One of Walt Disney’s most personal films, this tale of a boy and his pet lamb was created as a tribute to the legendary animator’s childhood in rural Missouri. Originally, he had intended this adaptation of Sterling North’s Midnight and Jeremiah as his first entirely live action film. When salesmen for RKO, which released his films at the time, argued that they couldn’t sell a Disney film without animation, he relented and added cartoon figures from young Jeremiah’s (Bobby Driscoll) imagination, though they only take up 15 percent of the film’s running time. To re-create the novel’s rural Indiana setting, the production shot on location in the San Joaquin Valley during the summer, requiring the crew to water the soil every night to keep the foliage in good condition. Since Disney only had one small soundstage at his studio, sets had to be built on location, including a hardware store furnished with items bought from a closed store the crew found. Although not Disney’s most profitable feature, he loved the film so much he had the barn set re-created on his estate. The film’s railroad station also served as the model for the Frontierland station in Disneyland. In addition, the picture produced one enduring hit, the Oscar-nominated song “Lavender Blue,” which became the first hit single for co-star Burl Ives.
(d. Harold D. Schuster, Hamilton Luske, 79m, 35mm)