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The Ultimate Disney Classic Animated Film Guide: 1970-1979

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The Ultimate Disney Classic Animated Film Guide
1937-1949 | 1950-1969 | 1970-1979
1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009
2010-2014 | 2015-2019

In the 1970s, the Walt Disney Animation Studios' animated films, which had enjoyed such success in the 1960s with the heights of The Jungle Book, began to decline. Walt Disney had died in 1967, and in 1970 his brother, with whom he had co-founded the company, Roy O Disney died. In the 1970s Disney wished to target the teenage audience; animation was considered to be very much the poor relation of the studio's live action films and theme parks. Of the animated films made in the 1970s, only three entirely new animated films were made, as well as one film consisting of three animated shorts packaged together and two films that combined animation and live action using the expensive process purchased for Mary Poppins.

All the films made in the 1970s were solid, if unspectacular, successes. For much of the 1970s Donn Tatum was president of the company, replaced at by the end of the decade by Walt Disney's son-in-law Ron Miller.

The Classics

In the last 75 years the Walt Disney Studio has released over 50 animated films it has labelled 'Classics'. The first 19 of these were made between 1937 and 1969, with classics 20-23 made in the 1970s.

20. The AristoCats (1970)

DirectorWolfgang Reitherman
PlotA wealthy woman's will leaves her money to her family of cats, Duchess and the kittens Toulouse, Marie and Berlioz, with her butler Edgar to inherit after the cats have died. The butler, jealous, kidnaps the cats, abandoning them in the French countryside. The film follows their journey back home, guided by alley cat Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley, or Thomas for short.
Length78 minutes
SettingParis, and surrounding countryside, in 1910.
Animated Animals
  • Duchess, a cat (Eva Gabor)
  • Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley, an alley cat (Phil Harris)
  • Toulouse, a kitten (Gary Dubin)
  • Marie, a kitten (Liz English)
  • Berlioz, a kitten (Dean Clark)
  • Scat Cat, a cat (Scatman Crothers)
  • Roquefort, a mouse (Sterling Holloway)
  • Napoleon, a bloodhound (Pat Buttram)
  • Lafayette, a basset hound (George Lindsey)
  • Frou-Frou, a horse (Nancy Kulp)
  • Abigail, Amelia and Uncle Waldo Gabble, geese (Monica Evans, Carole Shelley and Bill Thompson)
Other Characters
  • Madame Bonfamille, a retired opera singer (Hermione Baddeley)
  • Edgar, her butler (Roddy Maude-Roxby)
  • Georges Hautecourt, her lawyer (Charles Lane)
Perky PrincessNone, but a Duchess outranks a Princess.
SourceLoosely inspired by a true story in which a family of cats inherited a fortune in Paris in 1910.
Songs:By Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman unless stated:
  • 'The Aristocats' - sung by Maurice Chevalier
  • 'Scales and Arpeggios'
  • 'Thomas O'Malley Cat' - by Terry Gilkyson
  • 'Ev'rybody Wants To Be A Cat' - by Floyd Huddleston and Al Rinker
  • 'She Never Felt Alone'

The inspiration for The AristoCats came in the 1960s with a proposal that the story of a wealthy Parisian widow leaving her money to her cats would be a suitable subject for a couple of episodes of the television series, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. Walt Disney liked the idea so much, he gave the green-light for the story to be expanded into a feature film, before his death in 1967.

The film deliberately attempts to recapture previous films' success, with a plot very similar to that of One Hundred and One Dalmatians. As Phil Harris had been such a success in The Jungle Book , he was quickly signed up as the male lead. Similarly, as 'I Wanna Be Like You' had been a hit record, a comparable 'Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat' was recorded, and other scenes seem inspired by Asterix and Cleopatra.

21. Robin Hood (1973)

DirectorWolfgang Reitherman
PlotRobin Hood robs from the rich and gives to the poor people of Nottingham, helping them pay their taxes. After Robin robs Prince John, who rules England in the absence of Good King Richard, the Prince seeks revenge and arranges a deadly trap...
Length83 minutes
SettingNottingham in the 1190s.
Fairytale CastleNottingham Castle
Animated Animals
  • Robin Hood, a fox (Brian Bedford)
  • Maid Marian, a vixen (Monica Evans)
  • Little John, a bear (Phil Harris)
  • Prince John & King Richard, lions (Sir Peter Ustinov)
  • Sir Hiss, a snake (Terry-Thomas)
  • The Sheriff of Nottingham, a wolf (Pat Buttram)
  • Alan-a-Dale, a rooster (Roger Miller)
  • Lady Cluck, a chicken (Carole Shelley)
  • Friar Tuck, a badger (Andy Devine)
Book BeginningThe film opens with a book on the legend of Robin Hood, introducing the animals.
SourceA combination of the legend of Robin Hood with stories about Reynard the Fox.
Songs:By Roger Miller unless where stated
  • 'Whistle-Stop'
  • 'Oo De Lally'
  • 'Love' - by Floyd Huddleston and George Bruns
  • 'The Phony King of England' - by Johnny Mercer
  • 'Not In Nottingham'

