The fun thing about watching Disney movies is seeing a favorite star again and again. Walt knew talent when he saw it and he used the same actors over and over if the fit was right for the next project. Some actors were just good box office!
Thinking of males who pop up often we might list Bobby Driscoll, but he was mainly a voice-over actor. We could also mention Ken Barry, Tim Conway, David Tomlinson, Dick Van Dyke, Tim Considine, and James MacArthur. All of these had multiple roles in Disney live-action movies.
But we want only the best in our Top Five List! So to quote one of our fellas who didn’t make the list: “Here we gooooooo!”
Number Five: Dean Jones
(January 25, 1931 – September 1, 2015)
You may not realize that this man starred in over 10 Disney movies! Perhaps his best known role was along side that spunky little Volkswagen, Herbie. But he delivered many other comedic turns, including That Darn Cat! and The Shaggy D.A.
Why isn’t Mr. Jones higher on the list? Although a hardworking player, he isn’t one who most Disney fans readily think of. This is an injustice to a Disney staple and one we hope to correct with this list!
Number Four: Kevin Corcoran
(June 10, 1949 – October 6, 2015)
Kevin was honored as a Disney Legend on October 9, 2006. This alone should secure him a place on this list. But it’s his enduring roles in Disney films that puts him here, over a dozen in fact! Starting with Old Yeller (and later its sequel Savage Sam) and continuing with such films as Swiss Family Robinson and Babes in Toyland, he just kept showing up and doing a wonderful job.
I wanted to place him higher on the list, where I believe he belongs, but the competition was too strong. The next lad just barely pushed him out of the Number Three spot:
Number Three: Tommy Kirk
(December 10, 1941 -)
Tommy was inducted as a Disney Legend on October 9, 2006 along with his costar Kevin Corcoran. But again, this alone didn’t get him on this list! It is his solid portfolio of over a dozen Disney films that lands him so high on the list. Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, Savage Sam, and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones are just a few that you might remember. Is there a Disney film this lad wasn’t in?
Of course, it all started on the Mickey Mouse Club as Joe Hardy for the serial “The Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure”. That’s a pedigree you just can’t ignore!
Number Two: Kurt Russell
(March 17, 1951 -)
Arguably Walt’s personal favorite, you might think that Mr. Russell should be in the Number One spot (and he probably should), especially when you consider that the last thing Mr. Disney wrote was ‘Kurt Russell’. Weird. But that alone can’t get a fella all the way to the top of this list!
With over a dozen Disney movies and one of the longest Disney associations on record (thanks to 2005’s Sky High) Kurt deserves respect. With his debut in Follow Me Boys! to movies like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (beginning his running character of Dexter Riley, the boy to whom everything happened) and a voice part in The Fox and the Hound and finishing with the aforementioned Sky High, Kurt is a Disney constant yesterday and today, which not many can claim!
Fun Fact: Kurt met Goldie Hawn for the first time on the set of a Disney movie. Do you know which one? The answer is at the bottom of this post. Hint: She played a giggly girl!
Number One: Fred MacMurray
(August 30, 1908 – November 5, 1991)
Mr. MacMurray came to Disney later in life. He started with the famous The Shaggy Dog, then moved on to The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, Follow Me Boys!, and The Happiest Millionaire (these last two being my personal favorites). Although he did other Disney movies, he has the smallest number of Disney movies on this list.
So why is Fred MacMurray the Number One Disney male live-action star?
The first reason may just be that he was the first person honored as a Disney Legend, in 1987.
But to think of Mr. MacMurray is to think of all that Walt Disney wanted to project with his films. He was wholesome. He had old-world charm. He was decent, on and off the screen. And he continued with this persona as Steve Douglas, the widowed patriarch of My Three Sons, which ran on ABC from 1960–1965 and then on CBS from 1965–1972. I think Walt would have liked that show!
If you want to see another side of this versatile actor, check out 1944’s Double Indemnity, a film that is attributed with starting the Film Noir genre. Remember, Mr. MacMurray started his career in 1929 and did his last piece of work in 1978. There is so much more to discover with this Number One actor!
Runner Up: Ed Wynn
(November 9, 1886 – June 19, 1966)
Wynn began his career in vaudeville in 1903. So he is definitely the fella on this list with the longest career! He was well along in years and accomplishment before he met Walt Disney. But what a showing he made for himself: Wynn provided the voice of the Mad Hatter in the animated film, Alice in Wonderland and then played The Toymaker alongside Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands in Babes in Toyland released in 1961.
But possibly his best-remembered film appearance was as Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins (1964). That Darn Cat! (1965) followed and then he had smaller roles in The Absent Minded Professor (as the fire chief) and Son of Flubber (as county agricultural agent A.J. Allen). His final performance, as Rufus in The Gnome-Mobile was released a few months after his death. Not the longest list of films among the fellas.
In addition to Disney films, Wynn was also starred in the anniversary edition of The Golden Horseshoe Revue (and for the cool factor, he also entered The Twilight Zone… twice!). Wynn was posthumously named a Disney Legend on August 10, 2013.
Conclusion: Obviously my list is personally motivated and thus open to criticism and at the very least, reorganization. Do you agree with my list? Or would you like to add someone? Please let us know in the comment section below! And be sure to read my other list: Top Five Live-Action Disney Actresses.
Fun Fact Answer: The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band released in 1968.