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Rascal DVD Review

Disney's Rascal movie poster - click to buy and browse through more Rascal

Theatrical Release: June 1969 / Running Time: 85 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Norman Tokar

Cast: Steve Forrest (Willard North), Bill Mumy (Sterling North), Pamela Toll (Theo North), Elsa Lanchester (Mrs. Satterfield), Henry Jones (Garth Shadwick), Bettye Ackerman (Miss Whalen), Jonathan Daly (Reverend Thurman), John Fiedler (Cy Jenkins), Walter Pidgeon (voice of grown-up Sterling North)

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Based on Sterling North's autobiographical memoir,
Rascal tells the story of an adolescent boy who befriends a baby raccoon one summer. As far as story goes, that's the bulk of this Disney adaptation which does not stray far from the "boy and his animal" film that the studio has made (and often, made well) over the years.

Young Sterling (played by Bill Mumy, fresh off his successful stint on "Lost in Space") and his mischevious raccoon Rascal have some fun and get into a few adventures in their Illinois town. The film is narrated by a now-grownup Sterling, a device which for me, called to mind A Christmas Story. With his mother passed away, and his father out of town most of the time, Sterling has found a true friend who is making life a bit more enjoyable for him and his dog Wowser.

Though there's a dog, it's the raccoon in his lap that Sterling (Bill Mumy) names Rascal and befriends. Aww, and you doubted raccoons could be adorable.

Though nothing in Rascal is particularly unpredictable or exceedingly funny,

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the film does manage to capture a poignant sense of childhood spirit and the closeness to an animal that plays a large part for many youths. The film is nicely photographed and adequately directed by Disney veteran Norman Tokar.

Performances are generally fine, with Steve Forrest bringing a Fess Parker-like charm to his paternal role. John Fiedler (the voice of Piglet) turns up in a supporting role as he does in many a Disney movie, and he both adds a bit of spark and defies the normal aging process.

Even though the film is heading where we expect, Rascal ends strongly with a genuinely heartfelt parting. With the narration of Walter Pidgeon providing a solemnly wistful reminiscence, Sterling must release his raccoon friend into the wild and bid farewell to the best friend he's ever had. Though it may be a bit formulaic, Rascal is a simple but effective little film.

Buy Rascal on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles: English
Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 21, 2002
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Keepcase


From the squeezed opening credits, it's clear that this film was originally exhibited in widescreen. Rascal definitely should be presented in widescreen on DVD, likely in the 1.75:1 aspect ratio Disney was fond of at the time. Instead, after the credits, the film is cropped to a 1.33:1 "Fullscreen" viewing presentation. While I didn't notice many problems with the framing, a movie designed for widescreen need not lose 24% of its picture simply to appease collectors Disney thinks will want their 4 x 3 sets filled.

Whoa, whoa, there is such a thing as too much fun! Main Menu

Having covered the aspect ratio issue, the fullscreen transfer looks merely okay. The film does show its age and lacks the cleanliness of restored Vault Disney prints and even the vividness of barebones catalogue DVDs that just seem to have lucked out with good prints (like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, from the same year.)
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For the most part, the video quality ranges from modestly good to mediocre, but it never particularly mars one's enjoyment of the film. The film could look better and less "washed out" had work been done, but that doesn't seem likely treatment for a title that so few have seen.

Though the package lists Dolby Digital Surround Sound, it really felt like Mono. That suited the film just fine, as fortunately, its soundtrack, though not dynamic, did an apt job at conveying the dialogue and sound effects with a bit more life than you might expect. The film's music breathes some life and is faithfully rendered.


There are no extra features on this DVD.

Like raccoon... ...like owner


Rascal is one of many "boy and animal" films that the Disney studio has released over the years. Though it isn't particularly well known, it is a satisfactory production. Disney's DVD treatment really doesn't show much effort or care, but that it is on disc at all puts it ahead of the dozens of live action films from the '50s, '60s, and '70s that aren't. Fans of the film are bound to be a bit disappointed by this DVD release, but those unfamiliar with the film may be pleasantly surprised. To its benefit, it is appropriately priced at a bargain bin rate.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / The Book: Rascal by Sterling North

Related Reviews:
Also Directed by Norman Tokar:
Big Red (1962) | Savage Sam (1963) | Those Calloways (1965) | Follow Me, Boys! (1966) | The Boatniks (1970)
Snowball Express (1972) | The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) | Candleshoe (1978) | The Cat from Outer Space (1978)

Other Animal Films: The Biscuit Eater (1972) | My Dog, The Thief (1969) | Cheetah (1989)

Other 1960s Disney Films:
Pollyanna (1960) | The Parent Trap (1961) | 101 Dalmatians (1961) | The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)
Bon Voyage! (1962) | The Jungle Book (1967) | The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964) | The Love Bug (1969)

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