Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Original Swiss Family Robinson Tree FOUND!!!

Okay now.  Everyone take a deep breath.  This is really big news.  
The tree of our dreams has been found!   

The wonderful treehouse built by the shipwrecked Robinsons in the 1960 movie fired up my childhood imagination like nothing else. (Ironically, as I got older, the treehouse continued to have special significance for me!)  I'd drop everything in a heartbeat if I could build a bamboo home in the branches of an enormous tree, with a waterwheel turning in a little creek, and the excitement of the jungle all about. 
 
So, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you Mr. Lennox Straker Jr., a resident of Tobago (where the film was shot) and, miraculously, a reader of my blog!  After I posted about the Swiss Family Robinson's tree a few months ago, Mr. Straker decided to take it upon himself to seek out and photograph the giant living Samaan tree used in the movie fifty years ago.  And he did it!  

"Kevin, I stumbled upon your post of March this year "Some Really Big Roots" which mentioned the original Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse from the movie of 1960. I live on the island of Tobago in the Caribbean and did research on the tree and actually found it still very much alive in Goldsborough! 

"The tree has fallen into obscurity; only a few of the older people knew of its significance. As a matter of fact, not many people know of the film Swiss Family Robinson much less that it was filmed here in Tobago. Acting on info I found online about it being in Goldsborough I went up there and saw two possible suspects.  They were both close to the road at the end of what was once a playing field. I identified this tree only after realising the stream that ran in front of it (also visible in the movie) and then an old gentleman came around and I asked him where is the tree located and he said "you are looking at it." 

"The tree is on private lands and there are old appliances at its trunk and some of the branches have been cut, there is no physical evidence of anything in the trees but I did not go up close to see if possibly there were carvings or subtle evidence of the movie. 

"I do intend to go again though because, like you, this fascinates me. I think a plaque or something should be placed on this tree."

1959 movie treehouse concept by artist John Hench

John Mills and Dorothy McGuire reenact a scene from"Vertigo".

But that's not all!  Mr. Straker also identifies the swimming hole where the Robinsons  have their first "public holiday" in their new island home...

The two-tiered Craig Hall Waterfall is just off of the side of a road, and, apparently, easy to find.  The first tier falls into a large  pool, which then spills over the rock face into the river below.   Sounds like heaven!

And then, of course, there's the beach...
Tobago still has stretches of pristine beach, and this may be the spot where the Robinson's wash ashore and, later, discover the Chinese pirates. Wow!

A big heartfelt THANKS to Lennox Straker, for his excellent detective work, and for sharing his discoveries with us.  I'll be getting my passport in order and heading to Tobago ASAP!

37 comments:

Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, what a beautiful place. I would imagine that, after 50 years, any traces of the original movie sets have long since decayed. Even nails and things like that might have been "swallowed up" by the tree. Neat story though, and great detective work!

Kate D. said...

I am having a total nerdgasm. Oh. My. God.

Kevin Kidney said...

Haha!! Kate, you said it! Me too. What a scoop!

Mr Banks said...

Coolness, coolness, coolness. I recently got to visit the Bilbo birthday party tree in New Zealand so I know how personal trees can be!

Joke said...

Well done! While you're jetting around, stop by The Hukilau. (Over at The Hukilau FB page your presence -- and JD's -- has been clamored for.)

There. I was sent to issue that message and now I complete my mission.

Now, if someone will kindly point me in the direction of some WDW "suits" to make them ask K&J to design souvenirs & collectibles for WDW's 40th...

pixiegirltink said...

SO COOL! What an excellent story. Thanks Lennox for finding the tree!

I was thrilled to meet Tommy Kirk at the D23 Expo last year. When I asked him what his favorite movie memory was, he said it was SFR in Tobago. He told us it was a beautiful place and he had many happy memories of that time.

Thanks Kevin!
Lannie

Donnie said...

That is awesome!

thepicklebarrel said...

i luv the innernets!

Davelandweb said...

6 Degrees of Swiss Family Robinson - excellent post!

Centaurette said...

What joy when the world (all too) occasionally comes through with the shining verification that the Stuff of Our Dreams IS tangible and true! A misty-eyed chorus of "My Heart Was An Island" and a high-stepping "Swisskapolka" thank you to all involved here!

Debbie V. said...

