Wednesday with Walt: Sunny-Side Up

“Everybody in the world was once a child. So in planning a new picture, we don’t think of grownups, and we don’t think of children, but just of that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us, that maybe the world has made us forget, and that maybe our pictures can help us recall.”  – Walt Disney

I remember watching Walt Disney’s Pollyanna when I was a young girl. Being a fun-loving child who was always trying to look on the bright side of things, I really related to Pollyanna. Released on May 19th, 1960, this movie is one of the sweetest movies I’ve ever seen. A heart-warming story with a great message; I enjoy watching it over and over again.

Pollyanna is the story of an orphaned daughter of missionaries who is sent to live with her Aunt Polly. Having been very poor while living with her parents, she now comes to live with her extremely wealthy aunt who is an ultra-reserved New Englander, and the richest woman in town. Since she owns nearly everything in the town, everyone kowtows to her, despite her horrible demeanor. Pollyanna, on the other hand, wasn’t blessed with wealth but she was blessed with a cheery disposition and a gift to see the good in almost every situation. Now, she is placed in a town of mostly miserable people who tend to see the bad in everything. Aunt Polly moves Pollyanna into a room in the attic, as far away from her as possible. It doesn’t take long, though, for Pollyanna to befriend Aunt Polly’s staff, as well as an orphan boy named Jimmie Bean.

As Pollyanna spends more time in Harrington, she starts to change everyone’s attitudes. She plays “The Glad Game” with her new friends and neighbors and gradually wins over the entire town with her love and optimism. She even convinces the town’s fire-and-brimstone reverend, who lives to strike fear into his congregation, to preach good news to the churchgoers.

When the town throws a big charity bazaar to help build a new orphanage, Aunt Polly doesn’t let Pollyanna go because she disagrees with the cause. Jimmy convinces Pollyanna to sneak out by climbing down a tree, but when she returns home, she falls and her legs are paralyzed. Aunt Polly’s former love, Dr. Chilton, tells her that he can perform a surgery to fix Pollyanna, but they will need to lift her out of her depression for it to be successful. Pollyanna never realizes all the good she has done in the town, but when she faces this crisis, all of her friends rally around her.

Walt’s storytelling couldn’t be better. Pollyanna really shows Walt’s sentimental side. The movie naturally presents a lovely message and in a heart-warming way reminds me of how I can adjust my attitude for a better way of life. It’s uplifting and glaringly truthful about human beings, both in 1960 and today. Even though it is set in the early 1900’s, the message is still very applicable in the modern world. It is laced with funny little tidbits, such as Pollyanna’s facial expressions. If you watch her, you can tell there are times when she is thinking that everyone in town is completely nuts, but she never says it out loud. Instead, she keeps a happy and hopeful demeanor throughout most of the movie. And while the townspeople resent her attitude at first, and even insult her, she doesn’t let go of who she is, and she is rewarded for it in the end.

The film is set in the picturesque town of Harrington, and Walt did a wonderful job in recreating that era in small town America. Watching it today, it has such a charming and nostalgic feel to it.  The scenery is so reminiscent of Main Street USA, I long to be back at Walt Disney World again.

I used to see Pollyanna as being sunny-side up. She affected everyone and everything around her. The really special part of this story for me, when I first saw it many years ago, was how a little girl softened the hearts of the adults in the town, making them realize that they should be happy to be healthy and alive.

Pollyanna is without a doubt one of Walt Disney’s best films. It’s a great family movie; just as good now as it was when I first saw it in as a child in the 1970s. If you have never seen Pollyanna, or have not seen it in a while, might I suggest you do? If your children have not seen it, this would be a great family night movie for everyone to enjoy together.

There are many recent Disney movies that I love, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series and my new favorite animated film, Tangled 3D. But this movie is totally representative of the Walt-era of Disney movie-making. Walt made pictures that touched his heart and, in the process, he touched all of our hearts as well.


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