He was a 14-year-old kid just starting out in the movies when Disney signed him to a 10-year contract and promptly began casting him in a succession of family hits.
Those movies continue four decades later to have a healthy life on video and DVD. And as Kurt Russell celebrates the 40th anniversary of his first association with Disney, he can still see those old titles on the shelves -- titles like Follow Me Boys (1966), The Horse In The Grey Flannel Suit (1968) and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969). And yes, the awareness that his younger self is still captivating today's viewers does make him feel ancient at times.
"It's amazing how time flies," he says reflectively. "I started acting in 1961 -- that's 44 years ago or whatever -- and then I went over to Disney to do Follow Me Boys -- with Fred McMurray and Vera Miles and Charlie Ruggles."
He laughs at the memory of a conversation he had years later on the set of Tombstone, a Disney movie he did when he was old enough to play Wyatt Earp. A friend incredulously reminded him that in Follow Me Boys, he'd worked with an actor (Ruggles) who had been born in 1885.
When Russell first started working for the Mouse House, founder Walt Disney was still alive, and the actor retains happy memories of a man who gave him constant encouragement as a youngster.
"I spent a lot of time with Mr. Disney as a kid," Russell commented a few months ago on the set of his new film, Sky High. "He took the time to really talk to me and teach me at a very early age about script and character and story arc -- things that later in my life would be very, very important to me. It was a long time ago, but he was a great filmmaker, a great man and a great student of his game."
So whenever he returns to the old Disney lot in Burbank to make a film, Russell always feels that he's back in a comfortable place. Sky High, which opens July 29, is no exception. "It's a lot of fun to be able to do this movie that has his brand on it."