List of Disney Based on Folk Heroes, As Seen on “Disney’s American Legends” and Others

Classic fairy tales and children’s stories weren’t the only source for material by Walt Disney Productions in making animation films and shorts. They also took on legendary figures such as the characters from tall tales of American folklore.

A number of these animated shorts may have release solo, or packaged with the “anthology” films released in the 1940s, during and shortly after World War II. In 2002, a more recent anthology released direct to home video, Disney’s American Legends, featured four of these folklore shorts (one made in 2000), and was presented by James Earl Jones.

Here we’ll list the content short animations of Disney’s American Legends, as well as other shorts about similar folklore figures that fall somewhere in the Disney Animated Canon history.

Disney’s American Legends

  1. John Henry (1999) – about the railroad steel-driver who competes against a steam-powered drill to prove the worth of manpower in railroad construction work; plans for theatrical release fell through and was thus included in this anthology
  2. The Legend of Johnny Appleseed (1948) – about the same-named pioneer nurseryman who planted apple trees during the westward movement; originally part of the 1948 package film Melody Time
  3. Paul Bunyan (1958) – based on the giant lumberjack whose exploits shaped America; this short was released theatrically and was nominated for Best Animated Short in the 1959 Academy Awards
  4. The Brave Engineer (1950) – based on the heroic exploit of train engineer Casey Jones, who prevented a serious railway accident; unlike the folk figure, the Disney version of the character survived his ordeal

Other Legends

  1. Pecos Bill (1948) – about the life and adventures of the cowboy and Texas folk hero Pecos Bill; it relates a fanciful account of his early childhood until adulthood, and the sour end of his love life; also part of Melody Time
  2. Casey at the Bat (1946) – not like the others who are traditional folk heroes, Casey is the central character of an 1888 poem about baseball, where he arrogantly believes he’ll hit a home run to win the game for his team (but fails); part of the 1946 package film Make Mine Music

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