TCM’s Treasures from the Disney Vault closes out 2017 on December 20th with an evening full of uniquely Disney content. The evening includes two swashbuckling adventures, two films about orphans on the run, and two TV specials. Some of Disney’s biggest stars are in attendance, including the one and only Mickey Mouse, Guy Williams, Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran, Henry Calvin (twice), Elliott the dragon, and Walt Disney himself. From some rare films and oddities to a few well known classics, Leonard Maltin has assembled a perfect gift of classic Disney films from the vault just in time for the holidays. And best of all, this lineup features three shining examples of Disney animation.
8:00 pm – The Brave Little Tailor (1938)
Mickey Mouse kicks off the evening in one of his most iconic shorts, The Brave Little Tailor. After excitedly killing seven flies with one swat of a fly swatter, his bragging is confused for having killed seven giants. He is rushed to the castle where the king promises the hand of the fair princess (Minnie) in exchange for him killing the giant. And so he ventures off with just his shears and his will to defeat the beast.
The Brave Little Tailor was nominated for Best Animated Short at the 1939 Academy Awards, but lost to another Disney short, Ferdinand the Bull (recently adapted as a Fox animated film). Walt Disney provides the voice of Mickey, as he did for all of his shorts from 1928 through 1946. Walt’s last time speaking for Mickey was in the Mickey and the Beanstalk segment of Fun and Fancy Free, a film where Mickey’s costume looks strikingly similar to that of The Brave Little Tailor and also pits him against a giant. In 1987, a Disney side project lovingly sampled the title with The Brave Little Toaster.
Recommendation: Start the evening off right with one of Mickey’s most memorable roles.
8:15 pm – The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952)
When Disney fans think of Robin Hood, they mostly picture an animated fox from the 1973 animated feature. But that film was Disney’s second adaptation of the handsome thief who robs from the rich to give to the poor. 1952’s The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men came on the heels of 1950’s Treasure Island and was the studio’s second all-live action feature film. Like Treasure Island, it was produced with profits Disney made during World War II, which had to be spent in Europe.
Like the animated film, Alan-a-dale is a traveling minstrel who sings the tales of Robin Hood as a segue between major plot points. Richard Todd stars as Robin Hood and went on to headline two additional Disney films produced using the studio’s war profits. This was Director Ken Annakin’s first Disney film of many and his other credits include Third Man on the Mountain and Swiss Family Robinson.
While produced after it, Disney’s adaptation was unable to dethrone Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938, a Warner Brothers film that is still hailed as the greatest screen adaptation of Britain’s greatest folk hero. It has mostly fallen into obscurity, but is given a prime spot on TCM this evening. Other than a few pacing issues, it’s a great adaptation of a classic story.
Recommendation: While slow paced, “The Story of Robin Hood” features excellent performances and Peter Ellenshaw matte paintings. The film’s historical significance should be of interest to Disney history buffs.
9:45 pm – The Sign of Zorro (1960)
Like the two Davy Crockett films, The Sign of Zorro combined episodes from the weekly ABC TV series that began in 1957. However, the Crockett films were harvested from between two and three 45-minute episodes, whereas Zorro split apart eight 25-minute episodes to make this 90-minute film. It tells the origin story of Zorro and was originally created for the European market in 1958, debuting the same year the series came to an end in the U.S. It received an American release later in 1960, the same year that four hour-long TV specials were being produced for Walt Disney’s anthology series.
Don Diego (Guy Williams) returns home to Los Angeles after studying abroad to find that Capitan Monestario has taken control as a dictator. Being the son of a high profile resident, Don Diego pretends to be clumsy and dim so that at night, he can don his cape and mask and become the caped crusader Zorro, a cunning fox that can free his people from oppression.
In addition to seeing the old backlot sets from the Disney Studio, viewers will get a taste for the high quality production values on Zorro, where each episode cost more to produce than the air date advertising revenue would cover. The series was always cinematic in scope, and this edit, while a little too episodic and unable to linger in the moment, demonstrates that perfectly. In Europe, there was another package feature called Zorro the Avenger that never received a U.S. release.
Recommendation: “Zorro” was such an amazing television series and “The Sign of Zorro” offers a brief preview of the quality each episode contained, while not being as satisfying as individual full episodes.
11:30 pm – Toby Tyler (1960)
Just around the corner from the Zorro set on the Disney backlot was Western Street, where Toby Tyler (or Ten Weeks with a Circus) begins. But more than that, Henry Calvin and Gene Sheldon from the Zorro series were reunited for this film and would be paired again a year later in Babes in Toyland, which made its Treasures from the Disney Vault debut in 2015.
Kevin “Moochie” Corcoran stars as Toby Tyler, an orphan who lives on his aunt and uncle’s farm and runs away to join the circus when it passes through town. Starting as a concessionaire, he makes friends with a young horse riding acrobat and a chimp named Mr. Stubbs. But when his friend’s riding partner has an accident, Toby must quickly train to become a star of the show. Despite making his circus dreams come true, he will learn the hard way that home is where the heart is.
I was obsessed with Toby Tyler as a kid after seeing it on Vault Disney and even told my local Blockbuster that my rental VHS was lost so that I could keep it (that set my piggy bank back $3). The circus wagons used in the film were original circus wagons from the 1800’s, purchased and restored for use at Disneyland as part of the Mickey Mouse Club Circus parade. The wagons still exist and can be visited at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI.
Recommendation: One of my favorite Disney films ever, I hope you love it as much as I do.
The evening is only just getting started. Continue to the next page to complete the night’s lineup.