Cast & Crew
M. R. Valdez
The horse racing world is represented by the finest bloodlines in the horse kingdom. People from all walks of life are attracted by the pageant and excitement of racing and the thrill and risk of gambling. The thoroughbred horses's journey to the racetrack begins at breeding farms, most of which are in Kentucky, where they are bred and reared under strict regulations that allow no room for margins of error. The mares are bred to foal in the first month of the year and each new filly or colt is registered as being born on January first, regardless of their actual date of birth. In an unusual event at one farm in late summer during a stormy night, the mare and former racing champion Lady Ellen gives birth to a healthy ninety-seven-and-a-half pound colt. Within moments of birth, the little colt struggles to his feet and within hours is able to walk and trot. While the other yearlings are old enough to run about the farmland before they begin their formal training as race horses, the young colt, named Stormy for the night he was born, must remain with Lady Ellen. Stormy is then befriended by Sylvester, a groom who knows that because of the colt's late birth, he will never be part of the racing world. While the other yearlings are rigorously trained and taught by jockeys how to manage their instinctive urge to race, Stormy grows up with little restriction in his exercise and diet. Although separated from the strapping racing hopefuls, Stormy is content to grow up with the companionship of his mother. After recovering from the stress of being weaned from Lady Ellen, Stormy is taken by Sylvester to observe the other yearlings running on the track in preparation for the Keeneland Yearling Sale in Lexington, Kentucky. At the auction, Stormy's stable mates are sold one by one for thousands of dollars, while back at the farm, Stormy is sold privately to a California cattle farm owner. Transported west on a train, Stormy begins his new life under the training of vaquero Valdez, a renowned cattle-horse trainer. Over the next several months, Stormy is introduced to a saddle and to being ridden "cowboy style," which includes accepting a mount from either the right or left side and even occasionally from the back. Valdez then gradually introduces Stormy to reins, beginning with a hackamore, a rawhide nose band, before moving on to the snaffle, a light bit. After Stormy is shod for the first time, he is placed on the more rigid curb bit and taught to herd and "cut" cattle. Stormy quickly adapts to his new, athletic outdoor life and under the tutelage of Valdez becomes a top cow pony. Several months later a stranger visits the cow ranch and takes a keen interest in Stormy. Although shown several horses, the stranger returns to Stormy and after the horse performs well in a cutting demonstration, the stranger asks to ride him. Delighted with Stormy's speed and quick-footed agility, the stranger, who proves to be famous polo player Robert Skene, purchases Stormy, who he believes will make an outstanding polo mount. Over the next few weeks, Skene trains Stormy on the polo field to gallop a steady, fast and straight line while growing used to the polo mallet swinging on either side and underneath his head. Stormy then must adjust to hard galloping while being bumped and pressed by other and learn to respond quickly to his rider's request to make abrupt pivoting turns. At the season's most competitive match, Skene keeps the untested Stormy on the sidelines during most of the fiercely fought match, which is tied as the eighth and final period begins. With only minutes to break the tie, Skene takes Stormy onto the field where they are immediately drawn into the dynamic energy of the game. Numerous horse and riders dash across the field struggling to gain control of the ball, but Stormy holds his own under Skene's authoritative guidance. In a frantic dash during the match's final seconds, Stormy races neck and neck with an opposing horse and rider to place Skene in position to take a final shot that scores the winning goal. When Skene's team is presented the silver winner's cup, the rider includes Stormy in the celebration, to honor the thoroughbred racing horse who has found a unique place in the world.
M. R. Valdez
The film's title was listed as Stormy, the Throroughbred in both the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety reviews and in the print viewed. Although the film was released in Technicolor, the print viewed was in black and white and was from a Disneyland television broadcast that aired on March 14, 1956. The onscreen credits for the television broadcast were slightly different from the theatrical release and those in contemporary reviews. The credits above were obtained from contemporary reviews. The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits of the print viewed: "Our appreciation to all those in the Kentucky Bluegrass country who gave their assistance to Dr. Frank Porter Miller of the California Breeder's Association and to the Channing Peake of the Ranco Jabali."
The film was the first Disney feature to be released under the company's new distribution arm, Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc. According to the Daily Variety review, M.R. Valdez, who appears in the film as "The Vaquero" was, at 71 years of age, considered one of the finest horse trainers in the business. Robert Skene, who appears in the film with members of his polo team, was one of the best-known and highest scoring polo players from 1951 to 1965. In 1963 the "Robert Skene Trophy" was established in France and continues to be presented annually, given as a symbol of top polo playing ability.
"Stormy's" story was loosely based on the history of Russell E. Havenstrite's well known horse, Woodie D., who played Stormy in the film. Havenstrite, a personal friend of Walt Disney, was also an avid polo player in the 1930s and 1940s. The film was shot on location in Lexington, KY.