Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Irrelevance of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer

Yes it's true. Jay Rasulo and the marketing minions at Disney Corporate are pushing hard for a rushed tear-down of Tom Sawyer's Island to make room for a Jack Sparrow themed Pirate Playground in May of 2007.

Those within the Orwellian confines of W.D.I. now tasked with shape-shifting this classic Walt inspired island of adventure and brave enough to talk about it generally don't agree with their new mandate. Driven hard by the movie's financial success, this is a decision that is both knee-jerk and wrong.

The argument that is being used is that the Island is no longer being attended, so W.D.I. must make it "relevant".

Just when did attendance drop? Was it when the fort shut and locked its entrance gate? When the bridges were temporarily run down and closed? When the allure of a burning cabin was shut off? When water traffic backed off with the loss of the Keel Boats and slimmed down Canoes? When the designated "smoking area" for that region was moved to the load/unload of the rafts?

So now what? Collective wisdom at Imagineering is that the disease has been mis-diagnosed. But no one in upper management seems to care about the legacy of Disneyland anymore. It's old fashioned, and long-term apparently does not appeal to Wallstreet.

Okay, so Disneyland is not a museum. Still, some things are just fun!

But only when they are working the way they had been designed to.


Will Robison said...

My initial reaction is that this would be a travesty - a kick in the guts to long time DL and WDW fans. Why not rename and retheme the Matterhorn while you're at it? But then, when I start to think about it, I realize that the thing I loved about Tom Sawyer's island when I was a kid had nothing to do with Tom Sawyer. I enjoyed shooting the rifles. I enjoyed exploring the caves. I enjoyed the bridges. I didn't even really have a clue who Tom Sawyer was other than he tricked his friends into painting a fence. My point is that as a kid, the theming didn't make a darn difference to me. It was just a place to play.

So, if they're going to revamp Tom Sawyer island, and they should, then I guess it wouldn't kill me if they changed the theming. However, if they change the theming, what is that going to leave Frontierland with, attraction-wise? The Mark Twain Steamboat and Big Thunder? Wow. Why not just get rid of Frontierland as well? After all, cowboys and indians have been passe since the 50's. You could call it Pirates Land! And get rid of New Orleans Square as well. In fact, with a little imagination, you could retheme the entire theme park into one giant Jack Sparrow orgy of fun!

Until High School Musical 2 comes out anyway... ;)

Anonymous said...

I've been a long time reader, though anonymous, of these blogs. I have never posted a comment before. I love the blogs and agree with most. It really does make me feel bad that Disney management can get things so wrong. With this new blog, I cried, yes, literal tears, as I think about what's being done to Disneyland.

Bartender Sam said...

Why on Earth must Disney milk everything and anything that turns a profit into an overkill death. They constantly kill the geese that lay the golden egg by this overkill.

When I was a kid I used to think "synergy" was cool and it still is but in moderation.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the bean counters and legal eagles and sharp pencil boys who collectively let Tom Sawyer Island go to rot for the last ten years can be trusted to turn it into a compelling pirate attraction in seven months.

Maybe the brains who think that channeling attraction exits through stores is good business can create an attraction that gives guests true entertainment value and lasts longer than the latest overhyped movie craze.

Maybe the corporation that gave us the New Tomorrowland has been transformed into a company of showmen worthy, if not of Walt's vision, then of the billions of dollars his vision made for the company before they were put in charge of it.

Then again, maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I honestly wouldn't feel worse if someone were to murder a member of my own family.

Rasulo's nothing but a low-down, double-dealing, backstabbing, larcenous perverted worm! Hanging's too good for him. Burning's too good for him! He should be torn into little bitsy pieces and buried alive! (With apologies to Hanover Fiste)

Anonymous said...

It seems odd, that they would refurb/retheme the fort into something for pirates, but they would not refurb it currently, because it is acting as storage for Fantasmic! There is also a carpenter shop behind the fort! Have they suddenly found room for all of this?

It is interesting that they are willing to write off the timeless classic literary work of Tom Sawyer, without putting in enough effort to refurb what they have. Opening the fort back up would increase the capacity for the island, and would likely have a larger attendance per hour quota. They sacrificed the fort, for what a tree house? And then expect good numbers, get real.

I am going to have to agree with others, and say this is short sighted to say the least!


Anonymous said...

Maybe the bean counters and legal eagles and sharp pencil boys who collectively let Tom Sawyer Island go to rot for the last ten years can be trusted to turn it into a compelling pirate attraction in seven months.

Doesnt that seem to be a recurring trend with Disney lately? Let a decent attraction get old, unkempt and generally less appealing until finally the average guest doesn't care anymore. Then the execs get free reign to tear it out to put in something new.

Maybe this wouldn't sound so bad if it wasn't already known that they're going to be rushing this project.

Anonymous said...

the debate goes on, on this, and other blogs and websites, but sadly, what we say here will most likely have little or no effect, once the suits have made up their feeble, one track, short sighted minds. i mentioned on another thread that i hoped Lasseter read this blog, as he is the one person who might have enough clout to do something before the rape of TSI begins. mark twain is irrelevant and politically incorrect? Not pirates who in real life raped pillaged and plundered, yo ho. but they had a tremendous domestic and worldwide gross, so anything goes. Hey, why not get rid of Captain Hook and slip a Barbossa figure into Peter Pan's Flight? Hell the pirate ships already there and surely Peter Pan has no relevance anymore. His movies tanked so let him walk the plank. TSI was an incredibly special place and deserves to be so again, refurbish? sure.. but to change the entire character of a large part of the park, which is what a 'pirate island' would effectively do, is madness... and walt? no doubt spinning like a gyroscope in his freezer, especially every time some numbskull parrots, 'disneyland is not a museum'. True, its not. but neither was it meant to be a merchandising machine for the latest hollywood flash in the pan, no matter how big the flash. RIP Huck, Tom, 'Injun Joe' and a whole hell of a lot of fun and fantasy that kids used to create without pretending they were Johnny Depp.

Unknown said...

That would be a sad thing to see removed. My wife and I love running around in the caves and at the fort. Our son is just 14 months, would love for him to enjoy playing in the caves with us. Hmm. Sad.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Will Robison -- at least the first paragraph. Is it really such a travesty if Tom Sawyer's Island gets rethemed? It makes me sad that kids these days aren't reading Mark Twain, but something has to be done about that section of the park. Disneyland is not a museum. PERIOD.

