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

Stars of The Andy Griffith Show, M*A*S*H and Kolchak made the leap to the silver screen.

Images: Disney

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.

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1. 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

2. 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

3. 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

4. Superdad

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

5. 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

6. Gus

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

7. 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

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itsGretchen 5 months ago
Snowball Express is s great movie! One of my faves, along with Blackbeard's Ghost 👻
DannyZ 6 months ago
There was also a movie with

Jan Michael-Vincent

I will look up the film
DannyZ 6 months ago
What about-

'The Strongest Man In The World"

Another Kurt Russell vechicle?
Bapa1 6 months ago
For the most part, terrible movies that deserve to be forgotten.
MrsPhilHarris 6 months ago
I remember Now You See Him, Now You Don’t; Castaway Cowboy and Superdad which I thought was hilarious at the time.
KJExpress 6 months ago
I remember "Now You See Him....". I probably saw it on The Wonderful World of Disney." My mom took me to see "The Castaway Cowboy." I suspect it was because she liked James Garner. 😊
Snickers 6 months ago
I remember Super Dad. Not a very good movie even for Disney.
MrsPhilHarris Snickers 6 months ago
I loved it as a kid. Thought it was so funny. 🤭
Peter_Falk_Fan 6 months ago
I don't remember "Scandalous John" or "The Castaway Cowboy". I've heard of the rest but I only remember watching "Now You See Him, Now You Don't". But, I preferred Kurt Russell in serious roles. He was a great bad guy in "Death Proof".
WordsmithWorks 6 months ago
Loved the Dexter Riley/Medfield College comedies - The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Strongest Man in the World, and Now You See Him, Now You Don't.
15inchBlackandWhite 6 months ago
Not Disney's finest era. Eschewing their signature animation for low-budget slapstick that quickly went from the Drive In to network TV to oblivion.
BruceETheobald 20 months ago
Superdad should be wiped from existence.
EricFuller 20 months ago
Mildly entertaining, but crappy.
scoute42 53 months ago
I love Super Dad and Gus. When Super Dad play at my hometown theater it was a full house for both showings.
rycki1138 53 months ago
I remember all of these except Scandalous John and Castaway Cowboy. They use to air these movies on the Wonderful World of Disney and some stations played them in the afternoons and one weekends. Disney Channel also use to air old Disney live-action movies, now they just air their original movies and series.
idkwut2use 53 months ago
I'd already seen Snowball Express, and just watched Gus (great cast! xD) and Castaway Cowboy (good one too!) on Disney+ in my quest to see every Disney movie...x3 Found lots of hidden gems, I did. 8D
daDoctah 54 months ago
And then there was "The Cat From Outer Space", with both CO's of TV's M*A*S*H (Harry Morgan and McLean Stevenson), Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan. and Ronnie Schell as the voice of Jake the cat.
cperrynaples daDoctah 54 months ago
Yes, and what about "Million Dollar Duck" with Duncan and Dean Jones?
15inchBlackandWhite 54 months ago
These were the movies that would run on Wonderful World of Disney when I was a kid. I guess Disney was taking a break from animation.
Barry22 54 months ago
Those were some pretty bad movies, despite the casts. Actors gotta work.
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