Swiss Family Robinson (1960): Most Popular Film of the Year

Swiss Family Robinson Swiss Family Robinson

Disney

Ken Annakin’s live-action Disney movie was made for the whole family in 1960, probably the last time that all members of the family went to the movies together.
 
The tale has something for everybody: courageous children and their noble parents, wild animals, pirates, plus that sense of wonder and magic that characterizes Disney’s best features.
 
Set in the Napoleon era, the screenplay is penned by Lowell S. Hawley, based on the novel by Johann David Wyss. The Robinson family is headed by Father (John Mills), Mother (Dorothy McGuire) and three boys, Fritz (James MacArthur), Ernst (Tommy Kirk), and Francis (Kevin Corcoran). While in a boat that gets hit by a rock in the ocean, they are forced to desert their ship and go to an island.
 
Expectedly, it’s a life-affirming story propagating positive human values, such as resourcefulness in times of crisis, loyalty, bravery, honor, and even spiritual existence.
Though earnest and wholesome, there is enough action in it to generate excitement among young viewers. In the course of the saga, the family is forced to face pirates and wild animals, ranging from tigers and elephants to hyenas and monkeys.
 
When the father devises a large tree house, he tells his doubtful wife: “The world is full of nice ordinary little people who live in nice ordinary little houses on the ground. Didn't you ever dream of a house in the trees?"  However, the mother turns out to be more realistic and rational than father, knowing that this existence can't go on: "It's wonderful for today, but what about tomorrow?"
 
At the time, the movie was praised for the lavish cinematography (Harry Waxman) and inventive sets (John Howell).
 
The movie was shot on the exotic island of Tobago (near St. Vincent) in the Caribbean.
 
Ken Annakin helmed several popular films in the 1960s, including the British sequences of the WWII epic “The Longest Day,” which was nominated for Best Picture in 1962, “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours and 11 Minutes (which he also co-scripted), and “The Battle of the Bulge” both in 1965.
 
Cast
 
Father (John Mills)
Mother (Dorothy McGuire)
Fritz (James MacArthur)
Roberta (Janet Munro)
Pirate Chief (Sessue Hayakawa)
Ernst (Tommy Kirk)
Francis (Kevin Corcoran)
Capt. Moreland (Cecil Parker)
Auban (Andy Ho)
Big Pirate (Milton Reid)
 
Credits
 
Produced by Bill Anderson
Directed by Ken Annakin
Screenplay: Lowell S. Hawley, based on the novel by JohannWyss
Camera: Harry Waxman
Editor: Peter Bolta
Music: William Alwyn
Production design: John Howell
Art Direction: John Howell
F/X: Danny Lee, Walter Stones
Costume Design: Julie Harris
 
MPAA: G
Running time: 126 Minutes