Swiss Family Robinson: Vault Disney Collection
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One of Disney's biggest and most fondly remembered hits, the spectacular screen version of the literary classic SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON is full of breathtaking South Seas scenery, hundreds of exotic animals, and treacherous pirates. This heroic tale chronicles the courageous exploits of the Robinson family after they are shipwrecked on a deserted island. Using teamwork and ingenuity, they skillfully overcome the obstacles of nature and transform their new home into a "civilized" community. But the ultimate challenge lies ahead when a band of cutthroat pirates threaten to destroy the Robinson's Makeshift paradise. Capture the thrills, romance, and fun of this unforgettable Disney film!|The film was based on the book by Johann Wyss, written to preserve the tales he and his sons made up while imagining themselves in Robinson Crusoe's predicament. Not originally intended for publication, the narrative was later edited and illustrated by Wyss' descendants.|Filmed on the Caribbean island of Tobago, the motion picture's lavish preproduction planning and on-location shooting (22 weeks) resulted in a budget that exceeded $4 million, but the extraordinary box office returns, subsequent popular reissues, and release on home video in 1982 has made it one of Disney's top-grossing films.|There was one problem with the filming location of Tobago: it had no animals. Tropical birds, gulls, ostriches, snakes, tigers, zebras, baby elephants, and monkeys were all flown to the island, along with 14 animal trainers.|One afternoon the flamingos Disney "hired" for the film took off from Tobago and headed south to British Guiana. Fortunately, they returned the next day at feeding time.
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Directed by Ken Annakin, the movie was filmed on location on the caribbean island of Tobago. While the production went way over budget for a total cost of $4 million, Walt did not get upset with his production team at the time since the film was looking to be success when he reviewed clips from the set. As it turned out, with subsequent theatre releases, television, and video airing, the film has turned out to be one of the top-grossing films from Disney.
The tropical scenery is spectacular as they filmed all over the island; waterfalls, forests, grass plains, flowers, beaches, cliffs, mountains, oceans, streams, and much more. Contributing a tremendous amount to the exotic locale of the movie are animals, pirates, ships, and a tree house to beat all tree houses ever made. Similar to the role the submarine "Nautilus" filled in the earlier film "20,000 Leagues Below the Sea", the tree house becomes a star in it's own right. The wonderful and inventive home designed by the castaways and from the ships salvage is incredible to behold.
Featuring a wonderful cast and crew assembled by Walt himself, Mr. Disney liked to stick with actors he knew could relate to a broad audience. Most of the actors in this film appeared in other Disney movies over the years, many times with other actors from this film. Dorothy McGuire (Old Yeller, Summer Magic), John Mills (Did not appear in other Disney movies, but was Hayley Mills real life father), James MacArthur (Light in the Forest, Third Man on the Mountain, Kidnapped), Kevin Corcoran (A Tiger Walks, Savage Sam, Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, Bon Voyage, Babes in Toyland, Toby Tyler, Pollyanna), Tommy Kirk (Probably the most proficient of all with Savage Sam, Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, Moon Pilot, Bon Voayage, Son of Flubber, The Absent-Minded Professor, Misadventure of Merlin Jones, The Monkeys Uncle, Babes in Toyland), and Janet Munroe (Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Third Man on the Mountain). Most of these actors also appeared in movies for the Walt Disney television weekly anthology show as well.
VAULT DISNEY DVD VERSION
The 2 disc DVD treatment that Disney gave this film is perfect, starting with great packaging and case. It is in Widescreen, the first widescreen release outside of theatres for the film in fact. And what a difference it makes in the beautiful location island vistas of the film. The film has been cleaned up and remastered to its original brilliance with lush colors, great image and depth, it just sparkles. The DVD transfer itself is very well done, a high quality job. The audio is very clean and crisp.
The extras on this DVD are what really make the best version released of this film, and they are not all listed here at Amazon or even on the packaging. You have to hunt them down and get creative with your remote. So let me help by telling you what to look for if you buy this... For starters they have the original cartoon that was released with the movie, "Sea Salts" allowing you to see this with the kids the way that it is meant to be seen. There is a 2 minute "1960 Disney Studio Album", a montage of projects, attractions, shows, and films being made and released that year. There is an audio commentary as an alternate track that features comments from cast and crew.
Next we have 23 minutes from a vintage Walt Disney television "Wonderful World of Disney" episode titled "Escape to Paradise", that show the making of the film behind the scenes. Up next is the original 1960 movie theatre trailers for the film, and the 1960 televison spots to advertise the film. Then there are "Storyboard to Scene Comparisons"; a seperate "Storyboard Gallery"; and a 2 minute "Production Gallery" of photo stills from behind the scenes at location. Another gallery is full of production stills; Next is "Biographies" on 8 principle actors; and then "Concept Art" on the films pre-production design work.
