Old Yeller

Are you crying ’cause the dog’s dead or because your own youthful innocence bit the dust along with him? At the risk of over-analyzing–aw heck, ain’t that what these deluxe DVD packages are all about?–Old Yeller is likely the most important movie in the Disney catalog, if only because it manages to evoke the darkness and duality of real-world happenstance without having to anthropomorphize a cartoon deer. OK, so none of the pooches we’ve laid to rest over the years ever rescued us from a pack of ornery hogs, but they surely drove away more than one unwelcome Amway rep, so the sentiment strikes a chord just the same. Not only does this 1957 melodrama grapple with the same raw mortality and growing pains as E.T., but it does so with more satisfying resolution and without a single product placement. What’s more, the success of this live-action pic was pivotal in expanding the Disney empire beyond the animated fairy tales and falsetto rodents upon which it was first built. Among the bonus features on this new edition are a documentary on the film’s lasting impact and audio commentary by co-stars Tommy Kirk (now 60 years old) and Fess “Davy Crockett” Parker (who, we feel obliged to note, eventually parlayed his screen earnings into one hell of a California winery).