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Swiss Family in Disney's Zoo
Jon Whitcomb

Lizards, lions, and zebras steal scenes from humans in this made-in-the-Caribbean version of a classic fantasy. By the time filming was over, even starlets had grown fond of snakes.

Remember the most famous family in literature? Any youngster can list its members by heart: Father Robinson, a Swiss pastor; Mother Robinson, his wife; and sons Fritz, Ernst, and Francis. They are The Swiss Family Robinson, whose adventures have enthralled millions since 1813. Swiss Army chaplain Johann Wyss probably never dreamed that the story he wrote for his sons amusement would grow into a classic. It was a short tale he penned, about a resourceful shipwrecked family who lived on a fabulous island with just about every kind of animal in the world—as exotic as Kipling but as practical as a scouting manual. William Godwin did the first English translation, and his poetic son-in-law, Percy Bysshe Shelley, might have embellished the script as well. One Mme, de Montholieu, the first French translator of the book, took matters into her own hands. She not only changed the original ending, but also added some of the best-loved episodes—for example, the adventure with the boa-constrictor that swallowed a donkey whole. Alteration followed alteration and the tale of the Swiss Family Robinson grew from a family treat to a world-wide favorite.

It was made into an American movie in 1940, but it remained for Walt Disney, father of Fantasyland, to give the story its full treatment. But where could even Disney manage Great Danes and _ penguins together, keep tigers and boa-constrictors on cue, and handle a crew of pirates as well? Last winter, I visited the crew on location in Tobago, British West Indies, and found the answer.



Source type Magazine
Volume 148.5
Language en
Document type Feature
Media type text
Page count 4
Pages pp. 12-15


Id 5516
Availability Free
Inserted 2020-11-08