, 2020

Release Date: March 19, 1959
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 104 min
Where to Watch: Disney+, Disney DVD

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
8 out of 10
Tagline: “The funniest shaggy dog story ever told!”

Disney Parks Connections: None

The OG of the Shaggy Dog films (there are 4!). This film is in black and white, which threw us because the title screen on Disney+ is in colour… and I remember watching it in colour as a kid. If your heart is set on colour, you can get it on DVD (it’s also 10 minutes shorter that way).

The movie has an “all star” cast as far as we’re concerned, with Fred MacMurray (the highest paid actor at this time), Annette Funicello (in her first feature performance), Kevin Corcoran and Tommy Kirk. This was a good call on Disney’s party as these TV actors from the Mickey Mouse Club were already familiar to the audience. It did exceptionally well at the box office, coming in second for the year (behind only Ben-Hur). The Shaggy Dog was the most profitable movie produced by Walt Disney Productions in the 1950’s, and definitely hit the sweet spot between being for both kids and adults. 

While the plot was no surprise to any of us, I can imagine it might’ve been a bit of a hard sell when pitching this film originally. Loosely based off of a book, the story, simply put, is of a boy named Wilby who accidentally turns into a sheepdog because of a cursed ring, and all of the hi-jinks that ensue.

Wilby, as the dog, gets rather mixed up in a conspiracy and hears a plot to steal a government secret. All of a sudden, we don’t just have a teenager that turns into an animal; now we are thrown into a mystery. Through humour and various misfortunes the movie takes us through twists and turns and ends (as predicted) with the good guys winning, and the bad guys loosing. Good fun all around and the “magical” aspect never gets dark or scary for kids.

Our Impressions:
We gave this 8/10 because it’s a marvelous movie. It would’ve been higher, I think, if it hadn’t been in black and white. There are several other movies in black and white that we’ve watched up to this point (such as, the original
Swiss Family Robinson and Miracle on 34th Street) so the girls didn’t complain TOO much. We really enjoy Fred MacMurray, he’s become a favourite in our house and was fantastic in this film. The fun really lies in the fact that Wilby can’t control when he becomes a dog. It was amusing and clever, and we think this should be a staple for any Disney fan.

Suggested Special Activities:
I found a sheepdog box craft on Pinterest. I printed it and then we cut it out and glued it together. We had various degrees of success, but it was still fun nonetheless… and free other than the cost of printing.

44. Darby O’Gill and the Little People 
watched March 17th, 2020

Release Date: June 24, 1959
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 90 min
Where to Watch: Disney+

Awards: Winner of a Golden Globe in 1960 for New Star of the Year (Janet Munro)
Jones Family Rating:
9 out of 10
Tagline: “A touch O’Blarney… a heap O’Magic and a load O’Laughter!”

Disney Park Connections: In Adventureland in Disneyland, you can see the little man of Disneyland who is a leprechaun! While it is actually based on the Little Golden Book, we are going to say that this is a film connection because we want to. Also, at Halloween time you can see the Headless Horseman statue (which is most likely for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” animated film, but it works for this one as well).

Darby O’Gill is adapted from the stories of the same name by Herminie Templeton Kavanagh, and is categorized as a “fantasy adventure film.” It stars a young Sean Connery, as well as a few other actors that we didn’t recognize. Based in a small Irish town, the movie explores a father (Darby) and his daughter (Katie), who are caretakers for Lord Fitzpatrick’s estate. Side note… it was VERY refreshing to have a female lead. (Katie is played by Janet Munro, who is in a couple more movies coming up on the list.)

Sadly, Darby is forced to retire and replaced by a young Dubliner (Michael). Up to this point, the movie is pretty straightforward… and then Darby is taken captive by Brian and the leprechauns, and taken to their lair in the mountains (“Knocknasheega”). This is where the movie takes a weird turn, and we are taken on a journey of Darby attempting to escape. He is given three wishes, Katie gets involved and is struck with a deadly fever, the death banshee shows up (seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!), and Darby uses his third and final wish to save Katie. After a few more twists and turns the movie ends happily (would we expect anything else from a Disney movie?).

