Seven-year-old Johnny is excited about what he believes to be a vacation at his grandmother's Georgia plantation with his parents, John Sr. and Sally. When they arrive at the plantation, he discovers that his parents will be living apart for a while, and he is to live in the country with his mother and grandmother while his father returns to Atlanta to continue his controversial editorship in the city's newspaper. Johnny, distraught because his father has never left him or his mother before, leaves that night under cover of darkness and sets off for Atlanta with only a bindle. As Johnny sneaks away from the plantation, he is attracted by the voice of Uncle Remus telling tales "in his old-timey way" of a character named Br'er Rabbit. Curious, Johnny hides behind a nearby tree to spy on the group of people sitting around the fire. By this time, word has gotten out that Johnny is gone and some plantation residents, who are sent out to find him, ask if Uncle Remus has seen the boy. Uncle Remus replies that he's with him. Shortly afterwards, he catches up with Johnny, who sits crying on a nearby log. He befriends the young boy and offers him some food for the journey, taking him back to his cabin.
As Uncle Remus cooks, he mentions Br'er Rabbit again and the boy, curious, asks him to tell him more. After Uncle Remus tells a tale about Br'er Rabbit's attempt to run away from home, Johnny takes the advice and changes his mind about leaving the plantation, letting Uncle Remus take him back to his mother. Johnny makes friends with Toby, a little black boy who lives on the plantation, and Ginny Favers, a poor white girl. However, Ginny's two older brothers, Joe and Jake (who resemble Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear from Uncle Remus' stories, one being slick and fast-talking, the other big and a little slow), are not friendly at all; they constantly bully Ginny and Johnny. When Ginny gives Johnny a puppy, her brothers want to drown it. A rivalry breaks out among the three boys. Heartbroken because his mother won't let him keep the puppy, Johnny takes the dog to Uncle Remus and tells him of his troubles. Uncle Remus takes the dog in and delights Johnny and his friends with the fable of Br'er Rabbit and the Tar-Baby, stressing that people shouldn't go messing around with something they have no business with in the first place.
Clockwise from left: Ginny (Luana Patten), Uncle Remus (James Baskett), Johnny (Bobby Driscoll) and Toby (Glenn Leedy)
Johnny heeds the advice of how Br'er Rabbit used reverse psychology on Br'er Fox and begs the Favers Brothers not to tell their mother about the dog, which is precisely what they do, only to get a good spanking for it. Enraged, the boys vow revenge. They go to the plantation and tell Johnny's mother, who is upset that Uncle Remus kept the dog despite her order (which was unknown to Uncle Remus). She orders the old man not to tell any more stories to her son. The day of Johnny's birthday arrives, and Johnny picks up Ginny to take her to his party. Ginny's mother has used her wedding dress to make her daughter a beautiful dress for the party. On the way there, however, Joe and Jake pick another fight. Ginny gets pushed, and ends up in a mud puddle. With her dress ruined, the upset Ginny refuses to go to the party. Johnny, enraged with the way Joe and Jake treat Ginny, attacks them. Uncle Remus breaks up the fight, and while Johnny goes to comfort Ginny, Uncle Remus scolds Joe and Jake, telling them not to pester Johnny and Ginny anymore. Johnny doesn't want to go either, especially since his father won't be there. Uncle Remus discovers the two dejected children and cheers them up by telling the story of Br'er Rabbit and his "Laughing Place".
When Uncle Remus returns to the plantation with the children, Sally meets them on the way and is angry at Johnny for not having attended his own birthday party. Ginny mentions that Uncle Remus told them a story and Sally draws a line, warning him not to spend any more time with Johnny. Uncle Remus, saddened by the misunderstanding of his good intentions, packs his bags and leaves for Atlanta. Seeing Uncle Remus leaving from a distance, Johnny rushes to intercept him, taking a shortcut through the pasture, where he is attacked and seriously injured by the resident bull. While Johnny hovers between life and death, his father returns and reconciles with Sally, but Johnny calls for Uncle Remus, who has returned amidst all the commotion. Uncle Remus begins telling a tale of Br'er Rabbit and the Laughing Place, and the boy miraculously survives.
Johnny, Ginny and Toby are next seen skipping along and singing while Johnny's returned puppy runs alongside them. Uncle Remus is also in the vicinity, and he is shocked when Br'er Rabbit and several of the other characters from his stories appear in front of them and interact with the children. Uncle Remus rushes to join the group, and they all skip away singing.
- The film takes place before Winnie the Pooh vs The Mummy.