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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
James Earl Jones's narration provides the framework for these tales. He gives true historic background for the cartoons, though the cartoons themselves tend to dwell less on fact and more on folklore.
John Henry fought for the land of his fellow workers, though his efforts result in his death. Johnny Appleseed does good deeds.
Positive Role Models
John Henry is introduced as a true "African-American role model." In fact, all of these characters model leadership and perseverance, though some of them make better choices than others. Paul Bunyan, for example, gets so angry that he threatens and fights.
Violence & Scariness
Some cartoon violence, including an ox punching Paul Bunyan in the mouth, while Paul throws the ox around -- "roughhousing" as the narrator calls it. Some perilous moments when Casey Jones's train nearly runs over a woman on the tracks. Themes of loss include the death of John Henry and the passing of Johnny Appleseed, though they are both celebrated after they pass.
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Products & Purchases
Disney previews lay it on thick for Disney products.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that though the first cartoon about John Henry is a more inclusive look at an African-American hero, the other three cartoons are much more dated -- and less educational -- retellings of American legends. The Johnny Appleseed cartoon features a song about the Lord and a Bible that accompanies Johnny wherever he goes. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The first cartoon about John Henry is beautifully rendered and lovingly told, and creates a touching tribute to a soulful man. Though the Johnny Appleseed tale tells of the struggles of a young man in overcoming his fears, it does not possess the soul or depth of the John Henry story. The last two cartoons about Paul Bunyan and Casey Jones are stories of man versus machine, and though they are fun to watch, they are not as interesting or gripping as the first story.
It's amazing to see how Disney has changed its tune to include women and people of color in its storylines. These changes reflect the way our world really is, which provides a more interesting story. These tales could inspire families to get to the library to find more American heroes. We all need inspiration, right?
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.