However, there is one problem with the proposed "Jack Sparrow" theme. WDI has to be very careful with any changes because the Rivers of America theming fits in with the surrounding area. A drastic change could make the west side of the park look ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Why can't Disneyland be a museum?

Anonymous said...

If Tom Sawyer's Island WAS actually treated like a fully endowed world class museum and given the care, upgrades and attention it so needs I can guarantee kids would flock to it like bees to honey. And no need to know who Tom Sawyer or Becky Thatcher are. They'd just go, and love every adventurous twist and turn to their backwoods adventure.

Anonymous said...

It has fallen so much out of repair that I am more happy they are paying attention to this piece of real estate so close to walt's heart, for once in the last fifteen years.

Anonymous said...

It should be RESTORED, not RETHEMED. The traffic to and from the island should also be RESTORED, the animitronics should be lovingly RESTORED, the cabin, the bridges..... everything should either be restored or be 'plussed' not rethemed!

Will Robison said...

To explain myself further, in each of the new DL's around the world, they've upgraded TSI. Finally, they changed the theme to Adventure Isle or some such or Skull Island. I can't remember. Anyway, this to me has always been an area they could plus, but never did. TSI (Other than the closures) has changed very little since I was a kid. In the meantime, new areas like the Sierra Wilderness Trail (or whatever that thing is called) over at DCA, make TSI just look sad in comparison.

So, I'm all for a refurbishment of this island and if a theming makeover is required, then I'm for that too.

However, that being said, the timeless charm of DL is the fact that the four themed areas were fairly consistent. Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and Frontierland. They added New Orleans Square, Bear Country and Toontown, and each of those areas was consistent as well. To turn TSI into a Pirate island would be to completely rewrite a major portion of real estate in the park and totally screw up the flow of these lands.

Not to mention the fact that after next year, when 5000 prints of POTC3 begin mouldering away, the relevancy of a Pirate Island will begin to disappear (a la Tarzan Tree House).

Instead of changing the Island theme, why not go out and make a really kick ass Tom Sawyer movie instead and reinvent the theme its based upon... you know, like they did with that tired Pirate ride in New Orleans Square.

Merlin Jones said...

Anon. wrote: >>Is it really such a travesty if Tom Sawyer's Island gets rethemed? It makes me sad that kids these days aren't reading Mark Twain, but something has to be done about that section of the park.<<

Well, there is nothing wrong with a pirate island - - if it were in Adventureland or Fantasyland!

But it isn't... First British fantasy character Pooh comes to Frontierland/Bear Country, now this - - before long there will be no cohesive lands/themes in the park at all. Just reactive marketing ploys and a big noncreative corporate mess.

Before anyone dismisses Tom Sawyer, Twain or Frontierland in general as passe with kids forever - - it just doesn't prove out. Everything is cyclical, especially classics.

Before Pirates of the Caribbean the movie hit big, Hollywood common-wisdom swore that Pirates were washed-up for good, citing a run of duds over 20 years or so. You couldn't give away pirate toys or costumes... Kids thought pirates were corny, time had moved on we were told - - now look! Pirates are back and bigger than ever.

The same will happen with the West and oldtime Americana -- in time. Maybe WDC money would be better spent making a new film adventure franchise of Tom Sawyer. Expanding ideas, not contracting them to conform to certain brands.

That said, Tom Sawyer Island, as is, definitely needs restoration. It has been shamelessly allowed to fall apart. But it does not need funky touchpad interactive TV screen displays that take you out of the period (see Tarzan) while hyping Disney Store style merchandise.

I'd be fine with a Pirate Island - - if it made any sense whatsover with its surroundings and foliage - - or with Frontierland, the Mark Twain or canoes or evergreens. But those pirate islands are tropical --not North American! What happens to the Indian Village, the gold rush town -- where is the flow?

Don't the suits realize we are supposed to really BELIEVE in the themed areas as real places?

Really, this sounds like part of the whole strategic planning globalization of the parks - - taking the Americana out for commercial homogenization. Why at the orginal Disneyland - - planned in part as an homage to those who built America?

Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree more. I love the Tom Sawyer island...but sprucing it up COULD be fun. If it could SURPRISE US ALL like the original movie did (yes the sequel is horrible due to the lame and piss-poor excuse for a screenplay--but as the whore it was, it make money).

But the first film was really fun--something I wasn't expecting. If the remake of the island turns into a simpleminded strip mall to sell junk then by ALL MEANS, leave it alone.

BUT--if it could make the audience feel like a swashbuckling pirate, I'm ALL for it! It really could be a lot of fun!

I have TENTATIVE FAITH that this might be more than just a shameless marketing ploy...but if they're going to do it, I sure hope they do it RIGHT and don't "f" it up...

Anonymous said...

I vow to do all I can to make the forthcoming Jack Sparrow Island fall into disrepair comparable to what Disneyland has allowed Tom Sawyer's Island to become. And by "all I can" I mean, of course, public urination.
Seriously, have you been in the caves lately? They should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

Your words are right on, I hope that some how Mr. R is replaced with someone who still believes in the magic. We need more John L's around, We need more creative people who would walk in Walts footsteps who would actually love the park so much that they would want to live in it. Not just MBA and bean counters forgetting about putting on a "good show" and just looking at excel spreadsheets. While we allow the once powerful Jim Henson Muppet franchise to whiter away and die we put the Pirate mania as far as it will go, at the expense of the legacy of the park. At the expense of a good show we will tear down Walt's original masterpiece and replace it with a very half baked MBA idea. I wish Mr. R would go the way of Mr Eisner, write some books, spend your retirement package and let some fresh creative blood lead the Theme Park division into a bright future and not just another mega shopping center with rides.

Anonymous said...

I love Tom Sawyer's Island, and as a former Imagineer I bemoan what has happened to it.
That said, I understand the fiscal reasons for the need for a change.
Look all you "I know what's best for Disney" types - and that especially includes those current Imagineers playing politics and leaking stuff to the press (P.S. Those that are should be fired but that would probably include a couple of long time VP's!) - Tom Sawyer's Island has long been known as the easiest opportunity for lawyers. Hence the reason so much of it is closed down. And only WDI is to blame for the burning cabin.
Everyone needs to recognize that times have changed and WDI Imagineers along with some of the "Disney fans" stuck in the past need to realize it too.
Yes, it is about money. So, let's just accept that fact and make it into a terrific attraction again. One it has not been for some time. Oh, and this is for current Imagineers, kindly check all your political correctness at the door. Your inability to come up with plausible alternatives slowly led to this fate.

Mr Banks said...

