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Film / The Island at the Top of the World

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The Island at the Top of the World is a 1974 adventure movie made by Disney based on the 1968 novel The Lost Ones by Ian Cameron.

Inspired by Jules Verne-like adventure stories, the movie is about wealthy British industrialist Sir Anthony Ross who in 1907 arranges an expedition to the Arctic in the search of his son with the help of an American archaeologist, an eccentric French inventor and captain of a dirigible and their (forcefully enrolled) Eskimo guide. In the quest they accidentally uncover a Lost Colony of Vikings totally isolated from society, thus living like they did a thousand years in the past.

The film is infamous in some Disney fandom circles as being the centerpiece and Achilles' Heel of one of the most prominent examples of What Could Have Been in the Disney Theme Parks, a steampunk land known as Discovery Bay proposed for Disneyland. Though the film's failure spelled doom for the original project, the Hyperion found its way into Disneyland Paris and occasionally finds itself connected to other attractions through Story Breadcrumbs hidden here and there.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Captain Brieux, who maneuvers his Cool Airship the Hyperion through some impossibly tight spaces, and keeps aloft during the worst of weather.
  • Arrows on Fire: When Sir Anthony, Ivarrson and Donald escape the Viking Funeral that is supposed to be their execution, The Godi orders flaming arrows shot at their fleeing boat.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Professor Ivaarson remains in Astragard as a hostage of the Vikings to prevent the other heroes from telling anybody else about the island at the top of the world, but he is content to stay, has his Love Interest, the Godi (who really, really wanted him and his friends executed and led the Vikings with an iron fist) is dead, and Sir Anthony was able to save his son.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The heroes flee through a narrow stone passage ahead of a lava flow, with Sir Anthony being only few steps in front of it. They escape by climbing on to a rock ledge a few feet above the lava, where realistically they should all have been killed by the radiant heat.
  • Cool Airship: The Hyperion.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Once the Vikings realize they can't kill them (and The Godi's death certainly helps) the Vikings agree to let them go peacefully as far as one of them stays behind.
  • Detrimental Determination: A Lighter and Softer example: Sir Anthony's determination to get to where his son disappeared yesterday leads to him butting heads with everybody else (and other minor perils like Brieux having to do a Midair Repair), it thankfully does not lead to fatal tragedy.
  • Elephant Graveyard: Or in this case a whale graveyard.
  • Emergency Cargo Dump: When the Hyperion hits a mountain while flying into the storm covering Astragard, Sir Anthony immediately climbs out on to the catwalk and starts jettisoning the extra barrels of fuel in order to lighten the airship.
  • Got Volunteered: After Oomiak refuses to guide him to the area where Donald was lost, Sir Anthony tricks Oomiak into coming onboard the Hyperion by offering him a tour of the Cool Airship. He then takes off while Oomiak is onboard without giving him an opportunity to get off.
  • Green Aesop: Prof. Ivarsson volunteers to stay behind saying that if humanity is foolish enough to destroy itself this could be humanity’s last refuge.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Astragard, the isolated Viking village.
  • Hindenburg Incendiary Principle: The Hyperion is set on fire when a Viking fires a burning arrow at it.
  • Horny Vikings: Averted, the Norsemen use historically accurate helmets with no horns.
  • I Choose to Stay: The Vikings will not let the expedition return to their world unless one of them remains behind as a hostage, to prevent them from divulging the existence of Astragard to the outside world. Professor Ivarsson willingly volunteers to stay, as this represents a chance to relive history. Ivarsson also points out that if someday mankind is ever foolish enough to destroy itself, places like Astragard may become humanity's final refuge.
  • Karmic Death: The Godi causes his own death by shooting a flaming arrow into the dirigible causing it to fall covered in flames. Especially ironic as he had been proclaiming the appearance of the airship as a portent of doom.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Oomiak. After being captured and then getting his hands free, he immediately attacks an entire viking hunting party while armed only with a knife.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: While trying to cross the volcano, Sir Anthony slips and slides off the side of the mountain; saving himself by grabbing an improbably located tree branch. However, the scree he dislodges gives away their position to The Godi and his men.
  • Mean Boss: Sir Anthony's single minded determination to find his son causes him to butt heads repeatedly with Captain Brieux and Professor Ivarsson, and kidnap Oomiak.
  • Mid Air Repair: After the Hyperion breaks a propeller, Captain Brieux clambers out on to the metal truss holding the engine in order to replace it, as the airship is floating over the open ocean.
  • Papa Wolf: Sir Anthony's single minded determination to find his son causes him to butt heads repeatedly with Captain Brieux and Professor Ivarsson, and kidnap Oomiak.
  • The Place
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Team Pet is a small Cooker Spaniel.
  • Sexy Scandinavian: Freya, the main Love Interest of Donald (Sir Anthony’s son).
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Sir Anthony, Professor Ivarrson and Donald are sentenced to executed by means of a Viking Funeral. As the burning longship drifts out into the harbour, Freya swims out to it, climbs onboard and cuts their bonds, freeing them. She is wearing a brown minidress that, although it does not become see-through, does cling to her Sexy Scandinavian body.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Freyja survives to (presumably) live happily ever after with Donald, whereas in the book she tragically dies, sacrificing herself to save Donald and Sir Anthony.
  • Stock Footage: The journey of the Hyperion into the Arctic is padded out by multiple aerial shots of Arctic wildlife; presumably taken from Walt Disney Pictures wildlife documentaries.
  • Token Minority: The Eskimo guide Oomiak played by Japanese actor Mako.
  • Travel Montage: The journey of the Cool Airship Hyperion into the Arctic is shown by a mix of Stock Footage and Captain Brieux ruling lines on the navigation charts to show their progress.
  • *Twang* Hello: When Sir Anthony, Ivarrson and Oomiak arrive at the clifftop path leading to the Lost Colony, a spear thrown by a Viking hunting party buries itself in the earth at their feet.
  • Viking Funeral: The Godi orders Sir Anthony, Ivarrson and Donald executed by having them tied to longship that set alight and sent out into the harbour.