The 1950s era saw Walt Disney producing and releasing several hit films. Amongst one of those hits was Treasure Island, which was based on an 1883 novel. It was Disney’s first live-action film and the first Treasure Island screen version made in color.
The film was a success interms of receiving positive reviews from the critics. This was the time when cinemas were recovering from the aftermath of war several years back. Therefore, perhaps what makes Treasure Island special is that it is one of the first films released in an attempt to revive the movie industry.
The movie is based on a young boy called Jim Hawkins who lives on the West Coast of England with his mother. Jim is offered a map by Captain William Bones handed over to him by two pirates. At the same time, the second pirate gives the captain a note marked with a black spot. The pirate sends the captain for help with a mysterious promise to share upon his return.
When Jim returns with Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney, he only discovers bones dead at the inn and shows Trelawney the map. Trelawney recognizes the map and embarks on a voyage to discover the lost treasure of the pirates. Trelawney hires Captain Smollet along with his ship the Hispaniola. Dr. Livesey joins that voyage as well as the ship doctor while Jim is the cabin boy.
Before the crew could embark on the journey, Trelawney meets with Long John Silver who manages to convince Trelawney to take him along. While they are at sea, Silver convinces Jim to get him some rum, which he uses to get Mr. Arrow drunk. Silver then kills him and makes the crew believe that he was washed overboard in a storm.
Jim overhears the mutiny being planned by Silver and shares the plan with Smollet. Smollet asks Jim to be friends with Silver to know more about their plans. Upon reaching Treasure Island, Silver offers to tow the boat to a safer anchorage, using the rowboats of the ship.
While the ship is being towed, one of Silver’s men leads a mutiny, and Smollett being warned earlier by Jim manages to arrest some of the men in the decks below. Silver then cuts the rowboats from the ship and takes Jim hostage. Trelawney, Smollet, and Livesey go after them, leaving two guards to look after the ship.
On the Island, Jim meets Ben Gunn, who shows him his ship. Later, Gunn leads Jim to Flint’s stockade where he gets in touch with Smollet and the others. In the meantime, Marry escapes with the ship and raises the skull and bones flag. Silver returns to the ship, arms his men, and plans to take the stockade. Silver and Smollet get into a fight, which injuries Smollet and kills most of the pirates.
That evening, Jim takes Gunn’s boat cuts Hispaniola’s anchor rope. He then witnesses two of Silver’s men arguing while one kills the other. Israel Hands, the pirate guard catches Jim and chases him into the ship’s rigging. He manages to injure Jim but gets killed by his gun. Wounded Jim returns to the stockade, which takes him all night. He then searches for the doctor but finds out that Silver has taken over the stockade. As a result, Jim faints.
While Merry wants to kill Jim, Silver intends to trade him for the map, which he believes is with Smollet. Silver then stitches up Jim’s wound and sees that the ship’s aground flying the Union Jack. The men aboard the ship offer Silver the black spot but he refuses.
Surprised, they allow him to bargain for the map with Livesey. Silver returns with Jim and goes through the forest to find the hidden treasure. Upon reaching the location, Silver founds that there is nothing there.
The pirates turn against Silver who manages to kill three of them while Smollet’s men appear to kill the rest. Upon greeting Silver, Gunn reveals that he had dug up Flint’s treasure years ago and stashed the findings in a cave. Gunn then shoes the treasure composed of both gold and silver. Captain Smollet intends to take Silver back to England for trial. Silver then manages to grab Jim’s pistol and forces everyone including Trelawney out of the boat.
Silver plans to keep Hawkins on the boat to steer while he rows but Jim beaches them instead. Silver orders Hawkins to push him off but Jim refuses and Silver threatens to shoot him. As a result, Silver drops the pistol and pushes the boat off himself. Witnessing Silver’s struggle and realizing that he owes Silver for saving his life, Jim helps him as well, and the boat rows away into the ocean.
Treasure Island managed to return rentals from its initial release of $4,100,000 with $2,100,000 generated in both Canada and the United States. In 1950, the movie was the sixth most popular movie at the British box office. At the same time, the movie received mostly positive reviews from critics. The film was praised for splendid entertainment and sumptuous set pieces. It was a movie that catered to both young and old alike.
Following Treasure Island’s success, Walt Disney realized that such movies had potential and the viewers tend to enjoy the experience. As a result, it continued making similar movies that were a huge success as well. And since Treasure Island was Disney’s first color-screen version, the trend was set for more color movies to follow.