Swiss Family Robinson – The Novel vs. The Movie

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Swiss Family Robinson The Novel VS. The Movie

Prior to beginning  our Book Club our children had watched many of the famous Disney movies such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Pinocchio.  For the most part, however, they were not familiar with the original books that had inspired these great films.  As we started to read these stories it was interesting to see our children’s reactions as they noticed the many differences between the book and film versions of their favorite classic tales.

When they began to compare the original stories to some of the animated movies like Peter Pan and The Jungle Book our kids easily understood how the movie scripts were modified (and a few musical numbers added!) from the original story line for pure entertainment value or to streamline the story for time constraints.

One movie our children had not previously watched was the 1960 Disney film – Swiss Family Robinson .  After reading The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss we asked the kids to make some predictions about how the movie and book might compare.  Perhaps it was the more serious nature of the Wyss story, or the focus on teaching lessons about hard-work and family values, but they imagined the movie might be much closer to the original story than some of the animated film versions of other stories had been.

Swiss Family Robinson novel vs movie

As we watched the movie together it didn’t take long for us to see that Disney decided to take a very different approach to the movie.  Disney chose to make the film into more of an adventure story, with some fun and outrageous creative changes included along the way.  After our little viewing party we had plenty of interesting material to discuss.

We used a Venn Diagram as a tool and visual guide to help document the similarities and differences they notice between the film and written version of the story. If you use this tool with your family you can compare elements such as characters, setting, and plot, or look more broadly for scenes (chapters), themes and overall lessons that may be the same or different in each version.

The Novel vs. The Movie

Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson is a fun family film and can easily be used to help your children begin to compare written and film versions of a story.

Here are a few things to look for –

  • How many children are in the original novel and how many are in the movie?
  • Think about the animals in the novel vs. the movie and how they interact with the family.
  • What about those pirates?  Disney had a way of making pirates interesting even in the 1960s — were the ones in the movie similar to what you imagined in the novel?

Schedule a movie night for your family, make some pop corn or some of the yummy “Deserted Island Recipes” from the World Study Guide for Swiss Family Robinson, and watch the Disney movie together.  Let us know how many differences you can spot!

Swiss Family Robinson

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As a veteran educator I am always looking for new ways to bring learning to life for my family. I enjoy traveling, sharing ideas with other moms, and helping my children explore the world around them. Our favorite subjects to study together are history, literature and geography.


  1. says

    I haven’t seen this movie in years. The book was a favorite of mine as a kid.

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