To above anonymous: The very use of the word "leak" is very telling. The legacy of the Disney Company for years was to announce blue sky projects to the public often years in advance, whether they came to fruition or not. Garnering excitement over the never realized Edison Square or putting up signs around the Haunted Mansion well before Imagineers got down to business was a marketing coup. (And this is just two examples of hundreds). These announcements weren't "leaked", they were celebrated.

So someone is clearly embarassed this cynical market driven pirate overlay got out to the public and for good reason. The public doesn't appear to be comfortable with the idea. And, of course, the public is always right. Some high level executives SHOULD be embarassed!

If this idea is a good one (and it's really not) then the person who put the idea out there should be confident and let criticism come their way. If it's a solid and well built concept than no amount of analysis or criticism is going to threaten it. A good idea is a good idea is a good idea.

As for any witch hunt to fire whoever is responsible for "leaks", I find that concept thoroughly reprehensible. Whoever shared this information obviously cares deeply about the legacy of the Disney Theme Parks and the guest experience and should be running the division. Remember the plaque out front? "Disneyland is your land.."

Nobody, and nobody, is against a complete overhaul of the area. It's a mess. They just are pushing for consistent theming and a powerful well thought out high quality wow factor.

A rushed contradictory themed area driven by the whimsy of marketers is dangerous stuff. WDI should be doing everything to stop this trainwreck. Bravo all.

Lastly, true blue Imagineers have come up with many rescue plans for Tom Sawyer Island. But the Eisner Era didn't want to hear of it. They preferred to let the area rot. And it has.

And I promise you, WDI would be MORE than happy to bring re-imagine the area if they were only given the chance. What a great challenge!

Let Imagineers do their job. Given the chance, they could rock your world and show you unexpected wonders beyond your wildest imagination.

Let these gals and guys show you some worlds that actually inspire movies rather than market them after they've been released.

And you can banter about how it's really about money, spreadsheets, bottom lines and stock holders. You can go on and on and on about "reality" all you want. But your approach is wholly wrong.

Put on a Mickey Mouse costume and look into the eyes of the first child that approaches you. You'll realize right away that The Disney Company stands for something much more powerful than profit margins.

Many at WDI know this. You, however, would like to fire them.

Very telling.

Gudrun said...

Disney just needs to do yet another remake of Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn. They can even shove in some High School Musical tweens! There could even be a direct to video sequel! And another!

But in all seriousness.

The whole idea seems like a cop-out to me. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is still required reading in high schools, and everything from the Simpsons to the League of Extraordinary Gentleman allude to Twain's characters. I know kids today live in a mediated culture that is vastly different, even from kids ten years ago. But most can pick up on who Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are. Twain's work is a REALLY big part of American culture. And for a few suits to think they can diminish his influence and relevancy? As an excuse to cover their mistakes and make room for a Keith Richards pirate? Ack!

Anonymous said...

for all those who think that a really well done pirate attraction would be fine, remember this, they're going to rush whatever travesty they perpetrate through in a hell of a hurry so they can tie it in with the opening of part three. it will be done on the cheap and on the fly, and TSI does not deserve that kind of desecration. i too was delighted with the first pirates movie, and just as disgusted with the sequel. whatever happens with the third, it'll all be over before you can say 'avast there ye scurvy accountants and mba's.. taste steel!'

Anonymous said...

Mr. Banks, it is the Imagineers who leak the information that are the problem withing WDI and those outside who support them.
Disney, like it or not, is a for profit company.
Any new attractions should be debated, designed and built without the politics.
Yes, those Imagineers who leaked the information should be fired. If they had any ethics at all they would come forward and quit. But I doubt that they will very much as I know from personal experience while there that the leakers have no ethics.

Mr Banks said...

Anonymous, Your argument doesn't hold out.

Let's say that the Marketing Department wanted to do a 'High School Musical' overlay with 'It's A Small World' and handed off the project to WDI. By your reckoning any Imagineer leaking this information to the public should be fired.

Doesn't make sense.

Yes, there's a toxic political atmosphere at W.D.I. but it's interpersonal, not based on the creative process. As for your comment, "Any new attractions should be debated, designed and built without the politics" I thoroughly agree.

This issue, however, isn't about politics. It's a debate about creative choices. And it should be applauded.

And God Bless the leak factory.

Anonymous said...

The mind reels at such a comment. anon@8:24 does not get it. if this sort of corporate bull-speak sentiment (that totally ignores the topic at hand) is truly coming from the inside, something is obviously wrong at WDI.

Anonymous said...

>God Bless the leak factory.<

Amen. And the next leak I want to hear is that John is on this like Niagara Falls on a house fire.

Mr Banks said...

Mr. Wiggins- God Bless You. You just made me spit up my coffee all over my computer, my paperwork and my dress shirt.

I too hope John jumps up and down like a petulant monkey over this miasma. We cross our fingers.

Epcot82 said...

To say it's wrong is an understatement. To say it's crass and cynical is hardly scratching the surface.

Jiminy Cricket's original post is spot-on -- if it's not being attended (which I find very hard to believe), it's because there's nothing to do there, because the fun has been stripped of it by 50-year-old lawyers who believe they (along with finance guys) rule The Walt Disney Company. Because any sense of mystery and excitement has been removed. Because it's just not what Walt Disney envisioned.

Tom Sawyer's Island, whether it recalls Tom Sawyer and Mark Twain or not, provides the sort of simple pleasures kids sorely lack today. They can run and hide and play and use their imaginations. Kids can discover the true joy of just being a kid, not constantly being assaulted by commercial marketing messages.

But to imagine that Disneyland and Disney executives embrace anyone -- no matter their age -- acting like a kid and enjoying simple pleasures is, clearly, to completely misunderstand the mindset of Disney executives, the most unhappy, cynical and increasingly angry executives in business today.

Epcot82 said...

As for the anonymous comment that the Imagineers who leaked this information should be fired or quit ... oh, dear Lord.

They should indeed come forward -- and be lauded and praised by every single Disney lover in the world. They are some of the few who seem to care that Disney is, at ever faster speeds, destroying itself and imploding. If Disney makes it another 20 years at this rate, I will truly be shocked.

Anonymous said...

To the Imagineers who post on this site, thank you, thank you thank you, For helping keep the "Disney" in Disneyland. Otherwise it should be called MBA land or TDI land or something else. Disneyland is much more than a "Theme Park" it is a national treasure, it is our national treasure as Mr. Disney said, "DisneyLand is your land..." Unfortunatly the MBA's and millionaires in suits with there fancy lawyers and there big Ego's took that to meen that it is "There Land" all for themselves, no it is OUR LAND. Thank you again, keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Disneyland does not need two major attractions themed around pirates. One is very efficient.