Our Impressions:
Surprisingly, this was a brand new film for all five of us! A friend of ours told us that this movie is one of their favourites so we were super excited about it! She told us to “maybe watch it without the girls first” but we didn’t have the time. I also have a bit of a thing in that I don’t like TOO many spoilers about movies and really like to enjoy them as the story unfolds. So it came as a complete surprise to us that all of a sudden there is a banshee and also a headless horseman! Phew, that was a bit of an obstacle to over come with the kids!

The girls, Dan and I rated it a high 9 because it was charming, interesting, and fun to watch. The girls were mesmerized with it in ways we hadn’t seen yet, and even said they would watch it again (likely skipping the banshee part, however). We would say that it’s more of a PG rating than the G it’s listed as on Disney+ for certain.

I think one of the reasons we enjoyed it so much is because it was new, and also because we loved Katie (both the actor, and the character). She’s in Swiss Family Robinson, which I made my family watch at least three times in the years before this challenge, so we knew of her. It’s no surprise that she won a Golden Globe for this film. It was incredibly refreshing (and much needed!) to see a strong female lead.

Suggested Special Activities:
Truth be told, we watched this one out of order so that we could do it on St. Patrick’s Day because it was too perfect to miss! We made Green Eggs and Ham of course (it’s even referenced in the song that Sean Connery sings!).

45. Zorro, the Avenger 
watched April 9th, 2020

Release Date: September 10, 1959
Original Release: Individual episodes on TV, then compiled together into a film and released in Japan only
Run Time: 91 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (Spanish dubbed)

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating: N/A
Tagline: “Danger, thrills, mystery and intrigue mounts when you join in the adventures of…”

Disney Parks Connection: None

The Zorro collection is a bit confusing in how it was released. From what we can tell, this is the first “released” film. It is 6 episodes of the TV show edited together, and is in black and white. The next film in the series, “The Sign of Zorro” (released in 1960), can be found on Disney+, but as far as this movie goes, I could only find it on YouTube in Spanish with English subtitles. It was hard to follow, but the gist is that the name “Zorro” stands for “The Fox,” he wears a mask to conceal his true identity, and is the OG avenger of injustice. 

Our Impressions:
Now that we are doing this challenge, I do wish I had purchased this series on the “Walt Disney Treasures” DVDs back in the day like I had with many of the others. The reason we didn’t do a family rating for this one is because we couldn’t find it in English to watch together, and I was the only one that toughed it out and watched it in Spanish. Definitely feel free to skip this one and go straight to “The Sign of Zorro,” which will give you enough of the Zorro experience.

Suggested Family Activities:
There are endless amounts of options for Zorro as the “Z” mark he leaves behind is iconic, and anything fox themed works as well. We were going to make Zorro cupcakes, but honestly cupcakes aren’t that nutritious and we needed muffins for school lunches. Since Zorro is Mexican, I went with a Churro theme for the muffins. I did a basic cinnamon muffin base (with 1/4 whole wheat flour), and then after they came out of the oven I melted some butter and dipped them in a cinnamon sugar mix. I did a buttercream icing for the “Z” and used too much milk so they dripped, but honestly, it worked out okay since the “Z” is always imperfect anyway! They turned out awesome and we would definitely make them again!

46. Moochie of the Little League 
watched April 24th, 2020

Release Date: October 2 and October 9, 1959
Original Release: Television Release (in two parts)
Run Time: 94 min
Where to Watch: YouTube

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
5 out of 10
Tagline: “A diamond is a boys best friend”

Disney Parks Connection: None

“Moochie” is the nickname both on screen and off for the beloved child actor Kevin Corcoran. He’s an OG Mickey Mouse Club kid, and is in a slew of movies around this time. This is a two part made-for-TV movie in black and white. The movie drops us into the middle of the story, with no real specific introductions to the characters or the town. In the end it doesn’t really matter as the plot is pretty straightforward. Moochie Morgan does his darnedest to shed the “small fry” image of his baseball team, and when the team is at risk of losing a place to play, Moochie makes it his mission to find them a new field.

