Cast & Crew
Gen. Torres, commanding officer for the Mexican Army cavalry team, promises to give his favorite chestnut horse Conquistador, who is competing in an upcoming international show, to his ten-year-old daughter Celita, a talented rider. Despite the horse's failure to clear a wall jump in practice, both Celita and ten-year-old stable boy Pablito believe Conquistador will prevail. Later, Chato, the horse's trainer and Pablito's stepfather, makes several large bets on Conquistador and places a row of spikes on the wall jump to scare the horse into jumping high enough to clear it. When Conquistador swerves away from the jump after the spikes injure him, Chato mercilessly beats the horse. As Pablito tries to intercede, Chato takes the whip to his stepson as well. That night, Chato threatens to hurt Conquistador if Pablito tells the general about the trainer's cruel treatment or his bets. Days later at the competition, after Conquistador fails to clear the wall jump, Torres and his daughter ask Pablito why Conquistador is frightened, but Pablito, recalling his step-father's threats, does not divulge Chato's secret. One day at the ranch while her father is away, Celita tries to coax Conquistador to jump the wall, but the horse balks, injuring his leg and throwing Celita from the saddle. Arriving home just in time to see the accident, Torres orders Chato to fire Pablito and destroy Conquistador. While Chato returns to the stables to load his gun, Pablito flees the ranch with Conquistador. That night, a doctor tells Torres that Celita's recovery is uncertain. Meanwhile, Pablito asks the town barber for help cleaning and wrapping Conquistador's wounded leg. When Chato comes to the barber shop, he is confronted by his creditors who demand that he pay his gambling debts, prompting him to flee. Pablito and Conquistador wander across the countryside for two days and nights until they reach a deserted town, where two bandits, Vulture and Tiger, try to hitch Conquistador to their wagon. When Pablito tells them about the wound, Tiger generously gives the horse a medicinal cure and suggests Pablito escape the area by train, sending him to railway man Garcia to ask for free passage. Upon learning that Conquistador is Torres' horse, Garcia secretly arranges to meet Torres' men down the line in San Juan to trade the horse for a reward, but when they reach San Juan, the officers fail to deliver the money and the horse is spared. Pablito and Conquistador get off the train at San Miguel de Allende, where they take refuge in a doorway during the rainy night. In the morning, Pablito and Conquistador join a procession for Saint Anthony, the patron saint of animals, along with villagers shepherding a wide variety of pets and farm animals. As they make their way through the crowded market place, Chato sees them. Desperate for cover, Pablito leads Conquistador into a church where the Padre, after hearing their story, agrees to harbor the fugitives. When Chato arrives at the church, the Padre tells him that the "sacred law of sanctuary" prevents Chato from removing the horse. The Padre then makes breakfast for the boy and warns him that living as a fugitive will turn him into an outlaw. The next day, the Padre takes Pablito and Conquistador, ill from his wounds, to a large cattle ranch where owner and matador Don Pepe Ortiz introduces them to the veterinarian Ignacio. While Ignacio cares for the horse, Pepe offers to talk to Torres, an honorary judge at the bullfight scheduled in San Miguel the next day, to plead for Conquistador. He then suggests Pablito gather his courage and talk to Torres himself, but the boy refuses. Suddenly a bull breaks free from his corral and chases Conquistador into the fields. Don Pepe and several men go after the horse, but return late that evening empty-handed. The next morning, on the drive back to San Miguel, the Padre and Pablito meet a caravan of gypsies. After Pablito spots Conquistador's bridle on one of their donkeys, one of the gypsies admits that he has sold the horse to a man involved in the bullfight in San Miquel. Meanwhile, at the bull ring plaza, Conquistador is being saddled up for the ring. After the Padre's old car "Doroteo" breaks down just inside town, he and the boy run the last few blocks. Chato sees the pair on the street and follows them to the arena, where a picador enters the ring riding Conquistador but is soon thrown from the horse, leaving Conquistador alone in the ring with the angry bull. Fearing for Conquistador's life, Pablito jumps into the ring and onto Conquistador's back. When the bull immediately charges, Pablito races the horse over the steep gates of the ring. Meanwhile, Chato's creditors spot him in the arena and carry him away kicking and screaming. Torres, who is attending the bullfight, decides to spare Conquistador. When he returns home to tell the boy's heroic tale to his daughter, Pablito and Conquistador arrive at the ranch. After Pablito asks Torres to punish him not the horse, Torres forgives the boy by telling him Conquistador is now his. Days later, after Celita is fully recovered, she and Pablito ride through the Mexican countryside, easily clearing every jump in their path.
J. Carlos Carbajal
Luis Sánchez Tello
The Littlest Outlaw
The Littlest Outlaw started as an original story idea by Larry Lansburgh, who had been working for Walt Disney for ten years. In that time, he had developed a specialty in stories involving animals. He directed animal-centered shorts like Stormy, the Thoroughbred (1954) and Beauty and the Bull (1954), and a few years later he would win two Academy Awards for a short film and a documentary about animals. Disney approved Lansburgh's feature idea and gave him the green light to produce it. Screenplay chores went to Bill Walsh, another longtime Disney hand who would go on to land Oscar nominations for writing and producing Mary Poppins (1964).
Lansburgh's experience with documentary-like naturalism probably helped The Littlest Outlaw achieve similar atmospheric effects, especially in the bullfighting scenes. These were singled out by many critics for their authentic feel, even if the critics otherwise were lukewarm to the movie overall.
The picture was filmed in Technicolor on location in Mexico, mostly at the historic city of San Miguel Allende, in two versions: English and Spanish. Virtually the entire cast was Mexican, as was the director, Roberto Gavaldon.
Film historian Leonard Maltin later wrote that "the secret of this charming film is in the way it was shot. The story is so slight that it would have been pointless unless it had seemed real. By filming it entirely on location, using interior and exterior sites alike, and getting natural, winning performances from the cast, producer Lansburgh and director Roberto Gavaldon succeeded in their goal."
The Littlest Outlaw opened just before Christmas in 1955 to mixed reviews. The New York Times echoed other prominent outlets by calling it "often hackneyed" and much more for kids than adults, but Variety found it "moving" and full of "genuine heart-tug... Gavaldon's scenes never descend into maudlin sentimentality." Of young Andres Velazquez, the trade paper declared his performance "has seldom been equaled by a child thesp."
By Jeremy Arnold
Leonard Maltin, The Disney Films (4th ed.)
Dave Smith, Disney A to Z
The Littlest Outlaw
The opening credits include an acknowledgment to General and Señora R. Rodríguez Familia of the Rancho Méson Del Prado, the People of San Miguel de Allende, the Mexican Army Equestrian Team, Col. Hernández Zarazua and Gen. Humberto Mariles. In addition to the English-language version that was viewed, a Spanish-language version of the The Littlest Outlaw was shot and released under the title El pequeño proscrito. In the Spanish-language version, the "Padre" was played by Pedro Vargas. A modern Mexican source adds Guillermo Calles, Pepe Nava and Guillermo Bravo Sosa to the cast. As noted in reviews, film was on location in Mexico at the following sites: San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Querétaro and Churubusco Studios in Mexico City.