As if that's not enough a featurette titled "Adventure in the Making" was made just for this set, and at 49:00 minutes long it is very complete and satisfying, with recent interviews of the original cast and crew. There is great behind the scenes original footage in this piece, and the folks regale us with funny stories of the filming days. Peter Elleshaw (matte artist), Ken Annakin (director), Danny Lee (special effects), and actors John Mills, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran are all here for modern interviews. ANOTHER short 4 minute featurette that was also made just for this set is "Swiss Family Treehouse", narrated by Hayley Mills (Pollyana, Parent Trap, That Darn Cat, Summer Magic, In Search of the Castaways, The Moon-Spinners), . It is the pre-opening footage and the actual Opening Ceremony of the "Swiss Family Robinson's Tree House" attraction (now gone, replaced with Tarzans Tree House) at the Disneyland Park. Walt Disney himself is there and it is evident he is really enjoying himself in this must-see footage.
Included on the set is a very nice 12 minute interview with James MacArthur, who appeared in this film and 3 others for Disney along with a TV movie. This features great video as well. There is a "Pirates" music video sing along featuring pirate themed clips from Disney films, TV shows, cartoons, and the theme park attraction "Pirates of the Caribbean", all set to the Disney tune of "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirates Life For Me". An unusual or unexpected extra is a featurette that has 20 minutes of excerpts from a 1940 non-Disney version of the story.
The dvd set has Audio Archives set to photos from the film, including 2 Interactive Sound Studios, 2 songs from the film, original 1960 radio spots. Another real treat is the complete LP soundtrack of the original "Storybook Album" of the movie released in 1960.
I really enjoyed this DVD, and this film really got the best of treatment by Disney. They simply outdid themselves and I am one grateful viewer. I wish all the really good classic Disney films got at least some of this royal treatment. They have a reputation as the best studio about protecting their old source material, archives, etc, but they are not always generous in using it for their DVD's so I can really appreciate the effort here by the decision makers. Thank you Disney for this compilation that really honors this gem of a film the way it should be!!!! My highest recommendation if you are considering buying this DVD.
The storyline just stretches simple logic one time too many, ok for children, they won't care. But it will leave most adults rolling their eyes. The first leap of faith comes when our brave castaways tow tons of equipment from the wrecked ship, then build the sort of treehouse you only see illustrated in a Dr. Seuss story. The not-so-humble abode is complete with running water and a pipe organ....For crying out loud, if all that energy had been spent on building a boat, they've could have been off the island already. But then, we wouldn't have a story, would we?
Can you say 'Gilligan's Island'?
And somehow, animals not native to any Pacific island are roaming around, including zebra and elephants. And incredibly, they're not afraid of humans. Heck, the family even learns to ride and race ostriches! Only in a Disney film....
Among other distractions....as is so often the case in family films of this ilk, the writer(s) seem to go out of their way to put in at least one character that's so annoying, you want to strangle them. And here, it's the family's youngest son, Francis. A prime candidate for Ritalin who runs his mouth constantly and gets in more trouble than any normal kid would. The other is the subplot involving the two oldest brothers, Ernst and Fritz (Tommy Kirk and James MacArthur), who were getting along nicely until they get their first whiff of female tail in the form of pixie-ish redhead Roberta (Janet Munro), who had been disguised as a cabin boy to protect her from the pirates. Now the boys are sniping at one another and even trade blows, more than once, thanks to those vicious male hormones, and the fact that Roberta is the only available girl on the island. One might argue there's a grain of truth here, but far too much time was spent on the brothers' rivalry.
The final assault of the pirates advancing on the family's hilltop stronghold just dissolves into stupidity. One of the first weapons the Robinsons unleash are some crossbows, which magically, only hit the pirates in their backsides. Not a single mortal wound! This is soon followed by an avalanche of rocks...some almost as large as a house, but again, the pirates get back up and keep coming. A barrage of coconut grenades proves only mildly distracting (what, no coconut shell shrapnel??), and even another avalanche, this time palm logs weighing thousands of pounds, fails to kill the pirates. It's only when our intrepid heroes break out the rifles do they actually start taking out some of the bad guys. Director Ken Annakin may have played this for laughs, but it just came off as silly.
I don't know....sometimes a film just hits you the wrong way and this one did. I didn't like it, even as a kid. On the plus side, it's a very family-friendly film. Something that's getting rare nowadays. And it IS a Disney production. Nicely photographed with exotic locations and rich, vibrant color. It's a shame that Dorothy McGuire, a lovely and talented actress, didn't have a larger role here. All told, not a bad film, but certainly more for children than adults looking for good entertainment.