Our Impressions:
I ended up watching this one on my own as the low video quality and general story, combined with the fact that it’s in black and white, made it pretty uninteresting for the girls. I think Moochie is super cute, but it did feel more like a “Wonderful World of Disney” episode than an actual TV movie. When it comes to the “TV movies” that Disney produced at this time, some “feel” like a movie, and some “feel” more like a two part TV show. Moochie definitely falls into the latter category. I do hope they remaster these old TV movies and put them on Disney+ as I believe they are a neat way to share about the time in which they were made, and they definitely have a place in the history of Disney films.

The story of Moochie and his baseball team was cute and memorable to me. I enjoy seeing the depiction of parenting/families in the late 50’s. Honestly, watching 70 years later, it’s crazy to see kids be outside all the live long day without a parent shadowing their every move. The parents are largely detached from what the kids are doing. It’s been 9 months now since viewing this film, and even though I didn’t take a lot of notes, I vividly remember each scene. For all of those reasons, I’m giving it a 5 out of 10.

Suggested Special Activities:
Anything baseball themed is going to work here! Play softball in the backyard or at a local field, or track down and eat some Cracker Jacks. One of our favourite treats is actually “Cracker Jack Sundaes,” which consist of vanilla ice cream, honey roasted peanuts, caramel sauce and popcorn! Don’t knock it ’til you try it… it’s a total game changer!!


47. Third Man on the Mountain
watched April 10th, 2020

Release Date: November 10, 1959
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 105 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (rental)

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
7.5 out of 10
Tagline: “Their strong love gave him the courage to defy tradition and challenge the ‘killer’ mountain”

Disney Park Connections: Surprisingly, this movie is based on the real Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland, which makes it a direct correlation to my favourite Disneyland ride, the Matterhorn Bobsleds! The ride and film both opened in 1959, which can’t be a coincidence! Listening to the score by William Alwyn we even think some of the music is played at the ride. Why this movie is not on Disney+ is beyond us! You can also catch the real life Matterhorn on Soarin’ Around the World at DCA and WDW.

Filmed in Switzerland, Third Man on the Mountain follows a young Swiss man who is determined to climb the mountain that killed his dad. It is based off of a novel, which in turn is loosely based off of a real life event from 1865. Interestingly, Walt picked the filming location because of previous ski trips, and he had all 170 cast and crew members take a mountaineering course before filming. As in the film itself, some danger was risked even in filming, which resulted in several close-call injuries.

While the plot isn’t a whole lot more detailed than already mentioned, the scenery itself was marketed as “breathtaking” and it certainly lived up to the hype. Thanks to Walt’s obsession with everything Swiss we have this beautiful film and a lovely section in Disneyland Park.

Our Impressions:
We were excited about this film for various reasons. We know (and love) the actors (Handsome Fritz and Roberta) and the theme of it excited us. We just LOVE the Matterhorn (it’s my favourite Disney Park ride) and that tie-in alone is very exciting. There were some perplexing moments… for instance, climbing a mountain in a SUIT? It was surprisingly intense at parts (climbing with the risk of death). Our favourite quote was when Rudi tells Lizbeth “You look nice I guess… even pretty”. Fun movie, we definitely recommend watching it!

Suggested Special Activities:
We made Matterhorn Macaroons! You can get these tasty treats in Disneyland. I made a super simple macaroon recipe I found online, and pressed it into a small funnel mold that I sprayed with cooking spray. I then placed them on a tray to bake. When they came out, I dipped them in melted white chocolate. They are VERY sweet, but also REALLY delicious… and the perfect pairing for this movie! If you want to go all out, make a meal that’s from Switzerland, play some Matterhorn music, and make a banner that is inspired by the ride and movie.

Two things that may help you:
– Silicone Funnel
– The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook (I received this cookbook as a gift since making them on my own and it has the actual recipe. Everything I’ve tried from the book so far I’ve enjoyed).


