A Disney movie about coal miners in 1909 Yorkshire? It could only have come from the 70s, generally considered the period where Disney's powers were at their weakest. But 1976's Escape from the Dark
is surprisingly good though I suspect unappreciated by Disney's target audience.
As is often the case for a live action Disney movie of the period, there are child protagonists whose ideals and desires are dismissed by cynical adults so it's up to little Dave (Andrew Harrison), Tommy (Benjie Bolgar), and the daughter of the boss, Alice (Chloe Franks), to save the loyal pit ponies who are destined for slaughter to make way for new mining machinery.
Dave and Tommy are sons of a dead miner and are adjusting to stepfather Richard (Peter Barkworth) who in the second half of the film leads the strike I suspect the under fifteen year old section of the audience had trouble appreciating. The kid gang story takes up a rather small portion of the film but I found myself engaged with their efforts. This is really helped by the beautiful locations in the film, actual moorlands in the north of England, and I'm a bit sorry I watched this movie on VHS in pan and scan.
I guess it was nostalgia that made be stick with it in this format, I got excited by the old Disney video introduction I hadn't seen since I was a kid.
The kids work together to get an old lift working and like the locations all the equipment looks rather credible.
This was the last film role for Alastair Sim who, fittingly, as he often had earlier in his career, received top billing despite appearing in only a few scenes. He's the boss of the boss, a blissful aristocrat who has little idea as to the realities of day to day life working the mines and doesn't seem to understand why anyone would mind the ponies being killed.
I actually found the strike stuff interesting. The child actors aren't great but not bad and the whole thing is a nice enough little adventure despite a too tidy ending and no mention of black lung.