Moon Pilot

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Moon Pilot
Moon Pilot FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by James Neilson
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Maurice Tombragel
Robert Buckner (novel Starfire)
Starring Tom Tryon
Edmund O'Brien
Dany Saval
Tommy Kirk
Music by Robert B. Sherman
Richard M. Sherman (songs)
Paul J. Smith
Cinematography William E. Snyder
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release dates
April 5, 1962 (1962-04-05)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Moon Pilot is a 98 minute Technicolor science fiction satirical comedy released in 1962 by Buena Vista Distribution. Based on Robert Buckner's 1960 novel Starfire, it was directed by James Neilson and reflects Disney's interest in America's early space program during the John F. Kennedy era.


Astronaut Capt. Richmond Talbot inadvertently volunteers to make the first manned flight around the moon. He is ordered to keep the upcoming moon flight a secret, even from his family. Due to the classified nature of the mission, he is placed under the watchful eye of several national security agencies.

Despite all of their precautions, Talbot is approached by Lyrae, a mysterious “foreign” girl who seems to know all about the astronaut's mission. She approaches Talbot to warn him about possible defects in his spacecraft. The various agencies assume she is a foreign spy.

Eventually Lyrae reveals that she is a friendly alien from the planet Beta Lyrae. She wants to offer him a special formula that will safeguard his rocket. Enchanted by the girl, Talbot sneaks away from the FBI, NASA, and CIA agents who have been guarding him to spend more time with Lyrae. Eventually, after his rocket is launched, Talbot discovers that Lyrae has stowed away. The two sing a romantic song about Beta Lyrae while mission control is confused by the bizarre transmissions.

Disney vs the FBI[edit]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation protested to Walt Disney about their portrayal in the film. First, they objected to an FBI Agent guarding an astronaut, as that was not a Bureau function. Disney changed the character into a Federal Security Officer. Once the film was released, the FBI complained the federal agent was portrayed in "a most slapstick and uncomplimentary manner".[1]


Robert Buckner's novel Starfire had been serialised in The Saturday Evening Post and came to the attention of Disney. They bought the screen rights in 1961.[2]

The screenplay took a satirical view of the United States Government, with someone chiding a politician with "Didn't you read our 'Simple Science for Senators'"? The same characters Disney deified in their Man in Space series were gently ridiculed in the film.[3]

For his leading man Disney chose Tom Tryon who had been starring in Texas John Slaughter on television, but for the space female Disney chose Dany Saval then touted as the "new Brigitte Bardot" for her American debut.[4] He surrounded his two young stars with many experienced actors and a chimp for children. Disney's songwriters the Sherman brothers contributed several songs to the film with Saval recording The Seven Moons of Beta Lyrae, which was released on a record with Annette's The Crazy Place in Outer Space.


Sally Field makes her film debut as one of the beatnik girls in the lineup. She is the one in the oversized sweater, dark hair, and glasses.


  1. ^ p.35 Cohen, Karl F. Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America 2004 McFarland
  2. ^ VIEW FROM A LOCAL VANTAGE POINT: On the Harvey, Disney Production Schedule -- Freedom Subject By A.H. WEILER. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 Mar 1961: X7.
  3. ^ p.113 Telotte, J.P. The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology 2008 University of Illinois Press
  4. ^ p.154 Brode, Douglas Multiculturism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment 2005 University of Texas Press

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