Disney Legend Tommy Kirk Passes Away at Age 79


Disney Legend Tommy Kirk passed away September 28th at the age of 79. The actor known mostly for his career with Disney became a Disney Legend in 2006 for his accolades at the company. He starred in films such as Disney’s 1957 classic Old Yeller, as well as 1959’s The Shaggy Dog and 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson.

Tommy Kirk was born on December 10th, 1941 in Louisville, Kentucky. Just three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was only 15 months old because his father was looking for better work. 

Tommy began acting at age 13 when he auditioned for a number of smaller stage productions. He was up for the lead role of Ah, Wilderness!, but lost to fellow Disney Legend Bobby Driscoll. Tommy continued to do small parts until his break into television in 1956 making small appearances on shows like Gunsmoke and Crossroads. But everything changed soon after.

In 1957 Tommy auditioned to be apart of the Mickey Mouse Club’s serial series The Hardy Boys and got the part. But shortly afterwards he would be asked to be in Old Yeller, playing the lead role of Travis Coates. The film was a financial and critical success, leading Tommy to be one of Disney’s biggest child stars at just 16 years old.

He was later cast for the canceled Rainbow Road to Oz film, a film meant to capitalize on the MGM Oz film, but that’s another story. Tommy would take a break from Disney and lend his voice to the 1957 American Localization of the classic Soviet Animated Snow Queen film. But he wouldn’t stay away for long.

In 1959 Tommy would star in The Shaggy Dog. A fun little science fiction comedy about a teenager who turned into an Old English Sheepdog. Shortly after he stared in 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson as one of the two Robinson sons, Ernst. Based in the 1812 novel of the same name, the film follows a family shipwrecked on an island after being chased by Pirates. After a confrontation with the pirates they are later found and Ernst decided to leave for London University.

The film is considered a classic and even had an attraction at the Disney Parks with the Swiss Family Treehouse, later changed to the Tarzan treehouse. The actor would continue to work at Disney, appearing in the 1961 Babes in Toyland and a 1963 Sequel to Old Yeller called Savage Sam

Kirk retired from acting and came out as gay in 1973. Disney reportedly cut ties with the young actor because of this.

In 2006 the actor was made a Disney Legend for his work at Disney. He passed away at age 79 in his home in Las Vegas on September 29th, 2021.

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