Disneyland is sorely lacking in the Americana that was so much a part of it's initial creation. Retheming TSI is like a stake through the heart of Americana in Disneland. The only worse thing would be to retheme Man Street.

Who are these short sighted morons in charge?

Anonymous said...

I am not crazy about the re-theme simply because the movies weren't that great. An earlier post pointed out the Tarzan Treehouse. That's an excellent example. My nephew likes the "old time" Swiss Family movie a lot more than he liked Tarzan.

Anonymous said...

"Peter, You've become a pirate"

Anonymous said...

Someone somewhere else stated, Now that FrontierLand only has BTMR and Mark Twain perhaps they should just do away with Frontierland altogether?

Oh I should not have posted that,
I can see it now, some suit in a Tuesday morning meeting has that "great" same idea.

judi said...

If I recall my classic American literature, Tom and Huck and Joe Harper run away to an island to live their lives as pirates.


Rasulo and his flying monkeys believe that Tom Sawyer -- the boy who ran away with his friends to an island to live like pirates -- has no further relevance for kids today. They'd prefer to remove the original theme from Tom Sawyer's Island -- where young theme park visitors can play and pretend just like Tom and his friends did -- and redesign it with a theme about pirates.

I'm truly spinning my beanie propeller as fast as possible. But lift off? It's a no-go.

Flying monkeys want to remove the original young characters, who played as fake pirates, to be replaced with real fake pirates so that the young theme park visitors can imitate the real fake pirates in play on the island, just as Tom and Huck and Joe Harper did on theirs.

I swear I can feel my brain implode even as I type!


Morrigoon said...

As a former CM and self-described "Disney purist", I'm terribly torn on the whole thing.

On one hand, a pirate island *could* be really cool. I mean, all the potential for swashbuckling adventure and kids running around telling eachother to swab the decks, etc. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of bringing back Skull Rock. Especially after the loss several years back of Cascade Peak, it'd be nice to have some sort of flowing water feature around the river again.

On the other hand, WHAT THE HECK ARE THEY THINKING, MESSING WITH TSI LIKE THAT? The TSI of my childhood left when they took out see-saw rock. There is so little left on TSI, or any children's playground these days, that isn't over sanitized to the point of boredom. Do I really think some slapdash redo is going to be able to undo years of sanitizing by the litigateers? Hah. The redo will suffer the same degree of bubble-wrapping that the last redo gave the island. And if they can't do a pirate isle right... perhaps they shouldn't do it at all.

But let's be honest, TSI needs *something* done to it. And regardless of the success of recent films, pirates ARE cool, and will always be cool. A pirate themed play area has all the potential in the world if it can be done right (and yes, that includes the BUDGET!)

Tough to resolve with NOS and Frontierland though. Or is it? I think a Spanish-style fronting on the island could probably be seen as somehow working with the two themes, but it'd be VERY distracting and kill the peaceful atmosphere the island currently gives the lands that surround it. Plus, how do you resolve a steamboat, canoes, and river rafts with pirates? There's way too much to change there with any kind of a reasonable budget, and to throw all those out for a synergistic overlay would be unconscionable.

What if the island were split in two distinct areas, with Tom and Huck at the front, and Pirates hiding out in the back half, which up till now has been at least partially off-limits? What a nice surprise for boats coming around the bend! Replace the (not) burning cabin with a burning signal fire on a parapet of a Pirate-held Spanish fortress! That way, you get the pirates, you keep Tom and Huck, you don't detract from the aesthetic qualities of the riverfront area, and most importantly, the guests get the best of all worlds.

The traditionalist in me says don't change anything, it's great the way it is (or at least was). And my cynical side backs this up with a lack of confidence in management's ability to follow through on good ideas with appropriate execution (read: budgets). But my creative side is all in a flurry with thoughts on how a pirate isle could be a truly wonderful attraction. Sure, I'd love it 100% if it were a new attraction in a different park. But to take out TSI for it? That's a whole other ball of wax, isn't it? Because, if they do it WRONG, if they half-arse it, we have the next Tarzan's treehouse, and we've given up SWF Treehouse to get it (like giving up CBJ for Pooh).

I remain cautiously curious to see how this all turns out. I can't say I'm for it, but I'm not sure I'm entirely against it either. It will all come down to whether or not the bean counters will let it be done right, even if that means not quite getting done on time (hell, open it partway with the movie, if you have to, that's better than only doing half the job! Better a half-completed great attraction, than a fully executed POS.)

I guess my conflicted nature will require me to withold judgement on this one. I'm too cynical to cheer for it, and too optimistic to boo.

Kevin Kidney said...

<<'My nephew likes the "old time" Swiss Family movie a lot more than he liked Tarzan.'>>

Say, the Swiss Family Robinson movie was chock-full of pirates! Restore the Treehouse instead! Tom Sawyer's Island should remain Tom Sawyer's Island. Imagine how goofy the Mark Twain paddle-wheeler look making excursions around a tropical "pirate island". What a dumb mess.

Anonymous said...

I think this is terrible. One of the worst ideas I've heard about in a long time. It's these kinds of decisions that will eventually stop me from going to the park. Personally, I'd rather not see this stuff. If this is where the park is going, count me out.

Mouse said...

Erm... Theme Park... Frontierland... Pirates... Adventureland... Theme Park... is it me or is the THEME wrong? (or was Jack Sparrow at the Alamo?)

Anonymous said...

I'm really getting to hate pirates. There's been so much overkill that I don't even like the movie anymore. And god forbid there be a 4th!! To be perfectly honest, taking Johnny Depp out of those films would make them absolute garbage and garbage does not belong in Disneyland. I wish they'd stop basing things on fad films and start creating attractions that have long term wide reaching enjoyment. While I absolutely agree TSI needs some care and consideration due to so many years of neglect, I absolutely disagree with a pirate theme. It's been done!! You wouldn't put 2 Matterhorns in one park so why cram it all with pirates? And while we're on the subject, please, no more actors in the ride.

Cheshirekatz said...

Disney should consider itself lucky that they have employees who care enough to try to do SOMETHING to save it. The bean counters don't understand the the importance of the Parks to the future of Disney. They only see the bottom line and how it affects their bonuses. They couldn't care less if the Parks are gone in 10 or 20 years. Or less. They neglect attractions to save money then destroy them because they don't "pay" anymore.

