Tall Tale, or also known as Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill, is a western adventure fantasy film that was released in 1995. It is directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik, and it stars Oliver Plat, Scott Glenn, Stephen Lang, Nick Stahl, Jarred Harris, Roger Aaron Brown, Catherine O’Hara, and Patrick Swayze. Tall Tale was produced by Caravan Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures. Over the years, the film has been hailed as one of the obscure movies of Disney. That is why in this article, we are going to find out more about this film and find out why it is vague.
What is the Plot of the Film?
Tall Tale takes place in an unspoiled Western area named Paradise Valley in 1905. It follows the story of a young farmer named Daniel Hackett, who is unhappy with his life and dreams of making it big in New York City. Daniel’s father, Jonas Hackett, likes to tell him tall tales about men named John Henry, Pecos Bill, and Paul Bunyan. Daniel heard the stories so many times, and it comes to a point where he doubts their existence.
On the other hand, Paradise Valley is being invaded by a greedy developer named J.P Stiles, and he attempts to convince the farmers in the area to sell their land to him. Stiles is particularly interested in Jonas and his farm because it is situated in the middle of the land he wants to develop. But, Jonas refused to sell his land, and it led to Stiles to hunt him and shoot him, however, before it all happened, Jonas managed to give Daniel the deed and hid it.
While Jonas Hackett is in critical condition because of the shooting, he is unable to farm, and his land was put at risk. Daniel got upset about the situation, and he decided to run out and hide in his father’s boat, where he fell asleep. When he woke up, he realized that the boat he’s on had come untied, and it drifted downstream to Texas. He encountered some thieves, and he was rescued by the legendary cowboy named Pecos Bill. Along their journey, Daniel and Pecos later teamed up with a strong African American named John Henry and a lumberjack named Paul Bunyan. The three heroes came along with Daniel, and they all got involved in a bitter and rowdy fight against J.P Stiles. The latter had plans to buy up all the land and threaten the well-being of the common people.
When Stiles finally took the deed, Daniel Hackett woke up and realized it was all just a dream. However, there’s a fire that ignited in his soul and dared to face Stiles. He went towards Stile’s train, which was about to leave the lands. Daniel then confronts Stiles, and he just attempted to run him over. John Henry arrives and holds the train, but Stiles ordered his men to kill them. It was this time when Pecos arrived and shot the fingers of Stiles’ men off the trigger. Paul Bunyan went inside and cut down the mine poles. Daniel Hackett then cuts down the last pole, which killed Stiles and his men.
Where was it Filmed?
Filming locations of the movie Tall Tale includes Vasquez Rocks State Park in Agua Dulce, California, Disney Ranch, California, Monument Valley, Barstow, California, San Juan River in Utah, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and Carbondale, Colorado. Filming of the movie began on September 12, 1993, and ended on December 16, 1993.
Steven L. Bloom and Robert Rodat’s Tall Tale spec script was optioned by Caravan Pictures for $200,000 with a rumored purchase price of $650,000–$750,000 in March 1993. Producer Joe Roth then presented the script to director Jeremiah S. Chechik, who accepted it because he was attracted by the underlying themes of “the end” of the Old West with the arrival of industrialization. He compared the movie to The Wizard of Oz in terms of how it appealed to both adults and children.
It was revealed that Patrick Swayze and Scott Glenn will both be in the movie in August 1993.
On September 12, 1993, principal photography started. Filming took place at Disney Ranch and Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita, Fillmore, Barstow, and Vasquez Rocks State Park close to Agua Dulce in California. Other places were Lake Powell and Glen Canyon in Arizona, Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado, Monument Valley in Utah, and others in Colorado and Utah.
The last day of filming was December 16, 1993.
What about its Release?
Tall Tale was released on March 24, 1995. However, the film flopped worldwide and domestically, which is why it did not make back the $32,000,000 budget it spent on production. During its opening weekend in the United States, Tall Tale only made $3,046,181, and it eventually had a total domestic gross of $8,247,627. And worldwide, the film had a total gross of only $11,047,627.
- Scott Glenn as J.P. Stiles
- Oliver Platt as Paul Bunyan
- Nick Stahl as Daniel Hackett
- Stephen Lang as Jonas Hackett
- Roger Aaron Brown as John Henry
- Catherine O’Hara as Calamity Jane
- Patrick Swayze as Pecos Bill
- Jared Harris as Head Thug Pug
- Moira Harris as Sarah Hackett
- Joseph Grifasi as a man in a top hat
- John P. Ryan as ‘Grub’
- Scott Wilson as Zeb
- Bert Kramer as Bronson
- William H. Macy as the railroad magnate (uncredited)
- Burgess Meredith as an old man (uncredited)
Subway and the movie were brought together for a commercial tie-in.
On March 24, 1995, Tall Tale was presented in cinemas. Domestically and internationally, the movie was a disappointment, and its $32,000,000 budget was not recouped. It earned $3,046,181 during its first weekend in theaters in the US, placing it fifth overall behind Major Payne and Dolores Claiborne. In the end, it brought in $8,247,627 in the US and Canada.
On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, Tall Tale has a 48% approval rating with an overall score of 5.9/10 based on 21 reviews. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore awarded the movie an average score of “A” on a scale from A+ to F, with the opinion of the reviewers being that “Tall Tale draws on American folk legends for a family-friendly adventure with disappointingly little appeal.”
Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the movie three out of four stars and called it “a warm-blooded, high-spirited family adventure film.” Ed Hulse of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a B+ and wrote, “The exquisitely photographed landscapes pull you out of your living room and into the grandeur of the West.”
While the pacing could be brisker during its slightly flabby middle, it works its way up to a dandy crowd-pleasing climax, according to Variety’s Joe Leydon, who also gave the movie a positive review. Leydon praised Swayze’s performance as Pecos Bill and said Glenn “makes a splendidly wicked villain.” Leydon also acknowledged the movie might struggle to find an audience because kids may not like it.