I watched a TON of Disney movies growing up. I don’t just mean their animated movies. We had cable television from 1980-1984. That included the Disney Channel. Not to mention, ABC aired two-and-a-half Disney movies a week after school from 4pm-5pm Mountain Time until I was about 12 years old (1989-it might have gone on longer, but I started competitive sports around that age and watched way less television because of practice after school) .
Being that there were so many, a lot of them flow together in my mind (“Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “Mary Poppins,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “The Gnome-Mobile,” “Pete’s Dragon,” etc.). All of these are great, but they do not stand out apart in my mind. There are four that do:
I love movies that have heart. This one is huge. I remember watching a bunch of boring, snobby adults at the beginning of this movie. Enter Pollyanna. Hayley Mills as a child star in the 60s for Disney was what Henry Thomas and River Phoenix were as child stars in the 80s. This is the first movie I remember watching where I saw a young lady light up the screen by walking into frame. The costumes, lighting, and direction deserve a lot of that credit, but there was nothing like young Hayley Mills. To watch the story of a very depressed neighborhood being influenced on very deep emotional levels by an unapologetic, inspiring little Buddha of a girl was quite moving. Like “E. T.” this movie made me feel many emotions from beginning to end and I challenge people that generally cry at movies not to cry at this one.
There is a lot of cool stuff about this movie. A boy that gets cursed and turns into a dog. It sounds like a horror movie, and it does have some of those elements, but it plays as a mild-adventure/comedy. It has Annette Funicello (hubba hubba) as the teenage love interest and one of my favorite underrated actors, Fred MacMurray as the father. Its’ a very interesting comedy with slight dark elements and a loving boy that wants to protect his family. It stuck with me I think because of the transformation special effects. I saw it at a very young age, before I was jaded and thought that cursed people might really turn into dogs.
Sweet Hayley again, and this time, it’s double trouble. I love the story. Twin sisters, who had no clue about the other, meet at camp for the first time, and decide to switch places (the daughter that lives with mother goes home with dad and vice versa). Needless to say, shenanigans ensue in many different scenes and the story ends up taking off on levels that I didn’t see coming. This film features Brian Keith (another underrated actor) and the boisterous Maureen O’Hara. The story and the acting all around are what stuck with me over the years with this romantic comedy, and I try and watch it at least once a year.
…and my favorite Disney “kids” movie (probably of all time)…
This was a visual extravaganza for me at a very young age. I wanted flubber to be real, so bad. I was a runt of a kid and I could’ve used anti-gravity on many occasions at recess. To see a man role up flubber into a ball and watch it continue to bounce and bounce all over the room was incredible to me. I couldn’t look away. My dad was a racquet ball player and the balls that the professor made reminded me of the racquet balls my dad had lying around the house when he came home from a match. Our unlikely hero used flubber on his shoes at a dance to impress some town folk (and his estranged love interest), on the local height-challenged varsity basketball team’s sneakers, and on his own shoes to fight local gangsters. I’d like to thank Mitchell Francis @mjfrancis59 for reminding me of this wonderful gem that I adored all those years ago as a wide-eyed five-year-old. I can’t wait to revisit it again, soon.