Disney Classic Treasure Island Premiered in Theaters on This Day in 1950

by Keeli Parkey

“Treasure Island” – a film that marked a milestone for Walt Disney and his company – debuted 71 years ago today. Its premiere date was July 19, 1950.

According to IMDb, this film was the very first film created by Disney that was a totally live-action project. It was directed by Byron Haskin. He also directed the 1953 film adaptation of “The War of the Worlds.”

Disney’s “Treasure Island” screenplay was written by Lawrence Edward Watkin. The film is based on a book of the same name written by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. He is the author who gave us such tales as “Kidnapped” and also “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” 

The two main characters in “Treasure Island” are the young boy Jim Hawkins and the pirate captain Long John Silver. They are on a hunt for – obviously – treasure buried on an island. It is set during May 1765.

Playing Jim was actor Bobby Driscoll. He was also famous for another Disney movie. This was the 1953 cartoon “Peter Pan.” Driscoll played the titled character in this film. Actor Robert Newton was the man who brought the character of Long John Silver to life.

He was also known for his role as Inspector Fix in the 1956 film “Around the World in 80 Days.” He reprised his role as the pirate caption Long John Silver in the television series, “The Adventures of Long John Silver.” This show aired in 1956 and 1957.

Other cast members in “Treasure Island” included Basil Sydney, Walter Fitzgerald, Denis O’Dea, Finlay Currie, Ralph Truman, and Geoffrey Keene.

Find Out More About Disney’s ‘Treasure Island’

As previously stated, “Treasure Island” was the first film made by Disney that was totally live-action. Walt Disney decided to create the film after rules kept his company from moving the money made on its cartoons from the United Kingdom.

While he could have started a new animation studio in the country, he decided not to. What he chose to do was use the money his company had made and the studios there to make the movie.

Disney had made other live-action movies prior to 1950. However, those films included some animated moments. And, at one time, Walt Disney planned to put animation in “Treasure Island” and concept art was developed for it. However, it was later decided that animation would not be included in the film. Interestingly, the concept art created for “Treasure Island” was later used in Disney’s “Robin Hood,” which was released in 1973.

The most memorable character in “Treasure Island” is – for most viewers – pirate captain Long John Silver. One of his character traits was frequently using “Arrrrr” when he spoke. This became so popular that some believe it is why “Arrrrr” is so associated with pirates to this day.

“Treasure Island” is also one of the very earliest Disney films that aired on television. It was broadcast in 1955 as part of “The Magical World of Disney” series.