Old Yeller

| 10+ 
Cautions: intensity and some violence, some filial rebellion, some ethical confusion, slang and minced oaths, and brief mild sensuality

Old Yeller will turn out to be one of two distinct movies, depending on whether you’re watching it for the human side of the story or the canine side. In either case, few viewers are going to need much persuasion to watch, or re-watch this memorable Disney dog movie. The only difference is that, for the animal lovers, the story ends in tragedy. For those more keen to see how the tragedy and the events leading up to it turn a young boy into a young man, this rustic, animal-filled movie ends much more happily.

1957 | Robert Stevenson | 83 min

Intensity and Some Violence

Old Yeller has a number of intense scenes which may be very alarming to sensitive viewers. Viewers who are especially sensitive about animals will find the movie very emotionally disturbing.

A theme of rabies (“hydrophobia”) plays out in an intense way. Large animals (rabid and non rabid) try to attack humans several times.

Somewhat bloody injuries are seen a couple of times.

Animals are killed or injured.

Some Filial Rebellion

Main character Travis, a young teenager, occasionally refuses to obey his mother. Sometimes this is because she doesn’t have all the information he does, but his refusal is always adamant and sometimes less than respectful. His mother doesn’t seem to view this as a problem.

Travis’ little brother Arliss is constantly disobedient, and whines and screams when he doesn’t get his way. Travis views this behavior as wrong and extremely annoying, but their mother doesn’t seem to.

Some Ethical Confusion

Arliss tells lies, and his mother indulges him in it. When Travis objects, she replies, “Oh now, let him tell his stories the way he wants to… Arliss is just a little boy with a big imagination. Won’t hurt him to let him use it.” Travis is not satisfied with this answer.

Arliss is never disciplined for his objectionable behavior (including throwing rocks at people he doesn’t like).

Slang and Minced Oaths

gee whiz
By golly
I’ll be dogged
dang busted

Travis also tends to call irritating animals names; for example, “crazy fool dog” or “jughead”.

Brief Very Mild Sensuality

Travis’ parents embrace and kiss.


Luck is mentioned twice.

Young Travis is briefly seen shirtless.

A side character spits frequently.

Travis and Arliss briefly speculate about heaven.

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