Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Rare Disney Delight: Toby Tyler, the Movie, Revisited
I remember loving this 1960 film when it came out so many years ago, even though virtually every detail about it had vanished from my memory.
When you revisit a favorite movie, a TV show, well anything that wowed you long ago, you risk a let down.
Disney did not let me down. Remarkably, this "circus movie," based upon the 1880 children's book by James Otis Kaler, bears a most affecting story, giving us characters of depth rather than the usual cliches -- big top going bankrupt, con men on the tear, flyers recklessly competing for the center ring, you know the hooks.
Toby, played to simple perfection by Kevin Corcoran, is an orphan living with his sweet aunt and cruel heartless uncle. He runs away to join the circus, making bests friends with a charming and sly chimp, Mr. Stubbs, and a gruff trouper, Ben (Henry Calvin, below), whose heart turns from stone to cotton candy. All of the pieces fall perfectly into place.
This little cinematic gem has a story that grows on you, and a wonderful ending bringing all parties happily back together. It warms your heart, leaving you grateful for the film's sunny humanity.
Circus? The few acts seem secondary to the story. What I liked the most were the romantic scenes of the big wagons slowly moving by night over idyllic country roads.
Toby Tyler just might be the best circus movie ever made, that is, if character and plot are what you value the most. Which is a way of saying, sorry, it may not be a "circus" movie at all. This time, I think it will stay in my memory.