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The Island at the Top of the World

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Island at the Top of the World

The Island at the Top of the World is a 1974 Disney film, starring Donald Sinden and David Hartman.


In London in the year 1907, a British aristocrat named Sir Anthony Ross (Donald Sinden) hastily arranges an expedition to the Arctic to search for his lost son Donald. Donald had become lost on a whaling expedition to find the fabled island where whales go to die.

Sir Anthony employs the talents of a Scandinavian-American archaeologist Professor Ivarsson (David Hartman) and Captain Brieux (Jacques Marin), a French inventor/aeronaut who pilots the expedition in a French dirigible named the Hyperion, (which, naturally, Captain Brieux invented). Upon reaching the Arctic, they meet Oomiak, a comically cowardly/brave Eskimo friend of Donald's, and trick him into helping them join in the search.

Ultimately, the expedition becomes (temporarily) separated from Captain Brieux, and discovers an uncharted island named Astragard, occupied by a lost civilization of Vikings, cut off from the rest of the world for centuries. The Vikings capture Sir Anthony and Ivarsson, but Oomiak escapes. Shortly thereafter they find Donald, but are nearly put to death by the fanatic Godi (pronounced "Go-dah"), a sort-of Lawspeaker/Soothsayer authority figure. The three men (Sir Anthony, Ivarsson and Donald) are saved from being burned alive by a brave and beautiful Viking girl named Freya, with whom Donald is deeply and mutually in love. They escape, and are rejoined by Oomiak and eventually find the Whales Graveyard, but are attacked by Killer Whales. Here they are saved by the sudden reappearance of Captain Brieux, but they are still being pursued by the angry Godi and his rather unwilling warriors. Finally, the Godi is killed by the explosion when he shoots a fiery arrow at the Hyperion but the Vikings will not let the expedition return to their world unless one of them remains behind as a hostage. Ivarsson however, willingly volunteers to stay, because this is a chance to live history. Ivarsson also points out that if someday Mankind is ever foolish enough to destroy itself, places like Astragard may become humanity's final refuge. And so, Sir Anthony, Donald, Freya, Captain Brieux and Oomiak, are allowed to depart in peace, promising not to tell the Outside World about Astragard.


The film was based on the novel The Lost Ones, written by Ian Cameron, set in the location of Prince Patrick Island. To tie-in with the film, the novel was reissued with the movie's title. There were several changes from the book to the film. The novel is set in 1960, but the film is set in 1907. Instead of Prince Patrick Island, the island in the film is located due north of Ellesmere Island (cf. Crocker Land). Several extra characters and the airship Hyperion appear in the film, but not in the novel. Also, the greatest departure in the film is Freya survives to (presumably) live happily ever after with Donald, whereas in the book she tragically dies, sacrificing herself to save Donald and Sir Anthony.

The film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures, and in a family-based package was accompanied by Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! The film received an Academy Award nomination for its Art direction/set decoration (Peter Ellenshaw, John B. Mansbridge, Walter H. Tyler, Al Roelofs, Hal Gausman). The film's score was created by film composer Maurice Jarre.

To accompany the film release, Disney released a story record album containing audio clips from the film, an eleven page illustrated booklet, and narration by Thurl Ravenscroft. The album contains the theme from the Jarre score arranged for solo organ, in place of the film's full orchestration.

A sequel was planned, entitled The Lost Ones, based more closely on the original novel, but was abandoned when it became apparent that Island at the Top of the World would not be a box office success.

Cultural References

Disneyland (Anaheim, CA)

A new land, Discovery Bay, was planned but never built (in the area now occupied by Big Thunder Ranch), which would have contained a reproduction of the Hyperion airship protruding from a recreation of Captain Brieux's hangar. Sections of the design for this land was used in Disneyland Resort Paris' Discoveryland area. An attraction based around a journey to Astragard would have been one of the E-Tickets for the land as well.

Disneyland Paris

The Hyperion Airship was recreated at Disneyland Resort Paris in the Discoveryland area of the park, and was at its time in 1992 considered as the largest prop ever at any Disney theme park.


Hyperion is a brand used by Disney for publishing endeavours, from the early 1990s. Disney had a studio on Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles early in their history.



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