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John Henry (2000)

Disney's retelling of the legend of John Henry, the steel-driving man.

Director:

Mark Henn

Writers:

Shirley Pierce (screenplay), Broose Johnson (story supervisor) | 1 more credit »
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ON DISC
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Alfre Woodard ... Polly / Narrator (voice)
Geoffrey Jones Geoffrey Jones ... John Henry (voice)
Tim Hodge ... MacTavish (voice)
Dave Murray Dave Murray ... Thomas (voice)
Carrie Harrington Carrie Harrington ... Singing Voice of Polly (voice)
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Storyline

John Henry, a freed slave, happens across a railroad building project. An entire crew of freed slaves has been promised land if they can finish by deadline, but they're exhausted and unable to continue. John, though, has the strength of ten men, and revitalizes all of them. But despair sets in again when the railroad sends a steam hammer to replace the crew and burns the contract. John proposes a challenge: man against machine. After a heroic effort, including a tunnel through solid rock by swinging two hammers at once, John wins, but he also collapses in his wife Polly's arms. She's recounting this whole story to their young son, to explain why his father was so great. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

G | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 October 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John Henry See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Walt Disney Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color (Technicolor)
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The director, Mark Henn, is a collector of antique firearms. The pistol in the film used to start the race is based on one of his own Civil War era pistols. See more »

Connections

Version of Tall Tales & Legends: John Henry (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Unusual but interesting and touching
18 September 2016 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Disney films and shorts were a huge part of my childhood, and many are still hold dear to my heart. As someone who was introduced to it very recently, 'John Henry' will never go down as one of their greatest achievements but it is a long way from being one of their very few duds.

There is not really that much at all wrong with 'John Henry'. To be honest though some of the animation was also not to my taste, was not a fan either of the (clearly intended) unfinished look to some of the drawing especially the constant coming and going pencil lines. The animation is certainly not without its meticulous detail and vibrant colours though, and while it hearkens back to the style of something like 'Paul Bunyon' it is a little more appealing, while lacking finesse the character designs are noticeably less blocky.

However, the music, adopting a soulful spiritual tone, is outstanding, sung with real passion and exuberance. If there is anything about 'John Henry' that can be greatly admired especially, it is how it clearly knew what it was trying to do and who to aim it at, and succeed totally at these aims. It was very brave to have a darker tone to the story, with the tackling of heavier themes, in a period where Disney noticeably took less risks than in their "Renaissance" period from 'The Little Mermaid' to 'Tarzan', and it is dealt with touchingly and never feels tonally muddled or distastefully dark nor does it feel preachy.

'John Henry' is very nicely written, with heart and sensitivity, and the characters while not complex are likable and relatable to the audience. The voice acting is strong.

In summary, interesting and touching if unusual. Some of the animation was not to my taste but everything else works. 8/10 Bethany Cox


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