CLEVERLY MOUNTED AND interestingly presented sort of an early television, 1950's infomercial, this DISNEYLAND installment must bid to be a most unique single program. It has a certain sort of very ordinary treatment of a most unusual story.
THERE WAS NO doubt in our little, baby-boomer minds that the hour was intended as an advertisement and promotional supplement for Walt's soon to be released feature film, DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE. But then again, who really cared? Certainly Mr. Disney had managed to garner all sorts of honors and awards; standing alone in the motion picture business as a true champion of quality, variety and very wholesome family fare. He could do no wrong and we looked forward ever so impatiently for each and every Wednesday evening to roll around.
ALTHOUGH THE PRODUCTION does make use of some excerpted scenes from the DARBY O'GILL theatrical release, there is an extensive portion of the proceedings are original and done exclusively for this television promo. Even the story is woven quite intricately and stands on its own merits; whether or not the DISNEYLAND viewer were to see DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE or not.
MAKING A LONG story short, we open up with Mr. Disney's having invited "Hollywood's Irishman In Residence", Pat O'Brien ion as a consultant about a potential Irish set movie. The subject of Leprechauns comes up and Pat suggests that Uncle Walt should go on a sort of fact finding junket to Ireland and discover first hand just what these "Little People" are. Mr. O'Brien informs Disney that they are not fictional, but real beings who occupy certain areas of the Irish countryside.
THE TRIP BRINGS an enthusiastic and highly curious Studio Head/Producer to the Capital, Dublin. With its extensive reference section on the Leprechaun Peoples, the curator of the fictional reference department, sends Walt Disney to find the "real" Darby O'Gill (Albert Sharpe), who promptly aids in the quest in finding King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea) and he is "captured" along with some of his minions.
IN WRAPING THINGS up, the action returns to the Disney Studios' Office and a reunion with Pat O'Brien. When Pat asks Walt if the "Little People" production would be drawn (animated), Disney replies that he had the real thing to film. Pat then provides the closing gag of "Now that's something I've got to see!", while doing a pointing gesture directly into the camera's eye and right at us.
EVEN THOUGH THERE is a generous amount of the usage of scenes taken from the DARBY O'GILL feature, the specially shoot new footage that is original DISNEYLAND TV, is quite impressive. Its story is well told and does manage to hold the viewers' interest.
OTHER THAN THOSE movie excerpted scenes, which featured the young Sean Connery, Janet Munro and Kieron Moore, there is some very impressive (and expensive) original scenes with good usage of King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea), Darby (Albert Sharpe) and the Vanishing Oge (Jack Mac Gowran)among others.
IT SHOULD GO without saying that DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE is an outstanding exponent of the great art and science of the department of Special Effects; what with the extensive scenes of masses of Leprechauns, Banshees and the Death Coach being most impressive. These are much in evidence and we must remind ourselves that all this was done long before the availability of the Computer Generated imagery in the now field of FX.
IT IS VERY interesting just how well this installment of the old DISNEYLAND Series holds up and stands on its own after 55+ years of water under the bridge.
THAT WOULD SEEM to be a tribute to the quality and near perfection that Mr. Disney demanded. It also explains the popularity that the Disney brand has retained across the abyss of several generations.
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