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The Man from Button Willow
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Man from Button Willow is a 1965 animated adventure set in the 1800s, and it plays to broad stereotypes and fantasies about cowboys, Native Americans, cowards, heroic men, gentle women, and rescued orphans, all underscored by an overwhelmingly romantic, not to mention ethnocentric view of America's rugged individualism and superiority on the world stage. But it fills the rest of its time with lots of Bambi-like subplots of life in the forest, featuring animal play, nature, and simple platitudes about America that are fairly innocuous by comparison.
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What's the story?
Justin Eagle (Dale Robertson) is a cowboy by day and an undercover agent for the U.S. government by night who gets by outwitting landgrabbers who outpace the railroads, snatch up a few pristine swatches of unclaimed soil, and then sell it back to the government at inflated prices. But Eagle will face his biggest adventure yet when a U.S. senator goes missing in the midst of a known villain's extortion attempts to buy settler's land that happens to lie right in the path of a significant railroad that will finally connect the East and West.
Is it any good?
This is an amusing nostalgia kick for fans of Westerns, cowboys, or that haze of the good-old-days in American history, where it didn't matter if they got the actual history right. THE MAN FROM BUTTON WILLOW does what it clearly aimed to achieve in 1965: romanticize cowboys, gloss over landgrabbing in 1800s-era America, and send a message about America's dominance, superiority, and the importance of fighting for freedom. In spite of that high-octane to-do list, it drags more than you would expect, and spends an inordinate amount of time exploring a Disney-styled cast of animals frolicking and surviving in nature before it gets down to business.
Kids, though, may enjoy that romp in the forest. Parents will wonder how a rugged cowboy is raising an orphan while he constantly jaunts off on heroic rescues, nevermind that this orphan calls him "Justin-san" even though she is Chinese. And don't bother asking why Eastern-tinged music needs to play every time she appears.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how governments decide who owns the land it oversees, and the kinds of challenges brought up in settling a land as vast as America. What do you know about the people who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
Go online to learn more about life during the 1800s in the American West. What drew new American families to this area during this time? What challenges did families face as they migrated to California? What were the rewards for those who made it?
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