48. Journey to the Center of the Earth
watched April 11th, 2020

Release Date: December 16, 1959
Original Release: Theatrical Release (20th Century Fox)
Run Time: 129 (!!!) min
Where to Watch: Disney+

Awards: Nominated for 3 Academy Awards (Best Art Direction, Best Sound and Best Special Effects)
Jones Family Rating:
9 out of 10
Tagline: “A fabulous world below the world”

Disney Parks Connection: Tokyo Disney Sea has a major attraction called “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” It was originally conceived for an abandoned project called “Discovery Mountain” in Disneyland Paris. Instead of scrapping the idea altogether, it was re-imagineered into the attraction we can now ride at Disney Sea. It is one of three rides using the “Test Track” technology (Generation 1: Test Track – WDW, Generation 2: Journey to the Center of the Earth – TDS, and Generation 3: Radiator Springs Racers – DCA).

Also worth mentioning is the fact that the Rainbow Cavern from the movie is both in the video game “Epic Mickey 2” and the Mickey Mouse short “Nature’s Wonderland” (Season 4, Episode 8 on Disney+). It was fun that when the girls were watching the movie they all remembered that they’d seen “Rainbow Cavern” before in the shorts.

This movie is categorized as a “science fiction adventure film” and has been remade several times since the original. (Notably, it wasn’t originally released by Disney, but in fact, by 20th Century Fox.) It’s set in 1880 and follows a geologist Professor from the University of Edinburgh by the name of Sir Oliver Lindenbrook. His student Alec gives him a piece of volcanic rock, and they discover an inscription inside the rock. 300 years earlier the inscription was written by a scientist who had found a secret pathway in Iceland that led to the center of the Earth. A race to the center ensues between the Lindenbrook and a rival scientist, and we are thrown into the midst of a dangerous adventure.

Truly, the movie has a little bit of everything one needs. Interesting characters, mystery, suspense. A giant lizard. A little trauma involving a duck. What more could you want in an adventure pic?

Our Impressions:
While this movie is looooooooong, we all really enjoyed it. I think we liked it as much as we did because up to this point the “epic” films (Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues) have been underwhelming. This is the first of the more aggressively adventurous films that truly landed and felt as though the creative vision was fully realized. We did wonder if a large part of that is because it wasn’t even a Disney film at the time (which feels a bit like cheating on Disney, if I’m being honest). The film has been remastered and the visuals are super clear, which helps a LOT. We enjoyed the acting (particularly the grieving widow), the “murder mystery” aspect, and the duck that served as a wonderful running joke. We pulled out a bunch of sound bites (which out of context, may not be as funny) including:

  • “You dried up walnut of a man!”
  • “His name should be dumb”
  • “The hearing of all women is extremely acute”
  • “I may have been a disturbance to men but I’ve never been a burden”
  • “Madam, since the beginning of time, all women have heard footsteps ‘up there'”

Suggested Special Activities:
Since the movie involves a volcano, a volcano science experiment is super fun. Diet Coke and Mentos is another classic. We kept it really simple with the trendy game “The Floor is Lava.” You just have someone yell out, “The floor is lava in 3,2,1…” and everyone has to get off the floor. It’s fun, no mess, and good for the whole family.

49. Jungle Cat
watched April 12th, 2020

Release Date: December 16, 1959 (same day as “Journey to the Center of the Earth”)
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 70 min
Where to Watch: Disney+

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
7 out of 10
Tagline: “The jaguar… savage lord of the amazon”

Disney Park Connections: The Jungle Cruise attraction that can be found in four Disney Parks (Disneyland, Walt Disney World – Magic Kingdom, Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Resort) is said to be based off of Disney’s True-Life Adventure Films. Literally I read that right on Disneyland’s website! One of the sequences takes you through the Amazon where we see an Anaconda, which is a featured animal in the movie.

This documentary film is the last of the “True-Life Adventures” series from Walt Disney. It was filmed in Brazil, and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The main “plot” follows a female Jaguar (aka the “Jungle Cat”), but also explores other animals like a Pirarucu, Anaconda, Caiman and a Peccary (of which we had only heard of 2/4 before this lol). Another “survival of the fittest” story, with tons of facts and interesting dialogue about life in the jungle.

Our Impressions:
We have come to appreciate the True-Life Adventures films. In particular, with in-person school not happening during this season, it is a great way for the girls to see other parts of the world that we can’t visit and learn about nature. The best part is we watched it just after my dad went to Brazil for a work trip, and it was amazing to see waterfalls in the movie just like the ones he had sent us pictures of from his trip! We are always slightly apprehensive because we know these films can show a lot of the harsh realities found in nature (which it did). But we definitely enjoyed learning about how much animals use the water in Brazil, and specifically that “every animal in the jungle must swim.”

