Johann Wyss’s novel had been filmed before in 1940 but this Disney version is the treat (rumour has it Disney bought the rights to the 1940 film and scooped up all the copies so no one could see it to compare it with their remake – it’s not available on video or DVD to this day). John Mills is just lovely as Father Robinson, who is heading with his Swiss family for a new life in New Guinea when their ship is caught in a terrible storm and they end up shipwrecked on a deserted island.
While dad goes about building the most impressive treehouse in the movies (which, as some lucky kids will know, has been recreated at Disney’s theme parks), complete with running water and various balconied levels, the kids befriend some of the island’s animals and everything moves along nicely until the family discover there are other people on the island… pirates! (gasp) But parents of little ones shouldn’t worry, as the final showdown is as slapstick and full of fun as the rest of this movie, and there are no scares to be had. Good old-fashioned frolics in the sun, then. A new version is being made for release in 2012.
Is Swiss Family Robinson suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...