Adventureland, one of the classic themed areas of the Disneyland-style parks, is filled with memorable rides and shows. However, there is more to this land than the swashbuckling mayhem of Pirates of the Caribbean and the pun-riddled escapades of the Jungle Cruise.
Located on a massive artificial tree is an elaborate and beautiful home. There you’ll find strange contraptions constructed from bamboo, fancy furniture surrounded by wilderness, and circular steps towards rooms with an enviable view of the park. This walk-through attraction is the most enduring legacy of Disney’s 1960 live-action adventure film, Swiss Family Robinson.
Life in the Jungle
This family-friendly survival story centers, naturally, on a family. Escaping the Napoleonic wars, the Robinsons — patriarch William, matriarch Elizabeth, and sons Fritz, Ernst, and Francis — leave their life in Switzerland for a new one in the colony of New Guinea. Along the way, a gang of pirates and a devastating storm cause them to get shipwrecked near an uncharted island. The Robinsons use their ingenuity and resources to create a new home for themselves — and, after the pirates return in search of a castaway they took in, defend it.
This may all sound rather dire, but there is plenty of fun to be had. Once they accept their circumstances, they all warm up to this new way of living. William philosophizes that the world might be a better place if more people lived like this, without the trappings and petty conflicts of civilization. Fritz and Ernst, hot-blooded teenagers, find adventure everywhere they go. The littlest Robinson, Francis, is the quickest to enjoy the island’s untamed nature. He collects a menagerie of wild animals, from a playful monkey to a baby elephant and even a vicious tiger that comes in handy later on.
This movie is loosely based on The Swiss Family Robinson, an 1812 novel by Johann David Wyss. He created this story as a way of teaching his four sons about self-reliance, living with nature, and Christian moral values. Naturally, it is more than just a book-length lecture — these lessons are conveyed within the context of an adventure story about a family much like the Wyss clan trying to survive on a desert isle. The family surname, hardly a typical Swiss name, comes from the novel’s primary inspiration: Daniel Defoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe.
Walt Disney had increasingly become fascinated with filming animals. His True Life Adventures documentary series, running from 1948 to 1960, took him and his crew around the world to record the wonders of nature. However, what he loved even more was a great family story, and Swiss Family Robinson had that in addition to plenty of adventures involving exciting wildlife. Despite director Ken Annakin’s concern that the novel was dated, Walt only had to trim some unnecessary scenes, add some romance, and throw in some pirate action to create the highest-grossing film of 1960.
Visit New Switzerland
Swiss Family Robinson is an entertaining movie that ably mixes exciting action and light-hearted fun. It’s thrilling to see the characters wrestle with anacondas and hold their own against dozens of vicious pirates. It’s just as fun to see them celebrate Christmas with some polka dancing, race on the backs of zebras and ostriches, and construct their breathtaking treehouse.
The next time you think about visiting the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, consider first watching the Robinsons survive together and grow together. Then you and your own family could imagine how you would all transform something as disastrous as a shipwreck into something as whimsical as New Switzerland.
Swiss Family Robinson Merchandise
Your WDW Store is home to thousands of gifts related to Disney’s films and parks, and that even includes . You can find goodies related to the wonderful New Switzerland treehouse and its ingenious residents right here.