“We had many meetings with Walt to decide how Swiss Family Robinson was going to be produced. There were two opinions. One was that we would make the picture on the Burbank lot using special process photography. I prevailed on Walt to let us try to make it in its natural locale.
“So we began to search, which started a world-wide project. Our director, Ken Annakin, had worked not only in the Far East but in Africa and our associate producer, Basil Keys had also worked on many international productions. Keys wanted to film in East Africa and Annakin wanted to go to Ceylon to make it. And I insisted they explore the Caribbean.
“At first, they were discouraged because most of the islands lay flat, and we needed more divergent terrain. Finally, I received a wire saying they had found this island of Tobago situated at the end of the Leeward Isles in the West Indies. I flew down there and found it scenically beautiful and perfect for our filming needs. Not only that, Tobago was the legendary home of Robinson Crusoe, which tied in perfectly with the story line of Swiss Family Robinson.
“Right away it was evident that making a picture there was going to be difficult because of the lack of facilities. We needed a warehouse and a cover stage. Walt realized this was going to be costly but he finally agreed to it. We went ahead and, with the exception of ‘Mary Poppins,’ it was our most expensive production.
“We put all the money into what is seen on the screen but we still had tremendous problems. We had to build our own sound stage out of sheet metal. We had to import everything that was used. It was a tremendous logistical problem, not to mention the weather. We experienced one of the biggest storms ever to hit the island of Tobago. It flooded our stage and flooded out our treehouse and other sets. We couldn’t shoot for weeks. In fact, the crew set to and helped the natives clean up the debris and reconstruct their homes.
“I think the proof of this picture was in the way we did it and the way it was accepted by the public. It’s big entertainment, and it’s a bigger-than-life adventure in that it gives the feeling of being on the island with the Robinson family.”
In Panavision and Technicolor, Swiss Family Robinson stars John Mills, Dorothy McGuire, James MacArthur and Janet Munro, and co-stars Sessue Hayakawa, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran and Cecil Parker. Buena Vista re-releases.
From the Swiss Family Robinson 1969 Re-Release Press Materials.