Disneyland: I Captured the King of the Leprechauns (1959)

Run Time - 60 min.  |  
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In its promotional material for the 1959 theatrical feature Darby O'Gill and the Little People, the Disney studio went into whimsical overdrive, hoping to convince the younger viewers that the leprechauns appearing in the film were not merely normal-sized actors made small via special effects, but instead the genuine article. As part of this delightful deception, the weekly Walt Disney Presents TV anthology offered an episode in which Walt Disney explained how he personally persuaded the King of the Leprechauns to appear in his film. It all begins when actor Pat O'Brien, returning from a trip to Ireland, regales Walt Disney with stories of the "little people" of the Emerald Isle. Banking on the fact that he is himself half-Irish, Walt travels to Old Erin to see for himself. After conferring with a local "shanachie," or storyteller (played by Darby O'Gill's titular star Albert Sharpe), Disney is granted an audience with his majesty himself, King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea) -- who has quite a healthy ego for one so tiny. This episode expertly blends new footage with previews from the upcoming film, which among other actors features a young Sean Connery (who was so obscure a performer at the time that he isn't even billed in the TV Guide listings!) While the actual Darby O'Gill scenes were directed by Robert Stevenson, the new transitional scenes were helmed by Harry Keller -- who after handling retakes of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil had no trouble seamlessly matching Stevenson's distinctive style.