Disney Releases Statement After Death of ‘Old Yeller’ and ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ Star Tommy Kirk

by John Jamison

Tommy Kirk, the star of Disney classics such as “Old Yeller” and “Swiss Family Robinson,” passed away at the age of 79 in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Disney, the studio that made Kirk a household name, issued a statement in honor of the iconic actor’s contribution to some of their most memorable films.

The Kentucky-born actor moved from Louisville to California with his family when he was still a baby. It didn’t take long for him to grow into the iconic

Thomas Lee Kirk’s relationship with Disney wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. The family-oriented studio parted ways with a 21-year old Kirk after they learned of a relationship he was carrying on with a minor. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney didn’t make the incident public. And now, nearly 60 years removed from the situation, they don’t appear to have held a grudge.

“We are saddened by the passing of Tommy Kirk, the beloved and iconic star of such Disney family favorites from the 1950s and 1960s as Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones,” the tweeted statement from Disney read.

It was only a few years before that relationship situation transpired that Tommy Kirk realized he was gay. During an in-depth interview with Filmfax Magazine in 1993, the former Disney star talked about how he knew it would impact his career.

“When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to change. 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 said.

Disney Co-Star Tim Considine Called Tommy Kirk ‘Frighteningly Talented’

The first significant role Tommy Kirk ever landed came on the Disney adaptations of the Hardy Boys books. He starred alongside Tim Considine in “The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure” and “The Mystery of the Ghost Farm.”

Considine raved about how talented Tommy Kirk was as an actor. It says a lot, considering it was one of the first prominent TV roles Kirk earned. The former Disney star was only 15 years old at the time.

“He was one of the most talented people I ever worked with. Frighteningly talented. A friend of mine who was a casting director told me that when Tommy Kirk came in to audition, he had never seen a kid actor as good as he was. Especially because he could instantly cry on cue. He was a great talent. And it was a privilege to work with him and call him a friend,” Considine said in a statement.