THE WORLDS GREATEST ATHLETE
It was rare during this period to see the Disney people cross-pollinating their product with other genres, they mostly preferring to stay within their own rigidly defined formula. The World's Greatest Athlete was one exception where Disney conceived the film as a parody of Tarzan. [Of course, Disney later made a straight version of the Tarzan legend with the animated Tarzan (1999)]. This was also the period when the Tarzan films had just started to be parodied, beginning with the animated tv series George of the Jungle (1967-70). When subjected to the light burlesque of the 1970s Disney pre-teen formula here, the results make for a surprisingly congenial and amusing confection.
The World's Greatest Athlete is highly enjoyable fun in its energetic serving of comedic set-pieces involving voodoo dolls and people being twirled about in mid-air; a running gag with a blind landlady mistaking a tiger for a person; and an inventive effects set-piece with a shrunken Tim OConnor trying to escape from a bar. The extended scenes at the track event climax are a comedic joy.
The lead casting of John Amos was Disneys belated attempt to catch up with the rising acceptance of Black stars at the box-office in the 1970s. Disneys last venture into matters African-American had been the controversial Song of the South (1946) and their live-action films from the 1940s up to this point had been notable for their absence of non-Caucasian faces. Amos manages an admirable sense of hangdog enthusiasm and deadpan reactions. Roscoe Lee Browne also has an undeniably amusing presence as the witch doctor, tossing in modern non-sequitirs amid the traditional trappings of the role.
Clip from the film here:-
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