Disney's 'Old Yeller' Star Tommy Kirk Dead at 79

Tommy Kirk, best known for his role as Travis Coates' kid in the 1957 Disney film "Old Yeller", has passed away. TMZ has learned.
According to law enforcement sources, Tommy was found dead by his neighbor in Las Vegas around 8 PM Tuesday. There is no suspicion of foul play.

Tommy was a teenager at the time he made his debut in Old Yeller... the story of a boy and his hero dog. He was Disney's favorite kid actor to play that All-American role... which led to roles in "The Shaggy Dog", "Swiss Family Robinson", and "The Misadventures Of Merlin Jones".

In 1954, he was 13 years old and performed alongside Will Rogers Jr. in the play "Ah, Wilderness!" At the Pasadena Playhouse. Legend has it that Tommy auditioned for a part no one else wanted to play, and he was selected. Although he only had 5 lines, it was enough to get a talent agent to sign him. He was cast in an episode on "TV Reader's Digest."

Tommy was eventually cast in "The Mickey Mouse Club", and also appeared on several other TV shows. His role in Old Yeller was a big part of his stardom.

However, his time at Disney was not without controversy. Some reports claim that Walt Disney fired Tommy in 1964 for being gay.

Tommy once said that "When I was 17-18 years old, I finally admitted that I wasn't going to change." Although I wasn't sure what the consequences would, I felt certain that it would ruin my Disney career and possibly my entire acting career. It was going to end."

He said, "Eventually, i became involved with someone and I was fired." Tommy was cast in the films even though he acknowledged that they were among his worst movies.

In 2006, Tommy was named a Disney Legend despite the Disney fallout.

He was 79.