Film: Swiss Family Robinson
The Greatest Adventure Story of them All!
Swiss Family Robinson is a 1960 Disney Film of the Book
of Johann Wyss' The Swiss Family Robinson
. A much more compact and story-driven production than the original, it was a well-reviewed family-friendly hit. It follows the spirit of Wyss' basic Crusoe-but-a-whole-family
premise while adding a human threat from the beginning to provide the climactic ultimate test of the family's resourcefulness.
At the opening of the story, the titular family (a couple and three boys) are trying desperately to save the cargo ship they are on during a huge storm. The captain of the ship had deliberately sailed into the storm to escape from a pirate ship, but it became severe enough that everyone abandoned ship and left the Robinsons with no lifeboats for themselves. Eventually, the ship runs aground near an island, and the storm ends. The pirates, who have followed the ship, approach, but Mr. Robinson flies the flag indicating that the Black Death is aboard
and the pirates retreat. The family then build some rafts and ferry themselves and as many supplies as they can out to the island.
Everyone in the family proves to be extremely resourceful and together construct a comfortable and secure set of treehouses
. Once they feel safe, Mr. Robinson builds a small sailing boat and the two older sons Fritz and Ernst sail around the shore of the island exploring. They come upon the pirates once again, and find that they have captured an old man and his son from another ship. Sneaking up to save them, Fritz and Ernst only manage to get away with the boy, Bertie, who ends up actually being Roberta
. The three return to the Robinson base, and begin to prepare defenses against impending retribution
from the pirates.
The film was a big hit upon release, and continues to be one of the highest grossing films of all time, adjusted for inflation.
Tropes used include
- Adapted Out: In the book, there were four sons. Jack was the third eldest after Ernest, but didn't make it into the film. Some of his characteristics can be found in Francis, though...
- Animal Assassin: Francis has the idea of capturing the tiger so as to let him loose on the invading pirates.
- Big Damn Heroes / The Cavalry: Roberta's grandfather arrives with his ship just as the Robinsons are running out of ammo to fend off the pirates.
- Cool Pet: A pretty good haul of these. Francis finds and tames a baby elephant, then a monkey shows up, then Fritz and Ernst save a zebra, and finally the family adopt an ostrich.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Not one of the family has a problem with killing the pirates. Also, Mr. Robinson giving Francis a crossbow for Christmas.
- Deserted Island
- Food and Animal Attraction: This shows up using a banana and the family's pet monkey.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Roberta offers to surrender to the pirates, Fritz says (roughly), "You don't look like a boy anymore, you know what will happen to you?" It's even alluded to as the reason she disguised herself as a boy in the first place.
- Happily Married: Mr. & Mrs. Robinson
- The Horde: No matter how many pirates get shot, blown up, knocked off the cliff, or flattened by rocks or logs during the climactic battle, there never seem to be any fewer than there were to begin with.
- The Load: Try counting how many times Francis needs to be rescued, or just causes trouble without thinking.
- Love Triangle: Both Fritz and Ernst become quite smitten with Roberta, leading to several fights between them.
- Pit Trap: Francis builds one of these, which, to the surprise of everyone else, successfully catches a tiger.
- Robinsonade: Heck, they even share the name somewhat. A bit less so than in the original book, but still a very strong castaway tale.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Ernst and Fritz, respectively.
- The Siege: The family and Roberta together have to protect their home from an onslaught of angry pirates.
- Trap Master: Pretty much the entire family, as evidenced by the final siege of their home.
- Tree Top Town: Eventually the Robinson home becomes a small one of these, and a very nice one too.
- Wholesome Cross Dresser: Roberta, initially known as Bertie, was disguised by her father to protect her from worse treatment from the pirates.