We all read and comment on this blog because we care and we have been following Disney's downward spiral with dismay. We are watching something magical being turned into trash. We all know what is going to happen to TSI. It will be cheap, fast and full of shops.


So TSI gets commandeered by Pirates for awhile. Since money is no longer an issue (as investors are apparently pouring out of the woodwork to get in on the action) then there should be no problem in turning TSI back into it's original theme after the hype over Pirates dies down.

And to Merlin- if literature is cyclical, then why not get children interested in Huck Finn again with a new film. Why are we waiting for trends to happen?--because they don't, you make them happen. You teach children what to love and why, what's important and how to cultivate it.

If Disney was smart, they would use this Pirates opportunity to introduce children to great authors
attached to the subject and reintroduce history and cultures, instead of waiting for the marketing opportunities to come to them. You don't chase the wind, you harness it. And I must say that was one thing Walt was exceptional at doing.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone has a problem with the Pirates theme per se, but ANOTHER playground? I find it disheartening when I pay a boatload of money to go to a Disney park and more and more frequently I am greeted by a play area!

I mean, the Pooh area in the Magic Kingdom in Orlando is nothing more than a playground at a local McDonalds! It breaks my heart they would even thik of doing this to my beloved Disneyland.

Theme-wise it won't work. It's called the Rivers of America, not the the Rivers of the Carribean.

Such a shame. What's wrong with these men?

Anonymous said...

to the anonymous s-hole who thinks the leakers should be fired... you voted for bush didnt you? that would explain everything.. mister banks.. i couldnt have said it better, and as i said earlier, where the heck is john L? how can he possibly retain any integrity if he lets this happen?

Anonymous said...

Call me crazy, but the attractions that were NEVER "inspired" by current movie cash-cows are considered CLASSICS and remain popular attractions due to consistent maintenance and upkeep. Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder, Space Mountain and yes, even the original Pirates (before the lackluster movies were produced) have withstood the test of time and continue to delight hundreds of thousands of guests each year. The problem with utilizing movie synergy in attractions is that they first need to wait until the films become CLASSICS (see Peter Pan, Snow White, etc.) before wasting money on an attraction that will be almost instantly dated (see Tarzan.) I'm sorry, but the 'Pirates' movies are not very likely destined to become classics.

But what's most frightening of all: this idea to scrap & forget TSI came directly from the marketers & merchandisers and not the Imagineers!! I don't think theme park attraction development is in their job descriptions... my God, what the hell is happening to Disney? They've truly dropped the ball. At least they're not turning TSI into yet another Pixar attraction.

Funny how a company founded on imagination has become utterly devoid of any.

Anonymous said...

Call me crazy, but the attractions that were NEVER "inspired" by current movie cash-cows are considered CLASSICS and remain popular attractions due to consistent maintenance and upkeep. Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder, Space Mountain and yes, even the original Pirates (before the lackluster movies were produced) have withstood the test of time and continue to delight hundreds of thousands of guests each year. The problem with utilizing movie synergy in attractions is that they first need to wait until the films become CLASSICS (see Peter Pan, Snow White, etc.) before wasting money on an attraction that will be almost instantly dated (see Tarzan.) I'm sorry, but the 'Pirates' movies are not very likely destined to become classics.

But what's most frightening of all: this idea to scrap & forget TSI came directly from the marketers & merchandisers and not the Imagineers!! I don't think theme park attraction development is in their job descriptions... my God, what the hell is happening to Disney? They've truly dropped the ball. At least they're not turning TSI into yet another Pixar attraction.

Funny how a company founded on imagination has become utterly devoid of any.

Merlin Jones said...

One of the best ideas here is to restore the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse and tie those Pirates into the pirates next door! In fact, the Company is (as usual) missing a real tie-in there to sell through and revitalize some old properties (and pave the way for their planned remake).

And why not make a Tom Sawyer film, even with a twist: think about the Hanna-Barbera version of Tom Sawyer where Tom, Becky and Huck were chased by injun Joe into an animated world of high adventure. such a concept executed as a feature film could ignite those characters all over again. and you already have attractions at the main parks to support it - - and pre-sold title to boot.

Marketers are overly focused on exploitation of existing fads. We need LEADERS!

pariartspaul said...

First off, excellent post Jiminy; and second, hurray for this debate. At the root of it, it shows again how poor WDI has de-evolved. WDI no longer houses a visionary planning division, or an evolutionary production division. Today, WDI is more like a big old sick dog that clumsily springs to life at the toss of a bone by its master.

On the one hand, if they continue with the strategy of letting marketing management call the shots and use WDI as the vendor it has become, wouldn’t it make sense to go all the way with it and restructure it into the best production division it can be?

On the other hand, if they want WDI to be a head creative force in the Disney tradition, they would need to commit to it. They would need to staff it with a powerful creative team that understands the big park picture and has the influence to carry their ideas forward.

As I see it right now, WDI is neither. It is stuck in a frustrating and wasteful middle ground, not being able to do either task at the level it once did. I would love to see the company finally take a step back and really figure out what they are doing with WDI, make some decisions, and move forward with clarity and confidence.

What do I think about Jack Sparrow on Tom Sawyer’s Island? I like the idea of doing something with pirates, but it does not make sense to do it on the Rivers of America… but Disney is saying it does not matter anymore, right?

Dave said...

"Funny how a company founded on imagination has become utterly devoid of any."

"Marketers are overly focused on exploitation of existing fads. We need LEADERS!"

I think these two comments, by anonymous and Merlin Jones, sum things up very nicely. Marketing has replaced creativity, following trends rather than making them. Following this path is the road to ruin, as Disney will be playing catch-up as other parks bypass it.

Digital Jedi said...

syn·er·gy (sĭn'ər-jē)
n., pl. -gies.

1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

Clearly, Disney is missing the boat on this one. (Um, pun not necessarily intended, but accepted.) As has been pointed out, there were multiple opportunities to blend the pirate thematic with existing themes through out the park. It's not like the idea of Pirates came out of the clear blue sky (again, with inadvertent puns, yeesh!), so why not do what a "Theme" park is supposed to do and capitalize on existing thematics, blending them seamlessly?

You want to capitalize on a successful film? Fine. You don't like the way Tom Sawyer Island looks and want to get rid of it? Fine. But what possible good will come from pulling out the lawn only to plant crab grass? What is currently there is so strong an element of the environ, regardless of how far to pot you've let it go, that by placing something there with a total disregard for its surroundings, creates aesthetic disproportion. Whatever you put there needs to blend seamlessly with its environ, otherwise you create disorder, not synergy. The two attractions concepts do not jibe in any fashion thematically for one to successfully supersede the other.