Disney wished to get back to a mediaeval theme as that had proved popular with their earlier films, notably Snow White and Cinderella, but wanted to combine it with the anthropomorphic animals that they had recently specialised in. Initially there was some indecision about whether to next adapt the stories of Robin Hood or Reynard the Fox, who regularly defeated his enemy, Isengrim the Wolf. Walt Disney had previously felt that though Reynard shared some similarities with Song of the South's hero Bre'er Rabbit, on the whole he was a sly, amoral and selfish character. Instead Robin Hood was adapted, though perhaps influenced by the French legends as Robin, like Reynard, is a fox and his enemy the Sheriff, like Isengrim, is a wolf.

Robin Hood also borrowed heavily from previous films, recasting Phil Harris, previously bear Baloo in The Jungle Book, as bear Little John. This made it easy to trace movements from the earlier film and quickly adapt them for Robin Hood; when Little John dances with Lady Cluck to 'The Phony King of England', they perform the same moves seen when Baloo dances with King Louie. The dance continues with steps traced from dancing in The Aristocats and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Sir Hiss, like The Jungle Book's Kaa, likes hypnotising people and Robin Hood, like The Jungle Book, has minor characters who are elephants and vultures, leading to the re-use of sound clips. Robin Hood's hat is also identical to Peter Pan's.

22. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

DirectorsWolfgang Reitherman and John Lounsbery
PlotDeep in the 100 Aker Wood, where Christopher Robin plays, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends enjoy their enchanted neighbourhood and have a series of adventures, usually involving a small smackerel or two of hunny.
Length74 minutes
Component Parts
  • Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966)
  • Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968)
  • Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974)
SettingAshdown Forest, Sussex in the 1920s
Animated Animals
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear (Sterling Holloway)
  • Piglet (John Fiedler)
  • Eeyore (Ralph Wright)
  • Rabbit (Junius Matthews)
  • Owl (Hal Smith)
  • Kanga (Barbara Luddy)
  • Roo (Clint Howard (1966-8), Dori Whitaker (1974))
  • Tigger (Paul Winchell)
  • Gopher (Howard Morris)
Other Characters
  • Christopher Robin (Bruce Reitherman (1966), Jon Walmsley (1968), Timothy Turner (1974))
  • Narrator (Sebastian Cabot)
Book BeginningThe film not only opens with a book, but the characters interact with the book, which is almost another character in the film.
SourceAA Milne's books Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928)
Songs:All by the Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert Sherman)
  • 'Winnie the Pooh'
  • 'Up, Down and Touch the Ground'
  • 'Rumbly in My Tumbly'
  • '(I'm Just A) Little Black Raincloud'
  • 'Mind Over Matter'
  • 'A Rather Blustery Day'
  • 'The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers'
  • 'Heffalumps and Woozles'
  • 'The Rain Rain Rain Came Down'
  • 'Hip Hip Pooh-Ray! '
Spin Offs
  • Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore (1983) - Short
  • Welcome to Pooh Corner (1983-6) – Costumed TV series
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1988–91) – animated TV series
  • Seasons of Giving (1999) - Compilation from episodes of New Adventures
  • The Book of Pooh (2001-3) - Puppeted TV series
  • The Book of Pooh: Stories from the Heart (2001) - Book of Pooh compilation
  • My Friends Tigger & Pooh (2007-10) – CGI TV series
  • Pooh's Super Sleuth Christmas Movie (2007) - My Friends Tigger & Pooh spin off
  • Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too (2009) - My Friends Tigger & Pooh spin off
  • Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (2011 and 2014)
SequelsFilms released in the cinema are in bold, the others are direct-to-video spin-offs. One sequel is even itself a Disney Classic:
  • Pooh's Grandest Adventure1 (1997)
  • The Tigger Movie (2000)
  • A Very Merry Pooh Year (2002) - New Adventures compilation
  • Piglet's Big Movie (2003)
  • Springtime with Roo (2004) - A Christmas Carol set at Easter
  • Pooh's Heffalump Movie (2005)
  • Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005)
  • 51. Winnie the Pooh (2011)

This film introduces the second most popular set of Disney cartoon characters after Mickey Mouse's group2. There have been numerous spin-offs and sequels, including the 51st Disney Classic.