Very interesting!
I still envision SFR the way I imagined it as I was reading my paperback Scholastic book club copy back in the 1960's. When I finally got rid of it it was in sections, held together by a rubber band. That one and Jungle Book. I didn't actually see the movies until I was an adult (my mom was adamant about me not attending a movie theater).
But I did enjoy the movie and the attraction at Disneyland back when.
Thanks for the pictures and news.

Mark Taft said...

Thanks for this post!
I LOVE the SFRTH, and much like you, it propelled my love for Disneyland and adventure.

Mark
InsightsandSounds.blogspot.com

N'koma said...

Great job Mr. Straker.

N'koma said...

I know you are going to take me to these sites when next I visit you in Tobago. Which will be in November... :-)

Amy said...

SERIOUSLY? I would love to see that. What a find.

Dr Bitz said...

This is more satisfying than finding the Loch Ness monster. Great story, thanks.

I used to work across from the DL Tree at Sunkist and loved the Swisska polka. Never got sick of hearing it. There is that fantasy we have of living in something like that and to see the real tree makes it that much more real in a way.

Dr Bitz said...

Question to the board at large.

After studying the image of the tree in context with the cars, etc, to my eye it looks very small but still proportunate. I wonder if the rooms shown in the film were built in forced perspective and or scaled down below human size to be a backdrop? Perhaps there are set design plans of the huts that are up there? Most likely built in the field from the concept sketches. The interiors must have been shot on larger sets on stage.

gerG said...

Fantastic! It'll be a trip of a lifetime when u and Jody go.

Imagineering Disney said...

Golly!

Ever since my father told me when I was a young boy that the movie was NOT filmed using the Swiss Family Treehouse IN Disneyland I've wanted to visit this far off land to see the real thing.

This is amazing.

James said...

How fun would it be to do a road trip looking for a bunch of iconic landmark sites where movies were filmed. It is amazing how seemingly little things from movies become embedded in our memories and become "feel good" memories. Thanks for sharing this!!

Russ said...

Found this great photo of the tree house set on Flickr:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4048/4524794593_0d2c958197_o.jpg

Brenna Hawley said...

What a great find!! I love this movie. Now I have to go watch it :) The movie also always made me want a pet zebra, which would be a terrible idea!

A Snow White Sanctum said...

Holy Smokes! What a great find! Well done Mr. Lennox Straker Jr. and thanks KK for posting. You made my day.

AnnKMc said...

Kevin,

Thank you so much for pursuing this! I teach eighth grade math and for some reason the other day, mentioned this most wonderful of childhood memories to my class. What a delight to find this post!

The Disney of our childhood created a more personal imagination I think. My grandson will never be Buzz Lightyear but I could easily picture myself as the mom or daughter in this movie. Wonderful wonderful! Gratefully,

Ann

bwb said...

Awesome find, I'm hoping to travel out there for a fun trip and going to add this to my hikes!

Jonathan and Jill Mills said...

cool!
I was there during the filming and played for hours in the tree house.
Well found!

Coker said...

As an annual reader of Kingston's edition, I know what I'll be dreaming about for the next few days.

Elvis Cruz said...

Kevin, I was recently on Tobago and photographed and measured the tree. I would like to email you an accounting of that.

Jeff Goshorn said...

Is that the same piece of driftwood on the beach? Ha!

shankar~selina said...

The pirates were speaking Malay. Some of the words we just gibberish.

Tara said...

Kevin,
I am desperately trying to find a copy of the theme song from the "Swiss Family Robinson" movie. I am needing to turn to the experts because the search engine gods are not on my side today. I think your site mentions that it is called "My Heart was an Island" by Terry Gilkyson, and at one point in my search, I thought I had found a site that sold the sheet music. Now I am hitting dead ends everywhere I turn. Any help in this area??
Thanks, Tara

Emily Hron Weigle said...

Hi---

Do you know of anywhere it's possible to get a poster/print of the treehouse concept art you included in this post?

Thanks!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

The movie and that Disneyland tree house fired my youth like nothing else. I am in architectural design because of the Disneyland tree....50+ years of tree house dreams. Thanks so much for your web page, it brings back wonderful warm memories.

Brielle Foster said...

OMG!!!!
nice view.....
Fifty Shades Of Grey Movie

maria said...

Wow, have heard of the film but didnt really know anything about it - treehouse and location looks amazing - must seek out some footage

Steel Magnolia said...

I am completely blown away. This iconic movie fuels my wanderlust and sense of adventure. Borneo and the south seas islands beckon.