Directed by: Harold D. Schuster/Hamilton Luske
Written by: Ken Anderson/John Tucker Battle/Marc Davis/Bill Peet/Maurice Rapf/Ted Sears
Based on novel by Sterling North
This is one that I honestly had no idea what to expect going in. It’s one of those sort of “lost” Disney movies that, for some reason, a lot of people I grew up with had seen, but I hadn’t. But then people younger than me had no clue that it even existed.
It’s the story of Jeremiah (Bobby Driscoll from Song Of The South, Melody Time and Treasure Island), a young boy on a farm just after the turn of the century. (At least this time he’s well past the time of slavery, so there’s that.) His Granny (Beulah Bondi) is stern but mostly kind. She does her best to keep the kid in line, but he has the run of the town and the support of Uncle Hiram (Burl Ives), a mischevious jack of all trades who lives nearby…and who might have eyes for ol’ Granny. (Jeremiah has a little friend named Tildy, too. She’s played by his constant co-star, Luana Patten.)
Granny’s sheep has a couple of lambs, but one of them is black. Granny knows that this makes him pretty worthless, but Bobby falls in love instantly. He ends up raising little Danny (named after the race horse, Dan Patch) to be a full-grown sheep that he plans on showing at the County Fair. Of course, a black sheep couldn’t win…could he?
The movie is pretty silly and not a lot happens. Danny runs away a few times. Jeremiah is basically Dennis The Menace. The old shopkeeper is basically Mr Wilson. (“Well, I don’t have any honey in the store. Go find a honey tree and I’ll pay you for every drop.” Horrible memories of My Girl come to mind.)
The best parts are the animated bits where an owl teaches Danny life lessons. Unfortunately, one of them is all about how grand Columbus was. But that was the knowledge of the day, so whatever. But the songs are charming and the characters are cute. And they form a respite from the constant threat of Disney killing a little creature. (Surprisingly, it doesn’t happen.)
It’s a decent movie, but certainly not one of the better live-action/animation hybrids that Disney has produced.
This was the great Harry Carey’s last film. He was already dead by the time it came out over a year after it was filmed.