Baby animals in documentaries always provide plenty of entertainment, but because of the previous films in this series we’ve learned not to get too attached. The sequences with the sloths, monkeys and birds are all enjoyable and educational. The music and narration are great as well.

The girls also love wild cat films because they see so many similarities with our cats Parker and Sparrow even though they are house cats! The fact that the jaguar likes to get into the water and our cats do NOT was a point of amusement for sure.

Suggested Special Activities:
Since the film follows a spotted jaguar, we made some “spotted” shortbread! My shortbread recipe is a family recipe that has been passed down. Our grandma is KNOWN for her shortbread. For that recipe head to the Grey Stuff copycat recipe, as Danielle uses it for the base. A sugar cookie would also do in a pinch. For an even better “jaguar print,” your best bet would be a White Royal Icing. But we thought this worked out well, was very quick, and tasted fantastic! The Edible Markers didn’t love being used directly on the shortbread (we had to keep wiping them), but we were pleased with how they turned out! I also received the board game “Jungle Cruise” for Christmas so that would’ve been a perfect game for this movie!

50. Toby Tyler 
watched April 13th, 2020

Release Date: January 21, 1960
Original Release: Theatrical Release
Run Time: 95 min
Where to Watch: YouTube (rental) 

Awards: None
Jones Family Rating:
8.5 out of 10
Tagline: “Strike up the band! Here comes the happiest show on earth!”

Disney Park Connections: Walt had a serious fascination with circus wagons and horses. In 1955 he purchased and restored turn of the century circus wagons. They were used for various parades, as well as in the filming of Toby Tyler. The music wagon, known as the “Dragon Calliope,” is stored at Tri-Circle Ranch at Fort Wilderness and still brought out for special occasions to this day! Casey Jr. Circus Train in Disneyland has a replica, and is a circus train so we say that counts too! There is also the entire “Storybook Circus” area in Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Truth be told, we never really “got” this area. Now that we’ve seen this movie and read more, it seems true to Walt’s heart.

This film is about a 10 year old boy (Toby Tyler) who disappoints his uncle so much that he is called “a millstone around their necks.” In a lot of ways, it’s very heartbreaking right off the top. No kid wants to be thought of as a burden, let alone have that fear be confirmed verbally. Toby runs away and joins the circus where he is met with more cruelty. However, he befriends a chimpanzee named “Mr. Stubbs.” We see some of the inner workings of the circus and the hard work (and risk!) that it takes to pull off an entertaining show. Toby becomes a bareback rider and with determination becomes quite good.

The movie is based on a book, and filmed in California. It’s interesting in that it shows the glimmer and appeal of the circus but also the dark underbelly. Very refreshing in that it’s not a cookie cutter story the way a lot of the live action films up to this point have been. It’s heartwarming and sweet, with great acting and an interesting story.

Our Impressions:
From the enchanting line, “Once upon a time, the best day of the year was the day the circus came,” they had us. And with the exception of a super traumatic scene that puts Old Yeller to shame for how sad it is, we LOVED this film. (I’m sure our score would’ve been higher if not for this part and what we’ve been personally walking through as a family). Also, if clowns aren’t your thing, this movie may be tough. Our middle daughter doesn’t prefer them, but still really loved the film. There are certainly some Dumbo vibes (it is set in a traveling circus after all), so that was fun to observe. We love Kevin Corcoran, so it was a pleasant surprise to find out he was in it, as well as one of the actors from Babes in Toyland that we loved (we watched “Babes” at Christmastime, out of order from the challenge).

Suggested Special Activities:
There are no shortage of ideas for this film! Clowns or circus themes are the obvious ones. We kept it ultra simple with cones placed in a bowl of popcorn kernels, filled with whole roasted peanuts and animal crackers! I wish we had also broken out our Cotton Candy machine because it’s just so fun.

Have you seen any of these movies? We hope you enjoyed reading about the movies and all of our thoughts on them. For movies 51-60, click here!

Have a magical day!

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