Disney’s ‘Old Yeller’ Star Tommy Kirk Dies at Age 79

by Jon D. B.

Old Yeller icon Tommy Kirk, famous for playing a young Travis Coates in Disney’s 1957 classic, died at age 79 in his Las Vegas home.

One of the most recognizable child actors of a generation, Tommy Kirk would be immortalized as little Travis in Disney’s iconic 1957 rendition of Old Yeller among several other timeless classics. Kirk’s remarkable life, however, has now come to an end.

According to law enforcement sources for TMZ, Tommy Kirk’s body was found by his neighbor in his Las Vegas home around 8 P.M. on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. He was declared dead at the scene.

Currently, there is no hint of foul play.

Kirk would become a ‘Disney Legend’ in 2006 for his career as an actor in the studio’s golden era. His big break came with Old Yeller, though fans will also recognize Kirk for roles in classics like The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones.

He would star in each of these films as a teen after his discovery in 1954 by the studio. At the time, Tommy was a 13-year-old theatre actor in Pasadena. A talent agent would discover him during a performance of “Ah, Wilderness!”

From there, Kirk would go on to star in television episodes, as well as becoming a The Mickey Mouse Club cast member. There’s no doubt, however, that his role as Travis in Old Yeller remains his most iconic to this day.

‘Old Yeller’ Icon Dead at 79, Resurfacing Old Disney Controversy

Yet these career highlights came amidst many struggles for Kirk as a young man.

“When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to change,” TMZ cites of a recent interview with the actor in which he spoke on coming out as a gay man.

“I didn’t know what the consequences would be, but I had the definite feeling that it was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career. It was all going to come to an end,” Kirk would continue.

“Eventually, I became involved with somebody and I was fired,” the Old Yeller star revealed. Hollywood legend holds that Walt Disney himself personally fired Tommy Kirk in 1964 over his coming out. But we may never know the truth now that the actor has passed.

The Old Yeller icon was 79. Rest in Peace, Tommy Kirk.