By Julia Vargas, Walt Disney Archives
To those who grew up in the 1950s, he was known as the “King of the Wild Frontier.” While not initially considered for the role, Fess Parker was handpicked by Walt Disney to play Davy Crockett in the new Disneyland television series after spotting him in the 1954 sci–fi picture Them! Debuting on December 15, 1954, to an audience of 40 million, Davy Crockett became the first mainstream miniseries to air on television. Somewhat surprisingly, Parker’s interpretation of the Alamo defender made him a household name and set off a national “Crockett craze”—the popularity of raccoon skin caps and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” enamored fans far and wide. The unexpected acclaim for the series resulted in the production of two additional episodes to meet audiences’ enthusiasm that starred Parker—Davy Crockett’s Keelboat Race and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates—which aired in late 1955.
Parker also appeared in several other films for Disney, including The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), Westward Ho the Wagons! (1956), Old Yeller (1957), and The Light in the Forest (1958). He further cemented his position of “television’s top frontiersman” by playing Daniel Boone in the NBC series of the same name from 1964 to 1970, and would go on to become a noted screenwriter, author, recording artist, and businessman. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1991.
Parker’s original Disney Legends handprints were once located in front of the main Theatre at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA, along with those of other early Disney Legends Award recipients. With the addition of Disney Legends Plaza in 1998, the original handprints were removed and preserved by the Walt Disney Archives. It is important to save artifacts like these to chronicle different facets of Company history, such as changes to the studio lot and the ways we honor our Legends. These handprints were most recently displayed at the 2019 D23 Expo in honor of the 65th anniversary of the debut of Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett series. It was very special to be able to showcase such a unique piece of Company’s history at the Expo, where it could be enjoyed and appreciated by Disney fans of all ages.