I’m very excited to launch this series of reviews called Into The Disney Vault. It is something I’ve wanted to do since the first days of Disney Plus. For the series, I will deep dive into the Disney vault on Disney Plus in search of old films or shows that I have not seen or may have forgotten about.
Treasure Island (1950)
Walt Disney Productions
Directed by: Byron Haskin
Written by: Lawrence Edward Watkin
Starring: Bobby Driscoll, Robert Newton, Basil Sydney, Finlay Currie
Before Walt Disney Studios became the juggernaut it is now, it started out as an animation studio making the big leap into live-action film. Prior to this they only had live sequences cut into animated movies.
Treasure Island is a novel turned film that follows a young boy named Jim Hawkins who befriends a one-legged pirate named Long John Silver on his search for treasure.
Have I seen the film before?
This was my first time seeing this version of the film, and I didn’t read Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel it was based on. Before this I had only seen Muppets Treasure Island which hits the same beats(black dot) but was more a parody.
What I liked:
I went into this expecting a slog of a movie that would be tough to get through despite being a classic, and I couldn’t be any more wrong. The War of the Worlds director Byron Haskin really ran a tight ship. (pun intended)
Robert Newton found a way to be both scummy yet incredibly charming in his role as Long John Silver. Tim Curry as the same character in the muppets version, was a convincing good guy before his inevitable turn to evil, but it’s Tim Curry, of course he’s going to be bad. Newton looked like perhaps the most seedy disgusting human being on the planet, yet still managed to have us cheering him on by the end of the film. Something that the character Dr. Livesey even mentions in the movie’s final moments.
What I didn’t like:
All the actors did a fantastic job, even the child actor Bobby Driscoll, who did a solid job as the main character Jim Hawkins. (He has an incredibly tragic story, but I won’t go into that here.)
But the one actor I really wish would have been reigned in was Walter Fitzgerald who played Squire Trelawney. A loudmouthed idiot who finds value in the map given to Hawkins and puts the ship’s crew together. Maybe this is how Squire is in the book, but it felt like he was in a different movie. He was like a cartoon come to life in the worst way possible, but that could have been the point of the character. There was also a character that I could swear was just Gollum without the cgi. He wasn’t bad - just weird.
Does it hold up?
The action from an old film like this may look cheesy and their incessant use of the term “Sea Man,” may be funny, but I can honestly say that after all these decades, Treasure Island still holds up. The story and acting were all top notch but what surprised me most was how good the film looked. Did Disney use some film magic to stretch that budget? Sure, but the hand drawn backgrounds actually made it feel quaint.
Would I recommend it?
Whether it be adults or children, I think Treasure Island is a classic movie everyone should see. I regret not seeing it sooner. If classic Disney movies didn’t do it for you then it might not be for you. But many of us grew up with this movie or grew up with movies that feel just like it. Definitely worth a watch.