By Jim Fanning
The animal-loving host of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color introduced “Atta Girl, Kelly,” a three-part episode from March 1967, with the help of a special “leading lady.”
Kelly, Walt noted of his canine co-star, was a Seeing Eye Dog from the Seeing Eye School in Morristown, New Jersey, where many of the “Atta Girl, Kelly” exterior scenes were filmed.
“Not all guide dogs are Seeing Eye Dogs,” Walt pointed out, “even though people mistakenly think so. The true Seeing Eye Dog comes only from Morristown.” Walt further noted, “In a good Seeing Eye Dog, it’s not so much a matter of unquestioning obedience—it’s a question of intelligence and temperament and sometimes judgment …and most important, a capacity to love.”
Walt sometimes featured animals in his TV lead-ins so it wasn’t unexpected that he would include Kelly herself in his introduction to part one of “Atta Girl, Kelly.” The truly unconventional part is that Walt was blindfolded as he entrusted the Seeing Eye Dog to lead him down a Studio hallway into his office. By allowing himself to experience a semblance of blindness, Walt was walking in another’s shoes—an example of the empathy possessed by the producer who created this novel TV production…an empathy some would term “a capacity to love.”