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Disney Is Back…With A Bang…On TCM

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).

The Great Locomotive Chase

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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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