Have your kids done any summer reading? If not, start now! [*GIVEAWAY INFO AT BOTTOM!]
Daniel DeFoe’s 1719 adventure story, Robinson Crusoe, spawned a plethora of copycat productions trying to replicate and/or outdo DeFoe’s classic tale. So many books of similar lore were published, an entire genre was named for them: Robinsonnades. There was The Dutch Robinson, The Austrian Robinson, The Hungarian Robinson and even Emma, the Famale Robinson. None, however, found success with the masses like the 1812 escapades of The Swiss Family Robinson.
Author Johann David Wyss, a German-Swiss pastor, wrote 841 pages of fantastic stories, complete with illustrations, to amuse his four young sons, never intending his musings to be read by anyone other than his family. When the second eldest son had the manuscript printed, it quickly became a best seller, surprising but pleasing the author, and has become one of the world’s most beloved works of literature.
The Swiss Family Robinson was inspired by time Johann David spent exploring nature with his boys, studying the trees, plants and wildlife as they pondered life’s possibilities. The book’s main characters are quite representative of the Wyss family. However, though influenced by Robinson Crusoe, the Swiss Robinsons are a bit less naïve and noticeably more adept at survival than their predecessor. Where Crusoe learned by trial and error, the Robinsons often have immediate solutions to their problems. And while the variety of plant and animal species on the Robinsons’ island would not likely be found together, readers don’t mind suspending their disbelief long enough to be entertained.
In 1960, Walt Disney produced a feature film based on the Wyss novel. Requiring 22-months to film and costing over $4 million to produce, like the book, Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson is one of the industry’s most successful and most fondly remembered hits. So successful has the 1960 version been that Disney plans to update the film and has officially announced that a remake is in development with co-producer Mandeville Films, scheduled for a 2012 release. This exciting epic chronicles the adventures of the Robinson family after they are shipwrecked on an uninhabited island, how they overcome obstacles of nature—and the threat of savage pirates—and transform this wild site into their own New Switzerland.
1) Read the book and watch the film. Compare and contrast the two. How faithful does the movie script remain to the original plot? What has been added to or removed from Wyss’ story?
2) Brainstorm with your children. Imagine your own family shipwrecked and alone in a strange land. You don’t know what danger lurks ashore. You don’t know the weather patterns. You don’t know what resources are available. What do you do? You can take only so many supplies with you when you leave the ship. What essentials would you gather to ensure your family’s survival?
3) Pretend your backyard is your family’s New Switzerland. Gather certain essentials from your ship before it sinks (aka, your house) and wade onto the land. Build a shelter by hoisting sheets over tree limbs or stacking crates or laundry baskets. Prepare a meal, establish provisions, defend the fortress!
4) If possible, visit the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom (a Park original opening day attraction). Walk right into this fascinating family’s adventure and explore the six-story, well-improvised living quarters.
SCHOOL SUBJECT: Literature, Film
SKILL LEVEL: High School
For the chance to win a Magical Mouse Schoolhouse t-shirt and a copy of Johann David Wyss’ The Swiss Family Robinson, by midnight tonight email [jodi at magicalmouseschoolhouse dot com]! One winner will be drawn at random from all entrants.
Unfortunately, no one entered for today’s giveaway, so the book will be included in Friday’s end-of-birthday-week grand prize finale package!