The Pitch

A family is shipwrecked on a deserted island teeming with animal wildlife. They build a multi-story treehouse to live in. There are pirates!

Content Advisories

The portrayal of the “Chinese” pirates is as stereotyped as you might imagine (the captain is played by Japanese-American Sessue Hayakawa), which means worse than you and your kids are used to. The final battle with the pirates involves muskets, land mines, and boulders. The treatment of live animals (including a fight between two dogs and a tiger) is not up shall we say to modern standards. Budding zoologists in the family may have something to say about the mix of species living on one island.

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Marooned. But not orphaned.

The three Robinson sons each present a different portrait of aspirational boyhood. Oldest son Fritz (James MacArthur, later Dano on Hawaii Five-O) is rugged and strong, ready to step up as the second man in the family or to wrestle a python in the river. Ernst, the clever one, devises elaborate inventions for the treehouse, providing his mother with island analogues for the missing comforts of civilization. Nine-year-old Francis tames an an ostrich, a zebra and even an elephant. When a teenage girl appears, attracting the attention of the two older boys, it feels more disruptive to this tropical paradise than the shipful of pirates. The film was a landmark in location shooting. Walt Disney paid to have the cast, crew, sets, and a hundred animals shipped to the island of Tobago for six months of production. (The documentary extras on the DVD are kind of fascinating.) —Chris Ereneta

Edited & designed by Chris Ereneta. Suggestions, feedback, and rants welcome at, @WatchWithKids, or on Facebook. More about this site.