Disney Film History: The Littlest Outlaw

littlest outlaw

Alright, let’s get real for a moment, I’m in deep with live action films! Walt Disney started as an animation studio and throughout much of the first decade of theatrical films we got mostly animation, but as Disney shifted his interest, animated films became less and less common. Walt Disney saw that live action films were easier, cheaper, and faster to make. In 1955, we got 4 theatrical releases, the last of which being a film most people have never heard of and most will probably soon forget after seeing, The Littlest Outlaw.

Larry Lansburgh was key to bringing this story to life. After a career in doing short film, mostly some nature documentaries, Lansburgh pitched the story and Bill Walsh, most famous for writing and producing live action films for Disney, took the story and ran with it. A screenplay written about a boy who takes on an abused horse and befriends him, Lansburgh stayed on as producer as he was familiar with animals in film.

The film was shot San Miguel, Mexico with a Spanish speaking cast. Due to the fact that a majority of everyone was bi-lingual, the film was shot twice. Once in English and once in Spanish. This is also Disney’s first film lacking star power. Using unknown actors was a risk and it unfortunately didn’t pay off. Critics praised the film for it’s young lead actor playing Pablito, Andres Velasquez, but not much else was left to praise. The film had a modest draw at the box office, taking in $1.6 million but it was the lowest box office draw from the 4 films that year. Mediocre storytelling, an unknown cast, and a late December release could all contribute to the outcome of the film, but overall, it’s just somewhat plain. Take Walt Disney’s focus into consideration as well. Much of his time by this point was taken up by his team at WED and the Disneyland project. With the park opening in 1955, it’s no surprise that the quality storytelling wasn’t all there.

littlest outlaw 1

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s a film you can easily forget. The Mexican theme is unique, especially for the time, but looking back at films like The Three Caballeros or Saludos Amigos, Disney had captivated both markets with better material. From my personal opinion, Walt had put aside much of his film career for the Disneyland park and would put aside film making altogether for the rest of his life. Sure he looked over the film making division of the Disney Enterprise, but the charming character details and the storytelling perfection we had been used to with the Disney name was long gone. This film might have been that reassuring statement that Walt had moved on to other things. Unfortunately for the Disney Studio, the list of live action and animated films to come in the future was plenty but the man in charge wasn’t filtering the greatness from the garbage like he used to.

Josh Taylor
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Previous Film: The African Lion
Next Film: The Great Locomotive Chase

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Posted on September 17, 2014, in Articles, The Whole Picture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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