Remember when John Wayne played Genghis Khan? Just because John Wayne was a dynamic, macho, powerful cinematic presence, did not mean he could effectively play a powerful Mongolian Warrior. Just because Tom Sawyer Island has water, rocks and caves, does not mean it can effectively play the role of a South Seas adventure land. Caribbean Islands on the Americana will look as about appropriate as Asiatic eyes on the Duke. Not to mention this concept alienates a good number of the Disney consumers.

2. Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.

And when exactly are we going to see that? So far all I ever hear about is the decisions by Disney execs to cut money here, pull this out, bury that, cover that up, all the while Imagineers are left with their hands in their pockets, where even designing a planter with some good thematics to it feels like they've slayed a corporate dragon. You want synergy, start working together. Otherwise let the Imagineers do what they do best. Create worlds. Worlds that fit with each other seamlessly. World's that would make you more money in the long run.

No one wants to admit when they don't know what they're doing. Especially if it's there job to do so. But with all this throwing around of the word "synergy" by corporate executives, you would think that at some point, one of them pulled out a dictionary to make sure they were accomplishing their goals. Synergy, by definition implies an "enhanced effect". What are you enhancing with this recent move? This is not synergy. This is chaos.

cha·os (kā'ŏs')

1. A condition or place of great disorder or confusion.

2. A disorderly mass; a jumble

3. Obsolete. An abyss; a chasm.

NSunnyAZ said...

Was nothing learned under the Eisner regime?

Making TSI into Jack Sparrow Island is akin to making an attraction after a hit TV show. Like say "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Today's Disney Execs show absolutely no imagination past trying new marketing tie-ins. The two Eisner flops (toontown and DCA) both show contempt for the guests (no shade) and an almost complete lack of imagination, both lack in attendance, and the Disney Brass show no signs of getting the reality - that without imagination, Disneyland and WDW are just going to struggle like so many other parks.

Without great leadership, the only positive I see in Disney's future is that, at some point the parks will become so much like all the other shlocky (Universal, Six Flags, Etc.) parks, that it will open up a marketspace for another Walt Disney type visionary. Heck, it wouldn't be hard to beat Disney right now, they have lost so much of their edge.

Disneyland isn't a museaum, but it also is not the awe inspiring park that Walt left as his legacy.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Idea, Merlin! I believe there's a remake of "Swiss Family Robinson" coming soon from the same folks who made the recent "Pirates"'s had a long hard haul, according to sources, but is apparently taken a big turn for the better in hopes of turning it into another moneymaking (and hopefully entertaining) franchise! THAT is the kind of imaginative thinking that could make the place work in a special way!

judi said...

"I would love to see the company finally take a step back and really figure out what they are doing with WDI, make some decisions, and move forward with clarity and confidence."

Bravo, pariartspaul! Clean and concise, cuts to the heart of the matter.

Pardon my verbage, but where the F is WDI's Principle Creative Advisor? It's already the new fiscal year. Rasulo's first out of the gate in the Idiot Executive Derby with this TSI Takedown. And John appears to be MIA. I'm confused.

Isn't this one of the "problem areas" that Lasseter was tapped to supposedly solve? Cleaning up the political venom in Glendale that's taken over like stachybotrys in a dank, dark basement? When does John actually get to flex his new Imagineering muscle beyond tweaking attraction/park makeovers and dabbling in blue sky?

Somehow, this isn't quite how I pictured FY07 beginning.

Anonymous said...

There is only so much JohnL can handle at once, we need him cloned and fast!

Anonymous said...

For the most part, this blog reads more like a historical society (hysterical?) is writing it. I'm really shocked at how an idea can be tarred and feathered without any review of any kind. Most of you are industry professionals and know that lots of ideas sound ridiculous but once you see the execution and treatment of that idea, may see it differently.
I'm sure that if you loved the Sleeping Beauty Castle and someone "leaked" that management was putting a mountain from Switzerland next to it with modern Bobsleds and a Snowman inside that you would throw a fit. Or a mechanical modern Ski Resort System with giant poles right through the medieval village of Fantasyland. Call John Now, stop the madness!

My sense is that we imagine the most nightmarish execution of a foriegn idea. And no matter what, we perceive that Pirates and America have no relationship together in any way. Where was Jean Lafitte finally captured? Galveston Bay, Texas. Where was the Pirate infested Island that traded booty with the wealthy elite? In the Delta across from New Orleans (Barrataria). Hmm. An island across from New Orleans. (BTW I am in no way involved in or defending the project and am not an employee of the WDC. It may be horrible, i havent seen the drawings) Just kind of surprised to see how no one is saying "i'd like to see what they did". It's as ridiculous as a Rat eating at French Restaurant. Maybe it's all in the execution.

Anonymous said...

From an editorial in the October 7 Los Angeles Times, "Let Tom Sawyer Have His Island"...

...though the rumors have sparked a considerable outcry on the Internet, it's unlikely that the Imagineers would be foolish enough to change the main things that make Tom Sawyer Island a kind of oasis. The island is one of the few places in the park dedicated solely to imagination and play, rather than turning kids into passive spectators or strapped-in coasternauts. Take a quiet raft ride to the island and the energy changes from manic to manageable, from wild to mild.

What they might change is the overall theme, and that's a shame. It is undoubtedly true that most kids who take the Becky Thatcher raft to the island have never heard of its namesake, that Tom's Landing might as well be called Knot's Landing for all the rise it gets out of the youngsters, and that the name Injun Joe conjures no nightmares for those raised on DVDs. But there will always be kids whose curiosity is sparked by all these unknown references. They might even be interested enough to put down the remote and crack open a book.

After all, not every beloved literary trickster wears mascara and drinks rum. One plays hooky and talks other kids into painting white picket fences - and he has stood the test of time far better than this summer's top box-office attraction will.

BrunoB said...

Wow, such vitriol. I have to agree with Old Dobbin- there's a possibility, especially in the Lassiter era, that the Pirate redo could work fine. I'd add that the island's been an eyesore ever since the addition of Fantasmic! to the waters.

