47 years later, ‘Follow Me, Boys!’ still a leader in movies about Scouting

follow-me-boys-posterTomorrow’s release of Saving Mr. Banks, which spotlights Walt Disney’s efforts to acquire the rights to Mary Poppins, got me thinking about a Walt Disney film released two years later.

Follow Me, Boys! is Disney’s tribute to the Boy Scouts of America, and nearly five decades after its release, it’s the only major motion picture I can think of that celebrates the Boy Scouts and holds up our organization’s strong values.

The Follow MePoppins parallels don’t end with Mr. Disney himself. The title song in Follow Me, Boys! was written by Robert and Richard Sherman, the same duo who penned the music in that British-nanny musical. (The actors B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman portray the Sherman brothers in Saving Mr. Banks.)

The theatrical debut of Follow Me, Boys! on Dec. 1, 1966, was followed two weeks later by some tragic news. Walt Disney died of lung cancer that day, meaning Follow Me, Boys! was the last production released during his lifetime.

I’d love to see a film like Saving Mr. Banks that delves into Walt Disney’s interest in the Boy Scouts of America. What sparked his curiosity in the organization and desire to turn MacKinlay Kantor’s book God and My Country into a feature film? How did the Scouting organization respond to his request? And what, if any, involvement did the BSA have during production?

Follow Me, Boys! stars a teenage Kurt Russell and Fred MacMurray (a former Scout in Troop 33 in Madison, Wis.). It follows a childless couple who devote themselves to the youth of the community. They decide Scouting is the best way to help boys become confident young men who are prepared for life. (Good call.)

To say their plan is a success is an understatement. MacMurray’s character becomes a major force for good in the lives of these boys, who come and grow throughout his 20-year Scouting career. I won’t spoil how it ends, but I will say it’s an inspiration to watch this Scoutmaster soar.

I think of Follow Me, Boys! as Mr Holland’s Opus but released 30 years earlier and set in a Scout troop instead of a high school. And I mean that as a compliment.

Follow Me, Boys! got solid reviews when it debuted, including from Scouting magazine. In our December 1966 issue, we wrote: “Laughs chase the tears throughout this portrayal of small-town and rural life in the model-A era and the career of a man who becomes a leading citizen by his avocation of helping boys. Take the family to see it.”

What was solid advice 47 years ago still holds true today: Follow Me, Boys! offers good, wholesome family fun. Watch a trailer and see original write-ups from Scouting and Boys’ Life magazines after the jump. 

Watch the Trailer
Boys’ Life piece

Boys’ Life writer got a first-hand look at production for the film. Check out that fun story, “Lights! Cameras! Boom!”, in the BL Wayback Machine archives.

Scouting review

Read our December 1966 review:


30 thoughts on “47 years later, ‘Follow Me, Boys!’ still a leader in movies about Scouting

  1. This is still my all favorite Scouting movie. I saw it for the first time when I attended scoutmaster training at Philmont Scout Ranch in 1984. Now I own the DVD.

  2. Love this movie and watch the DVD several times a year. Another good one is “Mister Scoutmaster” with Clifton Webb, which finally came out on DVD earlier this year,

  3. We screen the movie at our family outdoor movie night for our Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. The scouts sing “Follow Me Boys” for months afterwards. It’s fun to see how much has changed and how much has stayed them same!

  4. I vaguely remember the movie in the mid-1960s, but it didn’t really hit me emotionally until I got a copy for my son to watch when he was a Cub Scout several years ago. When we went to PTC in 2012, they had a movie night & showed it. Even though we had it at home, we sat thru it munching on popcorn. I always suggest it when there is a movie that involves Cub Scouts, but it usually doesn’t make the cut. For some reason, the “powers that be” like showing one of the Indiana Jones’ movies as it shows him as a Boy Scout early on in it.

  5. I first saw this movie in the early 1970s as a young Boy Scout and I have not found anything remotely close to its impact. For Cub Scouts there was “Down and Derby” (2005), a fun movie, but it simply could not create a similar visceral reaction as Fred MacMurray did in “Follow Me, Boys!”. The message in the film was simple and not spotted with foul language (that seems to be a socially acceptable standard in today’s world) or peppered with violence and sexual innuendo. As Scouting movies go, this portrayed the very essence of the Boy Scouts of America–timeless values, remember?

    We used to show that movie in the Camp Stigwandish dining hall and it never grew old, no matter how many times we had seen it in the past.

    My son, a Board of Review away from being a third generation Eagle Scout, grew up with “Camp Lazlo”, a cartoon pan on the Boy Scouts (as Bean Scouts), but still an enjoyable cartoon series. He loved the parallels and related to the corniness of it all. Lazlo always tried to do the right thing and was cheery in the process.

    It’s highly doubtful anything will replicate or surpass “Follow Me, Boys!”. The Boy Scouts can’t seem to find enough relevancy in a modern society to warrant another full-length feature movie. Sadly, we live in an era that would really benefit from more of those timeless Boy Scout values.

  6. There’s an excellent new Boy Scout movie out this year, and hoping for a national release. “Troop 491: Adventures of the Muddy Lions” written and directed by a former Scout and based on some of the life lessons and adventures he had as a Scout in Richmond, VA’s real troop 491. The movie opened in Richmond with a 1-week run and was such a draw that the theater extended it for over a month. If you’re in the Washington, DC area, there is are two screenings on Dec 19th. The movie’s website is http://www.troop491-movie.com/ or on Facebook at http://www.troop491-movie.com/

  7. “Follow Me, Boys” was shown as part of my Wood Badge training in 2007. I read Kantor’s book when I was a Boy Scout in 1955. I read the article about the Troop 491 movie, and it looks like a good candidate for inclusion in Wood Badge.

