Film / Swiss Family Robinson

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: Roberta explains that her grandfather made her disguise herself as a boy to "protect" her from the pirates. Later, during the attack on the island, when she offers to surrender herself to them to the pirates, Fritz says (roughly), "You don't look like a boy anymore, you know what will happen to you?", thus implying that she'll be raped and/or made into their Sex Slave if her true gender is known.
  • Hands-On Approach: Roberta wanting Ernst to teach her how to fire a gun. When Fritz tries to continue the lesson, Roberta claims Ernst already taught her enough and she fires off a shot so perfect that it's obvious she actually already knew how to shoot the entire time.
  • 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.
  • I Choose to Stay: That's what the parents and Francis choose after the Captain offers them passage elsewhere, with the Captain noting that Papa Robinson will likely be appointed governor of the new colony.
  • Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras: A kookaburra can be heard on the deserted tropical island. In the original novel, the family is shipwrecked in the East Indies (which definitely isnít kookaburra territory), but at least they were on their way to Australia.
  • Like A Daughter To Me. Mrs. Robinson adores her boys, but the way she visibly lights up when she meets Roberta and enjoys fixing her up shows that she's always wanted a girl as well.
  • The Load: Try counting how many times Francis needs to be rescued, or just causes trouble without thinking.
    • Roberta starts out as this when Fritz and Ernst first rescue her from the pirates. This is actually out of fear that they themselves will discover her true gender. By the time they realize she's a girl, things improve and she's able to keep up with them.
  • 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.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: All the Robinson men—even the Happily Married Mr. Robinson—go ga-ga over Roberta once Mrs. Robinson fixes her up and puts her in a dress.
  • 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.