A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is Disney's version of the classic 19th century Jules Verne novel of the same name. Some old stereotypes come through in scenes where island natives are portrayed as primitive and brutal. There are no female characters with speaking roles in this film, either. Lots of punching among sailors, and some perilous scenes with a giant squid might frighten younger viewers.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Professor Aronnax boards an American frigate intending to put to rest rumors that an enormous sea creature is destroying ships throughout the South Seas. His efforts are dashed when the vessel is attacked and only he, his apprentice Conseil (Peter Lorre), and hot-tempered harpooner Ned Land (Kirk Douglas) survive. The three find themselves not in the belly of the beast, but onboard the Nautilus, an impressive submarine created by Captain Nemo (James Mason) solely to sink ships bearing weapons of destruction. Blind to the hypocrisy of his acts, Nemo takes Aronnax and company with him on his murderous crusade, but leaves his guests no choice but to escape the Nautilus before its captain takes them all to a watery grave.
Is it any good?
This is one heck of a family adventure movie. The visionary Jules Verne wrote about submarines and diving suits -- not to mention space travel -- back in the 19th century when it was all just science fiction. Walt Disney, a 20th-century visionary, had his studio turn Verne's ambitious deep sea tale into the studio's first live-action feature, and the result is impressive.
Captain Nemo's pet seal, the run-in with cannibals, and the stormy tussle with a giant squid will have every 10-year-old captivated. Best of all is Nemo's creation, the Nautilus, a beautifully designed submarine with all of the gothic trimmings, including an imposing pipe organ that plays Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor." The sleek metal tub steals the show from human stars James Mason and Kirk Douglas. This 1954 release won Academy Awards for Art Direction and Special Effects.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Captain Nemo could have better directed his genius. How does each family member channel his or her intellectual and creative energy?
Talk about some of the old-fashioned stereotypes in this movie. What kinds of stereotypes in today's movies will one day seem old-fashioned?
What more modern undersea adventure movies have you enjoyed?
- In theaters: December 23, 1954
- On DVD or streaming: December 15, 2010
- Cast: James Mason, Kirk Douglas, Paul Lukas
- Director: Richard Fleischer
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Ocean Creatures
- Run time: 127 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: January 21, 2021
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