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In the late nineteenth century, newspaperman John and his wife Sally travel from their home in Atlanta to the rural plantation of Sally's mother, Miss Doshy, accompanied by their young son Johnny and his black nursemaid, Aunt Tempy. Johnny is excited about meeting Uncle Remus, a legendary black storyteller who amused John and Sally during their childhood, but is confused by his parents' anger toward each other. John, whose controversial writings have strained his marriage, returns to Atlanta alone, and Sally remains at the plantation with Johnny. Hurt by what he perceives as his father's desertion of him, Johnny sneaks out of the house with the intention of running away. As he walks along, Johnny finds the elderly Uncle Remus telling stories to a group of black children. Johnny stops to listen but runs off when Tempy and another servant, Chloe, come looking for him. Remus catches Johnny in the woods and agrees to run away to Atlanta with him, but insists on stopping at his cabin for provisions. While there, Remus tells Johnny a story of Brer Rabbit, who also tried to run away despite Remus' warning that there is no place far away enough to escape trouble: Brer Rabbit is captured by Brer Fox and Brer Bear, who intend to make a tasty meal of him, but the rabbit easily outwits them, escapes and returns to his briar patch. Strengthened by the story's moral, Johnny goes home with Toby, the young black servant assigned to look after him. Sally is devastated by his attempt to run away, however, and unfairly blames his behavior on Uncle Remus. Later, Sally orders Johnny to wear a suit with a lace collar, and while the boy wanders about miserably, he is taunted by Joe and Jake Favers, poor white youngsters who are threatening to drown their sister Ginny's puppy. Ginny and Johnny become friends, and she gives him the puppy, Teenchie. Sally refuses to let him keep the puppy, however, and orders him to return it. Instead, Johnny takes Teenchie to Uncle Remus, who agrees to keep it for him, but the next day, the Favers boys threaten Johnny with violence unless he returns the puppy. Uncle Remus tells the distressed Johnny about the time Brer Fox and Brer Bear used a tar baby to trap Brer Rabbit, but were once again outwitted by Brer Rabbit, who begged them not to fling him into the briar patch. Johnny uses the lesson of reverse psychology to get the Favers boys to complain to their mother about the puppy, and Mrs. Favers gives them a sound whipping. The angry boys then tell Sally their story, and Sally accuses Uncle Remus of "warping" Johnny with his stories and orders him to stop telling them to her son. Heartbroken, Uncle Remus returns Teenchie to the Favers boys, then roughly tells Johnny to leave him alone. A week later, Sally throws a birthday party for Johnny and allows him to invite Ginny, despite her misgivings about Ginny's humble upbringing. Johnny happily skips to Ginny's house, but her brothers muddy her only good dress. After fighting with the boys and becoming disheveled himself, Johnny tries to placate Ginny but only makes her cry more. Uncle Remus cannot resist comforting the children with a story and tells them about the time Brer Rabbit again freed himself from the clutches of Brer Fox and Brer Bear by leading them to his "laughing place." The wise old man informs the children that everyone has a laughing place, and when they run off to look for theirs, Sally finds them and chastises them for missing the party. Sally then upbraids Uncle Remus and orders him to stay away from Johnny completely. The old man decides that he is of no use anymore and, after packing his few belongings, prepares to depart. Johnny, who has realized that Uncle Remus' cabin is his laughing place, sees his friend leaving and cuts through a field to stop him. The bull in the field chases Johnny and knocks him down, and the unconscious child is rushed to the plantation house. John immediately comes down from Atlanta, but even his presence does not help his delirious son, who calls for Uncle Remus. Miss Doshy sends for him, and as Uncle Remus holds Johnny's hand and tells him another story, the child revives. Finally realizing that they must set aside their problems for the sake of their son, John and Sally decide to stay at the plantation. Later, Uncle Remus contentedly watches Johnny, Ginny and Toby play with Teenchie. He is amazed to see Brer Rabbit and his other story folk join the children, but soon runs after them and enters their joyous world.