The Yearling, 1946, should come with a disclaimer: "Animals were offed in the making of this so-called classic, which incidentally is shown regularly on Turner Classic Movies." And The Yearling isn't the only one. There's also Old Yeller and let's not even talk about Bambi.
These are the bring-downs of all time since in each one, an adorable animal is "killed", and why? So we can learn a life-lesson. So children can pick up some tips about "coming of age", though if they're like me, they're more likely to run screaming from the theatre and bear the trauma for life.
What was the point of these exercises in sadism?
Suppressed feelings perhaps, if you note the time when they were made. There was a cold war going on that you could feel even domestically. Toughness made you good. Kids could be kids but only up to a point and not for too long. And nothing could spell out the death of innocence like the death of an animal — the cuter the better. It's funny kittens didn't come in for it.
But there is a stunning exception to the use of animals as propagandistic devices in Leos Janacek's opera, The Cunning Little Vixen from 1924.
This has everything — talking, singing, dancing animals, gaiety, sadness, exquisite music that seems to have come from the very forest, and tears that have been earned.
— Lloyd Dykk