Kevin Corcoran, best known to generations of film fans as the youngest brother in the classic, emotionally devastating Disney kids film Old Yeller, has died at 66, his family confirmed today. Corcoran enjoyed a career as a child actor before transitioning as an adult to a career behind the camera, working in various capacities on numerous films and television shows, including Pete’s Dragon, and most recently as a producer on Sons of Anarchy.
Born in Santa Monica, California, Corcoran got his start in a small role in The Glen Miller Story in 1954, quickly establishing himself as a child actor playing several different, yet similar characters all called “Moochie” in various Disney productions. He would play different versions of “Moochie” throughout the 1950s, and among his roles during this period were appearances in three Mickey Mouse Club serials, episodes of the series of television shorts Spin and Marty, and The Shaggy Dog.
These roles helped establish a long relationship with Disney, for whom Corcoran appeared in many productions as other characters, often as the young sidekick to the main character. In Pollyanna, he played the title character’s friend Jimmy Bean; He played the youngest son, Francis, in Swiss Family Robinson; and he played James Boone in the 1960 Daniel Boone miniseries, among many others. But it was his critical appearance as Arliss Coates in Old Yeller (1957) that cemented his legacy. In the film, Old Yeller’s rabies-driven attempt to bite Arliss is what forces his older brother Travis to put the dog down.
Travis was played by actor Tommy Kirk, and the two would go on to play brothers in four other Disney productions: The Shaggy Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, Bon Voyage, and the 1963 sequel to Old Yeller, Savage Sam.
Corcoran’s final major film role came in 1964’s A Tiger Walks. He went on to attend Cal State Northridge, after which he returned to entertainment, working for Disney as an assistant director and producer. During this period, he was involved with Superdad (1973), The Island at the Top of the World (1974) and Pete’s Dragon (1977), the moving further into production as an associate producer on several Disney family films. For his decades-long contributions to Disney, he was honored in 2006 as a Disney Legend.
Over his career, he served as assistant director on such shows as Quantum Leap, Profiler, and Karen Sisco, and worked for a long period of time on Murder, She Wrote. He later was a coproducer on several episodes of The Shield, and Sons of Anarchy.
Corcoran married his wife in 1972, and the two remained together until his death.