I'm now 37, and I've been going to Disneyland every year since I was 2. I love the place like family. And yet I've never, ever found anything fun about Tom Sawyer Island. I don't think I've set foot out there for years, and as a kid I thought it was incredibly boring. I'm sorry, I'd say I was an incredibly imaginative kid, and I didn't go to Disneyland to run around in the trees and play PBS' 1900 House, and "golly gee, look at me, I'm whitewashing a fence". I came to be absorbed in Adventures in Inner Space, and float on a raft through burning, creaking timbers under a Spanish Carribbean castle, and shoot down a flume after hearing animatronic rabbits and possums sing Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. If I wanted to pick up a stick and pretend it was a six-shooter and I was a cowboy, I could do that at home. Tom Sawyer Island was ALWAYS dullville, and whomever on here wrote that "kids need a place to use their imaginations" is being silly. Disneyland has always been the most amazing imagination fuel around.

On the other side, I understand the concern that the Imagineering will be poor and not work with the atmosphere. One of the things Walt brought to the original park was an amazing sense of balance. As he said, he wanted it to be like a storybook, and the transition from area to area would be like turning a page. One hopes the Imagineers can accomplish that with this redo.

Unless it's another E-ticket, I can't imagine it's going to draw me over there though, no matter what they do!

Anonymous said...

Old Dobbin, at no point in the Pirates films did they ever venture into the Americas. Hence the reason they didn't call it Pirates of the Louisiana Bayou or Pirates of Galveston Bay. Odds are, it's it going to be a Caribbean themed attraction. And that has no place in that section of the park.

I like Soarin'. I like it a lot. I think it would have made more sense in the American Adventure. Or maybe, have us soar over the Tibetan Mountains or across the tops of the Himalayas and placed it in an appropriate spot in World Showcase (replacing one of those circle visions movies). But as it stands, it's an attraction about Hang Gliding rooted squarely in the heart of an attraction about Food and Farming. Misplaced for sure.

The core of the dissension is not whether it will be good. The core of it is, what business does it have being misplaced thematically? What very good reason do they have for not renovating and sticking to theme? Recent history has proven that Disney likes to build things cheap, quickly and in random locations. Expedition Everest was a wonderful sigh of relief, but it's not enough to let our guard down yet.

I'm not an industry professional. But I can see an elephant in a room with everyone else.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually surprised that no one has yet mentioned the WALT DISNEY himself created the design/layout for Tom Sawyer's Island.

I think this is just another major slap in HIS face by suits and CEOs who hold too little respect for HIS LEGACY and have no appreciation for his storytelling and scene-setting sensabilities.

Today's Tom Sawyer's Island is a mess -- and has been for some time. On that, we all agree. The fort has been closed to the public for way too long. Some of its charm has been lost by trying to make it too safe.

Still, its trails and activities and natural settings provide a nice respect from all the wide patches of concrete and asphalt elsewhere in Disneyland.

As I've said before -- the castle is the landmark for every little princess who walks through Disneyland's gates and Fort Wilderness and the original Swiss Family Treehouse were the two oh-so-cool inspirational notes for young boy visitors. Even today kids grow up with backyard forts and treehouses.

I agree with others that what Disney needs to do is create a new stunningly great film based on Twain's classic literary works.

This is just another bone-headed and SHORT-SIDED idea that destroys theming. I'm still upset by the overhaul currently under way to make The Golden Horseshow into an ice cream parlor. What Walt understood that the current CEOs don't seem to get is that those little inconsistencies can really pull you out and away from the moment. We all know that costumed cast members weren't allowed to freely roam the park and could be fired in Walt's day for hurting the show.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Quite the debate. It's interesting to see how deep the feelings over this island go. To basically sum up TSI at present though: absolute crap. I do not think the story of Tom Sawyer is forgotten or irrelevant and those claiming such are morons. The island is the problem though. It would be fine just to completely refurb it TSI style, if pirates motivate the change instead, then so be it. Just MAKE IT GOOD and do not theme it solely to POTC. There's already a whole ride for that. In terms of theming of the land as whole: Tom Sawyer in the south is not that far removed from the huge pirate influence of New Orleans in roughly the same time period. Where is this drastic land-theming issue people are worried about? email me:


I never said that that turning TSI into a pirates parade was a good thing. In fact, a horrible sadness fell inside me like a heavy stone. The first reaction my mind had was yuck, overkill, and it will likely only last a few years. But, how long does it take for one (marketeer) to realize that this is not who Disney fans, or Americans for that matter, truely are. And when I refer to children, I'm not necessarily taliking about the 7-13 range. How many failures does it take for the child to realize that his crack- sorry, I mean his candy is going to kill him.
So when I say "Is it such a bad thing to change TSI temporarily", what I really mean is are we going to eliminate these people from this company, teach them how to think, or let them learn the long way around on their own.
If you keep battling like this, you most likely will only wear yourself down.

Merlin Jones said...

>>So when I say "Is it such a bad thing to change TSI temporarily", what I really mean is are we going to eliminate these people from this company, teach them how to think, or let them learn the long way around on their own.<<

The problem with this theory is that there is NO learning curve in the executive ranks - - there is always another Ivy-league MBA theorist around the corner with "common wisdom" to share, and ready to replace his failed or promoted predessessors. If you delay the fight, you lose the object in need of saving, and not just "temporarily." History has spoken on this repeatedly.

Anonymous said...

I have kids and they could care less if its "Tom Sawyer's Island." They prefer Pirates and the Buzz Lightyear ride.
You guys are stuck in the past. What you are talking about belongs in a museum, not a theme park.

Anonymous said...

What would be nice would be a real rapids ride on the same spot as that boring island.

Anonymous said...

You people should go read what "leemac" says about this on Laughing Place. He says the stuff was leaked from one team, and there is another concept out there. Really makes you wonder who is doing the leaking. The team that presented the Pirates concept, or the competing team.
Knowing the poisonous political machinations of WDI, the latter is probably truer, and probably one of the longtime Imagineers who wants things his way and is a spoiled old baby who should retire

Anonymous said...

"I'd be fine with a Pirate Island - - if it made any sense whatsover with its surroundings and foliage - - or with Frontierland, the Mark Twain or canoes or evergreens. But those pirate islands are tropical --not North American! What happens to the Indian Village, the gold rush town -- where is the flow?"

I know Jack Sparrow wasn't there, but I am from Central New Jersey. We have a town called Morganville. Named after the one and only Captain Morgan. Pirates were all over North America. Might not fit the POTC Movie exactly, but a pirate island could work if done correctly. Who knows if that will happen.

If Disney wants a pirate island, they should do it with Discovery Island at WDW.

judi said...

"You people should go read what 'leemac' says about this on Laughing Place. He says the stuff was leaked from one team, and there is another concept out there. Really makes you wonder who is doing the leaking. The team that presented the Pirates concept, or the competing team."

Whoa. Mixed up your stories there, anon.

