Walt Disney Night on TCM—with Me

nullI’m delighted to be hosting another night of “Treasures from the Disney Vault” on Turner Classic Movies this coming Sunday, beginning at 8pm EST. It seemed appropriate—if not inevitable—that with St. Patrick’s Day upon us we should begin with Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). It’s a delightful, often dark Irish fantasy that also serves a magnificent showcase for the ingenuity of the Disney team, including matte painter Peter Ellenshaw and jack-of-all-trades  Ub Iwerks, who created startling visual effects that hold their own alongside any of today’s CGI marvels. Darby also features a young Sean Connery, just four years before he became internationally famous as James Bond.

nullDarby is followed by the Disneyland TV show that promoted its release. But unlike other such programs, this one doesn’t take us behind the scenes or simply spell out the story: instead, Walt Disney stars as himself in I Captured the King of the Leprechauns. It’s the only time I can think of that Walt stepped out of his traditional role as host and became an active participant in one of his shows. If you’re a Disney fan and you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat.

nullTCM couldn’t think of another leprechaun in the Disney library so they settled for a cartoon about elves: the 1932 Silly Symphony Babes in the Woods. It’s followed by another of the best television hours Walt ever produced, The Story of the Animated Drawing. Who else could have given the prime-time viewing public a lesson in the history of animation, dating back to cave drawings and the first “illusions of life?” The recreation of Winsor McCay presenting Gertie the Dinosaur is worth the price of admission (so to speak) all by itself.

nullNext up, it’s one of my favorite animated features, The Three Caballeros (1945), a cornucopia of colorful sights and sounds inspired by Walt’s trip to Central and South America in 1941. Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito are the title characters in this lively, underappreciated picture. It is followed by the TCM premiere of Theodore Thomas’ fine documentary Walt and El Grupo (2008), which traces that milestone field trip South of the Border by retracing Walt’s steps and having wives and children of the traveling artists read the letters they sent home. It’s a moving and eye-opening experience.

The Disney marathon comes to a close with The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966), one of Walt’s many British-made swashbucklers. 

I feel fortunate to have had a hand in selecting some of these films and TV segments, and it’s rewarding to be able to introduce them on the air. The next Disney evening will air just before July 4th…and yes, there will be more to come. You can read more at

 8:00 PM      Darby O’Gill and the Little People

 9:45 PM      I Captured the King of the Leprechauns 

10:45 PM     Babes in the Woods (Silly Symphony about elves – closest I could get to Leprechauns)

11:00 PM     The Story of the Animated Drawing (great history of animation)

12:00 AM     The Three Caballeros (animated classic not often seen)

  1:30 AM     Walt & El Grupo (documentary about Walt’s trip to South America)

  3:15 AM     The Fighting Prince of Donegal (back to the Irish theme to end the night) 


  1. Richard says:

    Mr Maltin , darn auto correct

  2. Richard says:

    Dear Susan , Mr. Martin has tirelessly explained that many of the characters that are now considered inappropriate by certain people today were produced in a time period when people weren’t so easily offended by every little thing that crossed their view. I’m 38 and have never found myself trying to analyze every minute of film trying to find the offensive parts, always to busy laughing and enjoying the awesomeness of Mr. Disneys creativeness.

  3. Gunnar says:

    I’ve officially became a fan of the "Treasures from the Disney Vault" lineup ever since it first aired on TCM, I’m so looking forward to more installments

  4. Glenn says:

    Let’s hope The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh with Patrick McGoohan makes a TCM appearance. It is a true Disney treasure deserving another look. Thanks Leonard.

  5. Jeff Peterson says:

    I thought it was interesting that TCM decided to show the redubbed version of "Darby O’Gill and the Little People." Although I hadn’t seen this version before, I first learned that it existed in 1973 when I purchased your book "The Disney Films." As I listened to the dubbed soundtrack, I wasn’t sure whether it was Albert Sharpe or a voice actor speaking. After the film ended, I watched half of the movie again on DVD just so I could hear Sharpe’s familiar Irish brogue once again.

    By the way, I believe your concluding comments regarding the special effects got a bit confused. King Brian was not filmed closer to the camera, and Darby O’Gill was not further away. For the perspective trick to work, it was actually the other way around. Otherwise, the film would have been titled "Darby O’Gill and the Big People."

  6. Walt Mitchell says:

    Hello, Leonard! I want you to know that I saw "I Captured the King of the Leprechauns" when it first aired in 1959. I also saw "The History of the Animated Drawing" back in 1955. I vaguely recalled most of that DISNEYLAND presentation. But for nearly 60 years now, the one thing that has stood out clearly in my mind for nearly 60 years was that wonderful re-creation of Windsor McKay’s vaudeville-and-film performance with Gertie the Dinosaur! I cannot remember whether or not those two black-and-white Disney programs were ever shown on the network again. If so, I probably saw them then. But I know that they haven’t been seen for decades, and I cannot thank you, TCM, and the Disney Studio enough for letting the public see those shows again! Walt sometimes did more than simply introduce the topic at the beginning of each show. A few examples: The show that promoted BABES IN TOYLAND, "The Plausible Impossible," "Where Do Ideas Come From?," and "Cavalcade of Songs" (originally to poromote LADY AND THE TRAMP), along with a least a few others. But I beklieve that he was on camera with more screen time in the two proframs that you just showed than perhaps in any other single program since DISNEYLAND started! I would LOVE to see more of those long-unseen black-and-white DISNEYLAND / WALT DISNEY PRESENTS programs from my favorite genre then AND now: FANTASYLAND!!! :-D! Again, Leonard, my deepest thanks for this wonderful presentation!

  7. Garry says:

    Thanks so much for a wonderful evening of entertainment & laughter. The two Disneyland episodes brought back great memories. I enjoyed seeing The Fighting Prince Of Donegal for the first time & look forward to the upcoming July 4 programs.

  8. JLewis says:

    It has been ages since I saw DARBY O’GILL and it was definitely more entertaining this time around. I agree with THE DISNEY FILMS assessment that it is more of an "adult" film than a kids’ film. The dialogue is pretty fast and hard to follow, if you are a little tyke. This probably hurt its chances when initially released since the Disney features were starting to get stereotyped as juvenile fare by the late fifties (a trap finally overcome decades later with the Touchstone label) and movie-goers got confused about the intended audience.

  9. Mark fitzgerald says:

    Um, that should say un-insulted.

  10. Mark Fitzgerald says:

    Susan, it’s ridiculous how u insulted I feel. Grow a thicker skin and get over yourself.

  11. Mike Gebert says:

    I’m sorry, Susan, that they taught you how not to enjoy films from another time for their entertainment value and only view them with the prejudices toward the past of our sanctimonious age. Maybe next time Mr. Maltin can show Song of the South!

  12. Tom says:

    There can never be too much of the Disney animation, especially from the 30’s and 40’s.

  13. Norm says:

    Sounds like a great time, Walt gets the acting bug, never saw that coming…what a hoot.

  14. Susan says:

    Darby is as big a insult to Irish Americans as Three Caballeros is to Latin Americans. Shame on you. I will say Three Caballeros is entertaining, but Darby is unwatchable. At Tisch School of the Arts we were shown There Caballeros as an example of Disney’s racism and we all know about his gross antisemitism.

  15. Lee says:

    I think that people should follow up a viewing of "The Three Caballeros" with a reading of Eduardo Galeano’s "Open Veins of Latin America".

  16. Tracy Garza says:

    Disney nights are always fun – wish TCM could put these on a bit more often!

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