Just in time for July 4th weekend, TCM is presenting another selection of goodies from the Disney Vault, and I am pleased to be your host. Tomorrow, July 2nd, the evening kicks off at 8pm EST/5pm PST with three vintage all-star cartoons set in and around the seashore: Hawaiian Holiday (1937), Beach Picnic (1939), and The Simple Things (1953). All the top Disney cartoon stars are represented here : Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto.
Then, in observance of Independence Day, comes Johnny Tremain, the 1957 feature with young Hal Stalmaster as a reluctant hero of the Colonial Era who takes part in the Boston Tea Party. Originally planned (and shot) as a two-part episode of the Disneyland television series, Walt Disney decided the material was strong enough to release as a feature, as he had with Davy Crockett (written by the same man, Tom Blackburn).
This is followed by the Disneyland episode called The Liberty Story,which aired on May 23, 1957 and fired up kids like me to see Johnny Tremainwhen it came to our neighborhood theater. Shows like this reveal how good Walt Disney was as both salesman and showman.
Next up is The Living Desert (1953), the first of Disney’s True-Life Adventure features, which earned an Academy Award as Best Documentary Feature. Walt took some heat for leaning too heavily on movie trickery and contrivance for the sake of comic relief, but there are still some amazing sequences in the film that make it well worth seeing.
One of my favorite “unsung” Disney films of the 1950s has a historical background that suits the Independence Day weekend: The Great Locomotive Chase (1956). Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter star in this true-life story of Andrews’ Raiders and their daring heist of a Confederate locomotive—staged to make the greatest use of the wide CinemaScope frame. If the story sounds familiar, it’s because Buster Keaton told it once before in his classic silent feature The General.
I’ll fill in more background information before and after each of these films which I hope will enhance your enjoyment of the ongoing Treasures from the Disney Vault on TCM.