Walt Disney first planned to adapt some of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories after his daughters enjoyed reading them. As Winnie-the-Pooh was not a popular story in America, Disney decided to test the water by making a short film, rather than a full-length one, to see how the characters were received. At first he felt that the original cast of animals in the book, which included a bear, tiger and kangaroos, were too British(!) and that American audiences probably would not wish to see the film unless a specifically American animal was featured. Disney felt that a gopher, loosely inspired by the beaver seen in Lady and the Tramp, would work best. Initial plans involved replacing Piglet entirely with Gopher, also called Gofur, however this idea developed into a new character who frequently boasts that he is 'not in the book'. This not only is a reference to the fact that he isn't in AA Milne's original but was meant to be interpreted that Gopher is not in a phone book, despite telephones and phone books not featuring in the film.

After its success, Walt Disney began working on its sequel, but died before this was completed. The second short film introduces the successful and charismatic character of Tigger, who despite not appearing in the initial short, quickly becomes dominant. Following the completion of the third short film, the three were combined with new linking footage to make a whole film.

23. The Rescuers (1977)

DirectorsWolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery and Art Stevens
PlotKidnapped orphan Penny, forced to search for a legendary diamond by Madame Medusa, desperately writes a message in a bottle asking for help. The Rescue Aid Society, an international organisation of mice, find the message and send Miss Bianca and a superstitious janitor named Bernard to the rescue.
Length77 minutes
Setting1970s New York and Devil's Bayou, Louisiana
Animated Animals
  • Bernard, a mouse (Bob Newhart)
  • Miss Bianca, a mouse (Eva Gabor)
  • Orville, an albatross (Jim Jordan)
  • Rufus, a cat (John McIntire)
  • Ellie Mae and Luke, muskrats (Jeanette Nolan and Pat Buttram)
  • Evinrude, a dragonfly (James MacDonald)
  • Brutus and Nero, crocodiles (Candy Candido)
Other Characters
  • Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page)
  • Penny, an orphan (Michelle Stacy)
  • Mr Snoops (Joe Flynn)
SourceThe Rescuers (1959) and Miss Bianca (1962) by Margery Sharp
Songs:By Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins:
  • 'The Journey'
  • 'Rescue Aid Society'
  • 'Tomorrow is Another Day'
  • 'Someone's Waiting for You' by Sammy Fain, Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins
Sequels29. The Rescuers Down Under

Disney's most successful animated film of the 1970s, The Rescuers ushered in Disney's era of rescuing rodents, having similarities with later films such as Basil the Great Mouse Detective and television series Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers. It was also the first Disney animated film to have an official sequel3.

Walt Disney had been intrigued by the story before he died, though development did not begin until after his death. An early idea considered usinging the villain Cruella de Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians again, although she was replaced by Madame Medusa. Similarly Penny also almost appeared in Oliver & Company, but was instead replaced by an identical character called Jenny. The plot seems rather dated, especially the emphasis placed on the fact that the mice sent to the rescue are a team made up of a woman and a working class janitor. The songs are also less prominent than in previous films, used mainly as background music.

When the film was made, an animator hid a blurry image of a topless woman in the background of two of the film's frames (more than 110,000 frames appear in the film). This was not noticed until January 1999, when the film was released on VHS and then famously recalled. All subsequent releases have removed the offending image.

Non-Classic Films

Two non-classic films that combined live action and animation were made in the 1970s, attempting to recreate the runaway success of Mary Poppins.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

DirectorRobert Stevenson
PlotThree children are evacuated from London to the country, where they are billeted in the home of a witch.
Length117 minutes
SettingPeperinge Eye, Dorset in August 1940, during the Second World War. Also the bottom of the beautiful briny sea and island of Naboombu.
Fairytale CastleCorfe Castle
  • Eglantine Price, witch (Angela Lansbury)
  • Professor Emelius Browne The Great (David Tomlinson)
  • Charlie Rawlins (Ian Weighill)
  • Carrie Rawlins (Cindy O'Callaghan)
  • Paul Rawlins (Roy Snart)
  • Swinburne, a spiv (Bruce Forsyth4)
Animated Animals
  • King, a lion (Lennie Weinrib)
  • Secretary Bird (Lennie Weinrib)
  • Mr Codfish (Robert Holt)
  • Bear (Dal McKennon)
SourceMary Norton's children's books The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires and Broomsticks (1945).
Songs:By the Sherman Brothers:
  • 'The Age of Not Believing'
  • 'Eglantine'
  • 'Portobello Road'
  • 'The Beautiful Briny'
  • 'Substitutiary Locomotion'
  • 'The Old Home Guard'

