Moon Pilot

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Moon Pilot
Moon Pilot FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release half-sheet display poster
Directed byJames Neilson
Produced byWalt Disney
Written byMaurice Tombragel
Robert Buckner (novel Starfire)
StarringTom Tryon
Brian Keith
Edmond O'Brien
Dany Saval
Tommy Kirk
Music byRobert B. Sherman
Richard M. Sherman (songs)
Paul J. Smith
CinematographyWilliam E. Snyder
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
April 5, 1962 (1962-04-05)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States

Moon Pilot is a 1962 American Technicolor science fiction satirical comedy film from Walt Disney Productions, released through Buena Vista Distribution, directed by James Neilson, and starring Tom Tryon, Brian Keith, Edmund O'Brien, Dany Saval, and Tommy Kirk.[1]

The film is based on Robert Buckner's 1960 novel Starfire[2] and reflects Disney's interest in America's space program during John F. Kennedy's presidential era in the early 1960s.


Air Force Capt. Richmond Talbot inadvertently volunteers to make the first manned flight around the Moon. He is ordered to keep the upcoming flight a secret, even from his family on his upcoming leave.

On his flight to visit his family, Talbot is approached by Lyrae, a mysterious “foreign” girl who seems to know all about the astronaut's coming mission. She approaches Talbot to warn him about possible defects in his spacecraft. He assumes she is a spy, runs away from her, and contacts the Air Force. The Air Force orders him home and places him under the protection of "National Security," a thinly disguised FBI.

Eventually, Lyrae reveals that she is a friendly alien from the planet Beta Lyrae. She wants to offer him a special paint formula that when applied to his rocket, will safeguard his brain from "proton rays". Enchanted by the young woman, Talbot sneaks away from the agents who have been guarding him to spend more time with Lyrae. Eventually, after his rocket is launched, Lyrae appears by his side and convinces him to visit her planet with her. Talbot informs Mission Control that he will be a little late coming back. The film ends with Mission Control totally confounded by the bizarre transmissions they are receiving from both singing a romantic song duet about her home planet Beta Lyrae.


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. Jo Anne Worley, of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In fame, also appears as an extra.

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".[3]


Robert Buckner's novel Starfire had been serialized in The Saturday Evening Post and came to the attention of Disney. They bought the screen rights in 1961.[4]

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 character types Disney deified in their earlier Man in Space series were now gently made fun of in the film.[5]

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.[6] 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Moon Pilot". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  2. ^ Buckner, Robert (1960). Starfire. New York City: Permabooks. ASIN B0007F15XE.
  3. ^ p.35 Cohen, Karl F. Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America 2004 McFarland
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ p.113 Telotte, J.P. The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology 2008 University of Illinois Press
  6. ^ p.154 Brode, Douglas Multiculturism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment 2005 University of Texas Press

External links[edit]