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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 15: "So Dear To My Heart"

(Originally published on 4/15/22)


So Dear To My Heart

Run time: 82 min.

Release Date: January 19, 1949

Where/when I first saw it: First time view

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Sunday evening

It’s possible Walt felt a slight sting from the reaction to the controversy surrounding “Song of the South,” so it appears he decided to try again with historical fiction, via a live-action/animation hybrid. This time, everyone plays it safe (by 1949 standards) by telling a story of farmers in the 1900s strictly through a white lens. Here, a boy named Jeremiah (Bobby Driscoll, from “Song of the South”) takes to a newborn black sheep by adopting it as a pet and giving it some love it otherwise never would have known from its own flock. With the help of a neighbor, little Tildy (Luana Patten, who starred in many Disney productions during this time), and Uncle Hiram (Burl Ives), Jeremiah is encouraged to enter the lamb into the Pike County Fair competition, against the wishes of his Granny (Beulah Bondi).

Animated sequences function as a way for more charming animal characters to lend the boy some encouragement when he’s feeling out of sorts. They’re introduced by an owl who has words of wisdom for Jeremiah and they often come in the form of musical sequences that would fit at home on any of the “package films” of this era. One that goes on for too long is the Christopher Columbus one, not just because it’s wildly outdated, but it also feels like filler. Where “Song of the South” can at least benefit from James Baskett’s impressive performance acting against nothing while surrounded by bluebirds and rabbits to interact with, “So Dear To My Heart” can’t rise to that level of innovation. The animation feels wedged in and divorced from the live actors on screen, who when they do see an animated lamb or owl, they don’t seem all that phased by it. That could just be the limited range of the young actors here, but it costs the movie some magic.

“So Dear To My Heart” is a personal favorite of Walt’s, since it resembles his life growing up on a farm in the early 1900s. That gives the film a bit of a unique place in Disney’s history, but it likely won’t resonate any further than that. While the animals here really are adorable (and it’s nice to say that about live-action four-legged characters for a change), the story is slight and, in the truest of Disney form, perfectly harmless. It’s also mostly forgettable.


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