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Where the Red Fern Grows is an American family adventure film, directed by Lyman Dayton and Sam Pillsbury. The film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Bob Yari Productions, Anschutz Entertainment Group, Crusader Entertainment and Elixir Films. The film stars Joseph Ashton, Dave Matthews, Ned Beatty and Dabney Coleman. It is based on the children's book of the same name and follows the story of Billy Coleman who buys and trains two Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs to hunt raccoons in the Ozark mountains.
An older Billy Colman (Kris Kristofferson) rescues a Redbone Coonhound from attack by another neighborhood dog. He takes it home with him so that its wounds can heal. In light of this event, he has a flashback to when he was a ten-year-old boy living in the Ozark mountains with his two Coonhounds. Growing up in the Ozarks with his parents and two younger sisters, Billy wants to own a pair of Redbone Coonhounds but his parents tell him that they can't afford them. One day he finds an article in a sportsman magazine offering a pair in Kentucky for $25 each. He decides to earn the money himself. For two years, he works many different jobs, and manages to save $50. His grandfather writes to the kennel and finds out that the dogs have dropped in price by $5 each. He sends for two Redbone Coonhound puppies.
Differences between the film and the novel
While the novel and 1974 film version depict Billy to have long blond hair, the Billy in the 2003 film has dark brown hair.
The novel depicted the coon hunting competition to last about six nights, whereas the two film versions place it at four nights.
In the novel and 1974 film version, Billy, his dogs, and Rubin and Rainie Pritchard hunt for the legendary ghost coon at night, but in the 2003 film, they hunt for the ghost coon at daylight. Also, the 2003 film and the novel placed the boys' betted money at five dollars, while the 1974 film placed it at two dollars.
In the 2003 film, when Billy and his dogs encounter the mountain lion, Billy and Little Ann chase it away after it fatally injured Old Dan. In the novel and 1974 film version, Billy kills it with his axe to save Old Dan.