The film was first optioned by Walt Disney when the author PL Travers was undecided over whether to sell the film rights to Mary Poppins; when she did, work on Bedknobs and Broomsticks was delayed until after that film was completed. Following Mary Poppins' success, the Disney Company tried to recreate it by hiring leading man, David Tomlinson, and the songwriting Sherman Brothers duo from the earlier film. Instead of a magical woman coming into the home of two unhappy children, three unhappy children stay at the home of a witch.

The film's rough cut was initially considered to be half an hour too long, and so to trim it to under two hours the songs 'A Step in the Right Direction', 'With a Flair', 'Nobody's Problems', 'The Fundamental Element' and 'Solid Citizen', were deleted and other songs shortened in the finished film. This angered the Sherman brothers, who would not work for the Walt Disney Company again until The Tigger Movie in 2000. An extended edition putting some of these songs back into the film has been released.

The film claims to be set on England's south coast in August 1940, which is unlikely. The three children are evacuated from London; evacuation from London to the south coast took place on 1 September, 1939. Evacuation away from the south coast, the most likely area of invasion, happened in June 1940, so the three Rawlins children appear to have been evacuated from London a year after everyone else in London and sent to what was expected to be the front line. Also, the Local Defence Volunteers were not named 'Home Guard' until 22 July 1940. Therefore the film ends with a song about 'The Old Home Guard' only a few days after 'The Old Home Guard' existed.

Pete's Dragon (1977)

DirectorLive Action: Don Chaffey
Animation: Don Bluth
PlotA young boy named Pete flees from his abusive adopted family, in the company of an invisible dragon named Elliot5, to the fishing town of Passamaquoddy. Although most of the townsfolk dislike Pete, he is adopted by Nora and her father, Lampie, who keep the lighthouse. Also in town is the quack Doc Terminus, who would stop at nothing to own a profitable dragon, while the Gogans close in on Pete...
Length128 minutes
SettingEdwardian Passamaquoddy, Maine
Animated Animals
  • Elliott, a dragon (Charlie Callas)
Other Characters
  • Pete, an orphan (Sean Marshall)
  • Dr Terminus, a quack (Jim Dale)
  • Nora, a lighthouse keeper's daughter (Helen Reddy)
  • Lampie, a lighthouse keeper (Mickey Rooney)
  • Hoagy (Red Buttons)
  • Lena Gogan (Shelley Winters)
  • Merle Gogan (Charles Tyner)
  • Grover and Willie Gogan (Gary Morgan and Jeff Conaway)
SourceInspired by a short story by Seton I Miller and SS Field
Songs:By Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn:
  • 'The Happiest Home in These Hills'
  • 'Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)'
  • 'I Saw a Dragon'
  • 'It's Not Easy'
  • 'Passamaquoddy'
  • 'Candle on the Water'
  • 'There's Room for Everyone'
  • 'Every Little Piece'
  • 'Brazzle Dazzle Day'
  • 'Bill of Sale'
Spin Offs
  • Pete's Dragon (2016) - Live action remake

Pete's Dragon's plot is very similar to both Mary Poppins and The Rescuers. Just as Mary Poppins comes to the rescue of Michael and Jane, and leaves when she has helped provide a loving family for them, so Elliot leaves Pete once he has found a family. There are also many similarities between Madame Medusa and Lena Gogan, and Elliot tells Pete that he rescues children in distress, just as The Rescuers' Rescue Aid Society does. Pete runs away through a swamp just as Penny did in the film released earlier that year.

The Gogan's argument, that they own Pete as they have a bill of sale, would later be used by Lilo at the end of Lilo and Stitch (2002).

1Also known as Pooh's Grand Adventure and The Search for Christopher Robin.2Mickey Mouse's group includes Pluto, Minnie Mouse and her cat Figaro, Donald and Daisy Duck and their relatives Huey, Dewey and Louie, Scrooge McDuck and Ludwig von Drake, Goofy and Max Goof, Chip 'n' Dale, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, Pegleg Pete and Willie the Giant etc.3Similar-themed films with the same characters such as Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros do not count, being compilation pictures.4It's nice to see him, to see him nice!5According to Pete, Elliot has the head of a camel, the neck of a crocodile, the ears of a cow and is both a fish and a mammal.

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