Old Yeller

  • Review Date: January 10, 2005
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1957

Common Sense Media says

Tearjerker is one of the best early Disney dramas.
  • Review Date: January 10, 2005
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1957

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Faced with tremendous difficulties and heartbreak, there is always a resilience to the human spirit. Also, even though loving and caring for another being can be difficult and painful, it's worth it.

Positive role models

Katie Coates is a strong frontierswoman and a firm but loving mother to her two songs. As the oldest son in charge of maintaining the ranch while his father is on a cattlerun, Travis Coates learns hard work and responsibility. The father gives some great guidance to his son dealing with loss.

Violence & scariness

As a western set in the 1950's, there's lots of hunting with rifles in this film. The youngest boy throws rocks at other characters when he's upset. Old Yeller fights with wolves, a bear, and wild pigs. While trying to rope the wild pigs, Travis falls and gets attacked by one of the animals, who bites and stabs at his leg, leaving him injured and bloody. And then, of course, there's the legendary ending, when Old Yeller must be put out of his misery.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this classic 1950's tearjerker about love and loss between a frontier family and a dog has characters hunting with rifles, and fierce battles between Old Yeller and various wild animals that could be too intense for younger viewers. And, of course, there is the now-legendary climax of the film, which could definitely be difficult for children still coming to grips with life and death of pets and people. Still, it is a classic story of loss, and an excellent way to begin a discussion of those issues.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In 1869 Texas, Jim Coates (Fess Parker) leaves his family for three months to sell their cattle, and tells his older son, Travis (Tommy Kirk) to take care of his mother, Katie (Dorothy McGuire) and his younger brother, Arliss (Kevin Corcoran). When a stray dog comes to their farm, Arliss "claims" him, over Travis' objections. But Old Yeller turns out to be an outstanding dog and pal for Travis. When Old Yeller saves Katie from a rabid wolf, Travis is faced with the hardest decision of his young life.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

OLD YELLER is a touching tale. The scene when Jim returns, as Travis and his friend Lisbeth are burying Old Yeller, is particularly meaningful. Jim tells him that the loss of Yeller is "not a thing you can forget. Maybe not a thing you want to forget. ... Now and then, for no good reason a man can figure out, life will just haul off and knock him flat. … I'll tell you a trick that's sometimes a big help. Start looking around for something good to take the place of the bad."

Jim's talk with Travis is a model of parental wisdom, understanding, and patience. He accepts and validates Travis' feelings completely, and does not try to minimize or talk him out of them. (Contrast that with Lisbeth, who tries to comfort Travis by encouraging him to "come to like the pup.") Instead of telling him what to do, he says, "I'll tell you a trick that's sometimes a big help," letting him decide for himself whether to take the advice. Travis was not just reluctant to adopt Old Yeller at first -- he was downright hostile because of the loss of his first dog, Belle. That, at the end of the movie, he is able to accept Young Yeller more easily shows how much he has grown up.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the Coates family lives. How do they get their food, talk, and behave in ways that are different and similar to families today?

  • What do you think the ultimate message of the movie is?

  • How does Travis's attitudes towards Old Yeller change throughout the movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 25, 1957
DVD release date:May 7, 2002
Cast:Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, Jeff York
Director:Robert Stevenson
Studio:Walt Disney Pictures
Genre:Drama
Topics:Book characters
Run time:84 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of Old Yeller was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written bySonia Montejano April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 
Adult Written byHorsejumper October 23, 2009
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

good show!

It is a good show but the very end is very sad.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written byAshnak April 9, 2008
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Really Good Kids Movie

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Top Kids' Movies: An Essential Guide for Families