Treasure Island

Treasure Island

Synopsis of Movie

Walt Disney’s first fully live-action film came about more from necessity than from a business plan. Both Disney and distributor RKO had a sizeable amount of British pounds tied up in the UK after World War II. Government restrictions prevented Disney from taking the money out of the country, so he decided to use it to make a movie.

Shooting entirely in England and adding only one American—young Disney contract player Bobby Driscoll (Song of the South, So Dear to My Heart)—to the otherwise all-British cast, Disney set about adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure classic Treasure Island to the screen.

The early goings-on follow Stevenson’s book fairly faithfully. At a coastal Inn, pirate Black Dog comes to deliver a message to Captain Billy Bones. As the old captain dies, he passes his treasure map on to young Jim Hawkins, who hooks up with Doctor Livesy and Squire Trelawney for a treasure hunt. Boarding Captain Smollet’s ship, the Hispaniola, Jim meets one-legged cook Long John Silver, who takes an instant liking to the boy.

But Silver has an ulterior motive. He and most of the crew have planned a mutiny, hoping to find the treasure themselves. When the dust settles from the mutiny, Silver and his band follow the map to the treasure, with Jim in tow. A series of scrapes and double crosses follow, culminating in a tough moral dilemma for young Jim.

British actor Robert Newton made such a splash as Long John Silver that he became forever identified with the role, playing one pirate or another for much of the rest of his career. The ending of the film was changed from Stevenson’s original to highlight the relationship between Jim and Long John, but the adventurous spirit remained the same.

So did the action, so much so that the film’s violence earned it a PG rating from the MPAA in its 1975 re-release. Not wanting that PG blemish on its otherwise G-rated family record, Disney edited out a few offending scenes to get the desired rating. In 1992, with the PG stigma no longer an issue (thanks to taboo breakers like The Watcher in the Woods and The Black Hole), Disney released a video version of Treasure Island in its original, uncut form.

Movie Release History

1950 - Treasure Island

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Jim Hawkins Bobby Driscoll
Long John Silver Robert Newton
Captain Smollett Basil Sydney
Squire Trelawney Walter Fitzgerald
Dr. Livesey Denis O'Dea
Capt. Billy Bones Finlay Currie
George Merry Ralph Truman
Israel Hands Geoffrey Keen
Ben Gunn Geoffrey Wilkinson
Blind Pew John Laurie
Black Dog Francis De Wolff
Mr. Arrow David Davies
Redruth John Gregson
Gray Andrew Blackett
Morgan William Devlin

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