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

Stars of The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan's Heroes and Maverick made the leap to the silver screen.

Images: Disney

Disney has a new streaming service. That means a flood of new series from its big Star Wars and Marvel properties, not to mention a deluge of reboots. The House of Mouse will offer a good chunk of its back library, including beloved 1970s movies like The Apple Dumpling Gang, Freaky Friday and The Cat from Outer Space

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

SEE ALSO: Ranking the top 5 Don Knotts movies

We count down a handful of Knotts comedies. READ MORE

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daDoctah 23 days 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 21 days ago
Yes, and what about "Million Dollar Duck" with Duncan and Dean Jones?
15inchBlackandWhite 24 days 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 24 days ago
Those were some pretty bad movies, despite the casts. Actors gotta work.
RobCertSDSCascap 25 days ago
Vaguely remember snoozing through a few of these, especially #7.
MrsPhilHarris 25 days ago
Loved Superdad. Not sure if I could enjoy it anymore.
It's Bob Crane, isn't it? You must have seen Auto Focus with Greg Kennear!
Read a book about Bob Crane's murder.
Jeremy 25 days ago
#1 and #5 are the only ones I haven't heard of.
cperrynaples 25 days ago
Kurt Russell was also a TV star! He did several series in the '60's and '70's before his breakthrough as Elvis! Fun Fact: a young Kurt kicked Elvis In a 1962 movie! Bonus Question: What role did he play on Gilligan's Island?
I think he was called Jungle Boy. Or something.
daDoctah cperrynaples 23 days ago
After Disney died, they found a piece of paper on his desk with just two words written on it: "Kurt Russell". If you count what people write down, those may have been Walt's last words.
cperrynaples daDoctah 21 days ago
Are you sure it wasn't "Filthy Jews"...LOL! On any other board, this post would be way worst!!
Amalthea 25 days ago
Hardly forgotten. My mom took me to see "Superdad" for a special, personal celebration. "Gus" played in a double-bill with "Bambi", and was my little brother's first theatre movie.

Story about "Gus": There was a lady sitting behind us with her young son. Every single time Tom Bosley came on the screen, she would shriek, "Look! There's the guy on the Fonzie Show!" "See the guy from the Fonzie show?" etc. Finally, I turned around and said, "First of all, it's "Happy Days", not "The Fonzie Show". Second...WE KNOW!!!" I thought I was going to get into trouble with my parents, but they liked that I shut her up.
cperrynaples Amalthea 25 days ago
Superdad is kinda ironic given what we know now about Bob Crane!!
"Super Dad" was from 1974. Crane was murdered in 1978. The year before his murder he did his last television role on an episode of "The Love Boat". He was a crewman who found out one of the passengers was the daughter he abandoned many years before. When he was asked by the other cast and crew why he was so terrific in the role he said, "It was easy. I just remembered the last several years where I was so terrible to my own family."
OK, but he was making homemade porn by 1974! Watch Auto Focus! There's a scene where Crane talks to his teenage son!Fun Fact: Bob Crane Jr. is a reporter in the movie!
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