Back to Articles

7 forgotten Disney films of the 1970s that featured classic TV stars

Images: Disney

Disney has a new streaming service. That means a flood of new series from its big Star Wars and Marvel properties, not to mention a deluge of reboots. The House of Mouse will offer a good chunk of its back library, including beloved 1970s movies like The Apple Dumpling Gang, Freaky Friday and The Cat from Outer Space

Animated favorites like The Aristocats tend to overshadow those live-action family films. But in the Seventies, live-action Walt Disney features greatly outnumbered the cartoons. Disney released more than 40 live-action movies that decade, turning Jodie Foster and Kurt Russell into teen idols while tapping TV comedians like Don Knotts for big laughs.

Yet, for every smash like Escape to Witch Mountain there was an oddball like One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing.

Let's take a look at some of the more forgotten titles, specifically ones that featured familiar TV faces.


Scandalous John

TV Stars: Brian Keith, Harry Morgan, John Ritter

Brian Keith, the bachelor father of Family Affair, appeared rather unrecognizable in this comedic Western, which hit theaters as his sitcom was wrapping up in the spring of 1971. Sporting a bushy, white beard, Keith, who was just 50 at the time, played the titular crotchety gunslinger. Fun note: Alfonso Arau, who played the Sancho Panza–like sidekick seen here, is best known as "El Guapo" from The Three Amigos. Harry Morgan of M*A*S*H played the sheriff. More on him in a bit…

Image: The Everett Collection


Now You See Him, Now You Don't

TV Stars: Jim Backus, Cesar Romero

Kurt Russell again starred in this sequel to the quirky 1969 youth romp The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. An "Invisible Man" story, this lighthearted sci-fi comedy set the mold for '80s teen movies like Weird Science and Teen Wolf — a decade ahead of that time. In a bit of pigeonholing, Jim Backus played a millionnaire. Cesar Romero, best known as The Joker on Batman, similarly played to type as the movie's nefarious villain.

Image: The Everett Collection


Snowball Express

TV Stars: Harry Morgan, George Lindsey, Johnny Whitaker

Disney veteran Dean Jones starred as a businessman who left behind his urban corporate life to run a hotel in a Rockies. The family discovers a grizzled old crank (Harry Morgan) living in the utility shed. When Morgan joined M*A*S*H, some were surprised to see the actor, perhaps best known for cop drama on Dragnet, excel at comedy. But he showed his comedic chops in Disney flicks like this. Also look for George "Goober Pyle" Lindsey as a doofus named Double L. Dingman.

Image: The Everett Collection



TV Stars: Bob Crane

Not to be confused with Superbad or Superman, Superdad was a generation-gap comedy about a father (Bob Crane of Hogan's Heroes) who schemes to thwart the budding romance between his daughter (Kathleen Cody of Dark Shadows) and her boyfriend (Kurt Russell, again). The cast also included Dick Van Patten and a young Bruno Kirby.

Image: The Everett Collection


The Castaway Cowboy

TV Stars: James Garner, Robert Culp

Between Maverick and The Rockford Files, Garner had a brief run as an action hero for Disney. He was sort of like the Rock of 1973–74. First, he took top billing in One Little Indian (with a tiny Jodie Foster) than he headlined this yarn about a Texan who ends up on a Hawaiian farm. Robert Culp (Trackdown, I Spy) was the adversary, a banker with his greedy eyes on the land.

Image: The Everett Collection



TV Stars: Don Knotts, Ed Asner, Bob Crane, Tim Conway, Ronnie Schell

Mister Ed meets Rudy in what has to be the best donkey football movie ever made. It was a hit, the biggest on this list, but we included it due to the sheer number of television celebrities. You see Ed Asner (Mary Tyler Moore) and Don Knotts here as owner and coach. Elsewhere, you had the hilarious Tim Conway as a bad guy named "Crankcase," Bob Crane as an announcer, Harold Gould as a bookmaker, Tom Bosley of Happy Days, Ronnie Schell of Gomer Pyle, Dick Van Patten and Johnny Unitas. Oh, and a donkey. It would be Crane's final film.

Image: The Everett Collection


No Deposit, No Return

TV Stars: Don Knotts, Darren McGavin

Knotts had some huge hits for Disney, but this heist comedy was not one of them. He and McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) played bumbling thieves who help two rich children hold themselves for ransom. Barbara Feldon (Get Smart) and a skunk were also along for the ride.

Image: The Everett Collection

Contact | About | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Advertise | Distribution | Do Not Sell My Information - CA Residents