  8. I actually have the DVD sitting on my desk. I’ve been trying to get some of our younger DE’s to watch it because I wanted to show them that some of the issues that they think are new have been around for years. Times change, families look a little different but some of the basic needs of boys that this movie shows are still the same ones they have today. And Scouting can still be the answer.

  9. I agree that “Follow Me Boys” is a great representation of the Boy Scouts.

    However, the sad part is the has been nothing else for nearly 50 years. There have been a couple of examples like the opening 15 minutes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade which show Indiana as a Life Scout, but most are just mentions in movies like Tony Stark in Ironman donating his art collection to the Boy Scouts.

    Unfortunately, I blame the National Office for this. National over the years has guarded the Scouting “brand” too tightly. They missed the boat completely when they were presented with the movie “Up” from Pixar. In the modern age of marketing, product placement is everything. There is no movie that accurately shows the modern Boy Scout. I will admit having the show “Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout” is a step in the right direction. However, this program was on the National Geographic Channel and many were not able to see it. Fortunately it is now out on video.

    I hope we do not have to wait another 50 years to see another movie based on the Boy Scouts.

  10. Brian said:

    “I’d love to see a film like Saving Mr. Banks that delves into Walt Disney’s interest in the Boy Scouts of America. What sparked his curiosity in the organization and desire to turn MacKinlay Kantor’s book God and My Country into a feature film? How did the Scouting organization respond to his request? And what, if any, involvement did the BSA have during production?”

    While most of us scouters agree with your view/idea, sadly the realaty of todays world would never permit such a film. The LGBT Lobby would kill the project before it got off the drawing board. Just as they worked against this years Jamboree entertainment (among other things).

    But you never know. There may be a company who would stand up for the values of scouting and do a project like that. (One can wish!)

    If and when that happens, all of us who support scouting need to support such a project in every way we can.

  11. Ummm, returning to the original subject, Cub Scouts played a key role in movie _It Happened to Jane_; Doris Day & Jack Lemmon. Doris’ character gets in a dispute with a railroad over some live lobsters that died in shipment. She decides to claim one of the company’s old steam trains as compensation and deliver fresh lobsters herself. Low on coal, they recruit local Cub Scouts to gather coal from along the tracks and refill the coal car. I guess the 1959 Guide to Safe Scouting didn’t prohibit walking along railroad tracks.

  12. I just watched Gilligan’s Island and it was mentioned that the professor was a scout or scoutmaster. I just sent back the movie, so I can’t confirm this.

  13. “Follow Me Boys!” is on my watch list at least a couple times every year; in the middle of winter when the temperatures make anything outdoors miserable, and any time I start losing enthusiasm.

    • Perhaps someone should write a movie that combines “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Follow Me Boy’s.” I know for sure that here would be a great number of boys out there that would not be in a good place now with out scout leaders.

  14. Six or seven years ago when my son was the SPL in our Troop, he would lead the Scouts out of camp, the meeting, gym, etc. with a hearty “Follow Me Boys!” I’m not sure he had seen the movie, it was just something he liked to say. About 18 month later, the Troop showed the movie during a Cabin Camp Out. None of the Scouts had seen the movie. Sitting in the back of the room near my son, I clearly remember seeing every head in the cabin turn to look at him the first time Fred MacMurray says that line. It’s a great movie for all the right reasons.

  15. You’ll noticed it premiered on December 1st, 1964 and as such was the big Christmas movie for that year. Being a 14 year old Star Scout on Long Island that year, my family went to see it in Radio City Music Hall, where it was the film presentation for that year’s annual Christmas show along with the Rockettes and traditional Living Nativity scene.

    BTW, if you never read MacKinlay Kantor’s book “God and My Country”, you should. The plot does vary a bit from the movie, and is a bit darker showing the cost of World War II, but it still shows Scouting’s values very well.

  16. I remember seeing the first run of this film in 1966 when I was a Tenderfoot and freshly graduated from Webelos. It was a hoot. The main actors were familiar from previous Disney productions, but the plot made you forget that right off. I now own the DVD and love it all over again.

  17. We had the Boy Scouts from our troop come over and cookout then put the movie in and used it for Cit. in the Community merit badge. Even in this day and time 47 years later the movie is a hit. The boys loved watching it. I got the movie several years ago for my son as a gift. We watch it often.

  18. I’m pleased that after years of bidding on ebay for a copy of the old video, and writing letters to Disney for a re-release of this, they finally put it out on DVD and my family gave me a copy. It’s a wonderful movie.

  19. We have a modern day Lem Siddons right here in Moss Point, MS. Mr. Harry McDonald has been the Scoutmaster of Troop 220 for 40+ years. Some of his “boys” are still involved with him, becoming his assistants. Mr.”Mac” just turned 80 years old on December 31, 2013 and is still Scoutmaster. He has turned out over 300 eagle scouts in his career. Some have gone on to do great things. Maybe we should make a new movie using Mr. “Mac”.as the lead. It might help with recruiting new scouts. Think about it!

  20. To paraphrase Mark Twain, everybody talks about Fololow Me. Boys! but nobody ever does anything about it. So I did. I was an asst. scoutmaster when the film was first released and have fond memories of “way back then.”

    Two questions most often asked of me are 1) where was the movie filmed and 2) was/is there a real town of Hickory?

    The answers to both of the questions can be found on my web pages starting at…


    And then for those with sharp eyes who notice the OA sash and the note beside, a bit more of the filming at the ranch along with a short personal note.

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