Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

swiss family robinson poster 1960 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

One of DIsney's best live action movies

Plot meanders at points

Movie Info

Movie Name: Swiss Family Robinson

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s): Movie Release Date

MPAA Rating: G

swiss family robinson cast raft

Adventure awaits!

The Swiss Family Robinson are starting a new life in Pacific as war threatens their homeland.  When their ship is waylaid by pirates and a storm, William Robinson (John Mills) and his wife Elizabeth (Dorothy McGuire) find themselves stranded on an island with their children Fritz (James MacArthur), Ernst (Tommy Kirk), and Francis (Kevin Concoran).  When Ernst and Fritz discover the pirates have landed on the island with a hostage, the group realizes they have to prepare for a fight to protect themselves.

Directed by Ken Annakin, Swiss Family Robinson is a Disney family adventure film.  The movie is based on Johann David Wyss’s novel Der Schweizerische Robinson and was a financial success.

My sister had a novelization of the Disney adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson growing up.  As a result, I knew the story (or at least the movie story) pretty well and always enjoyed when it was on.  Revisiting the film, it still remains one of my favorite Disney live action films.

swiss family robinson tree house disney

Who didn’t want to live in the tree house?

I’m not going to pretend that film is perfect, but it is fun.  You have the characters living the life every kid would love…a jungle filled with animals that become your “pets”.  The story has some pacing issues and the drama between Ernst and Fritz over Roberta (Janet Munro) gets a bit overplayed, but it still feels real.  The movie ends with a nice action scene that can please a kid, but also isn’t too violent for parents.

The cast is perfect Disney.  You get John Mills and Dorothy McGuire as the caring and pious parents while James MacArthur and Tommy Kirk do a nice job as the rival brothers.  I don’t know if it is because I have always known the secret of “Bertie”, but I never thought Janet Munro made a very convincing boy (but you still had to have her as attractive to both boys).  Kevin Corcoran is the perfect brat little brother too (think Randy from A Christmas Story) who rushes into everything without thinking.  I also like that there is some variety and dimension to the pirate played Sessue Hayakawa who was a successful actor in a time when Hollywood was rather bland (aka almost entirely white).

swiss family robinson janet munro james macarthur tommy kirk

The Fritz-Roberta-Ernst love triangle begins!

Swiss Family Robinson is also aided by a great set and location shooting.  I can’t imagine anyone who didn’t want to live the Robinson’s treehouse and that is probably why Disney had it as a featured attraction at Disneyland (which was rebranded as Tarzan’s Treehouse) and Disney World.  The film was shot at a higher quality than most films at the time and was Disney’s first widescreen Panavision movie.

Swiss Family Robinson is ingrained in my childhood, so I don’t know if I can judge it completely fairly.  It also had lasting effects on others like George Lucas who enjoyed it and used it as the basis for sequences of Star Wars (including Anakin’s name for the director Ken Annikin).  The movie seems like it keeps its fun and adventure despite the years, but I will always enjoy it.  It is a solid adventure for all ages and the whole family can watch and enjoy the Swiss Family Robinson…it is just a shame that the Francis has nine-lives and doesn’t fall, blow himself up, or get eaten by the tiger.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response