Lee was posting about the DCA makeover project, not TSI. There are apparently two competing teams, and Mr. Lutz wrote about one of the two on his site.

"Knowing the poisonous political machinations of WDI, the latter is probably truer, and probably one of the longtime Imagineers who wants things his way and is a spoiled old baby who should retire."

Bitter much?

I'd pay good $$$ to watch you tell John that he should dump his support for the "spoiled old baby who should retire."

Anybody willing to promote this and sell tickets? Maybe even cater the event?

Anonymous said...

I tend to be of the opinion that, in some ways, Disneyland has earned the right to be partly a museum -- that is, something that has historical value in and of itself which should be honored and preserved.

It was the first theme park of its kind, and the one Walt Disney -- a historically significant figure in American popular culture if ever there was one -- had a direct hand in.

(Historical preservation aside, though, I also think that most of the original stuff was just darn BETTER than what they've replaced it with!)

Walt definitely had a direct hand in Tom Sawyer Island. In fact, the importance of the connection really only became clear to me last summer when, driving across Missouri, I stumbled across Marceline -- where Walt lived as a child, and which he described as his most influential and formative years. (It's a great visit, by the way. The way the small town honors Walt has so much integrity and dignity. I actually met the farm wife whom Walt and Roy used to stay with on their visits in the 50's and 60's.)

I was on my way to Hannibal, Missouri -- on which Mark Twain based Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn -- and realized that Walt lived only about an hour's drive from the Mississippi River setting of Twain's books. Tom Sawyer Island is basically Walt's Missouri childhood.

I also like the quiet tranquility of TSI -- its physical separation from the hubbub and activity of the rest of Disneyland. (Though if it's "no longer attended," I sure haven't noticed that on my recent visits.)

I like a previous writer's suggestion that if pirates must be incorporated into the island, it would be perfectly fitting to design an area that incorporates the "playing pirates" section of the Twain books: early American frontier kids' idea of the "romance" of piracy. That seems to me to be in the WED tradition of gradually and thoughtfully blending theming between lands, so there are no jarring transitions.

Merlin Jones said...

>>I have kids and they could care less if its "Tom Sawyer's Island." They prefer Pirates and the Buzz Lightyear ride. You guys are stuck in the past. What you are talking about belongs in a museum, not a theme park.<<

Your kids would probably prefer to eat Captain Crunch, Doritos and Mountain Dew for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but, alas, the world (like Disneyland) is a much richer an experience than that - and it is composed of "kids of all ages"...

Please scroll down the blog to see the article: "Disneyland is NOT a Museum". Perhaps it is The Happiest Museum on Earth!

Anonymous said...

If this is about what the kids prefer, then we should just put Shrek out there. Kids love him!

Digital Jedi said...

Merlin Jones said:
>>>Perhaps it is The Happiest Museum on Earth!<<<

ROFL! I think that may the title of my next blog entry. :D

Anonymous said...

"To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past..."

I think too many people forget that Walt made his park for adults too. Themes and attractions don't always have to be targeted solely to children.

Anonymous said...

"To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. [b]Here age relives fond memories of the past...[/b]"

I think too many people forget that Walt made his park for adults too. Themes and attractions don't always have to be targeted solely to children.

Anonymous said...

I think we all need to be reminded by what was spoken and believed by the founder and name sake of Disney.

"To all that come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America... with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."

"Disneyland is a show."

"Give the public everything you can give them, keep the place as clean as you can keep it, keep it friendly"

"I believe in being an innovator"

"Fantasy, when properly done in the one medium best adapted to its nature, need never stale for the family taste."

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main... and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life"

"When we opened Disneyland, a lot of people got the impressions that it was a get-rich-quick thing, but they didn't realize that behind Disneyland was this great organization that I built here at the Studio, and they all got into it and we were doing it because we loved to do it"

"You reach a point where you don't work for money"

"Your dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway"

Anonymous said...

To the person who quoted Walt, you left out the one about Disneyland would always be changing as long as there is imagination left in the world.
By not changing Tom Sawyer's Island are you saying there is no imagination left in the world?

Anonymous said...

Yes that is exactly what I am saying,
Thank you for helping me clear that up.

Anonymous said...

I say, turn the island into a giant rainbow colored amphitheater and have The Wiggles perform there all day long. Now that's a change big enough to reaffirm that there's imagination left in this world!

The Wiggles are SO much more imaginative than Tom Sawyer ever was. And so much more timely and relevant. And kids love them.

If Walt were alive he'd realize The Wiggles are what Tom Sawyer Island needs more than ever right now.

But even if the island can't become Wiggles Island then any change will affirm Walt's message: That if we keep changing Disneyland then we can rest assured there's imagination left in this world.

How about High School Musical Island? That would ROCK! How about Ugly Betty Bayou? That would be SWEET!

But whatever you do, just change the island. I'm really losing faith the world's ability to be imaginative.

Anonymous said...

JJust when I thought that the Disney Theme Park folks were starting to get it...then they went and did this. Wow. They really do have no clue about what Disneyland is all about.

Yes, Tom Sawyer's Island is run-down. And Jack Sparrow is much better known by today's children than Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. So what? I'm sure more kids have heard of SpongeBob SquarePants, or Super Mario for that matter. So - other than the almighty synergy you get with Jack Sparrow - why not make it Super Mario Island? Well, I'll tell you why not - and this is where "getting" Disneyland is so important.

One of the biggest reasons that Disneyland works is simple: Walt Disney instinctively knew his audience. And like any great work of art, he designed Disneyland so it works well on many different levels: the great rides, the obsessive cleanliness, the great customer service, the "another world" atmosphere are all parts of it. But the last and most sublime level is the important message that Walt knew we all shared back then: that America was the greatest country in the world, and Disneyland was Walt's tribute to the American spirit that got us there - adventurous, imaginative, forward-thinking, and tenacious. And Frontierland was a key part - representing the tough pioneering spirit that settled a continent. Here's what Walt said about Frontierland in the old souvenir pictorials: "All of us have cause to be proud of our country's history, shaped by the pioneering spirit of our forefathers. It is to those hardy pioneers, men of vision, faith and courage, that we have dedicated Frontierland. . . .These adventures are designed to give you the feeling of having lived, even for a short while, during our country's pioneer days."

Watching the patriotic fireworks with our parents at Disneyland - we all felt what Walt did too! Disneyland did more than just dazzle our eyes and scramble our stomachs like most amusement parks; it touched our hearts and souls too. That's why we feel so strongly about it!

And that's why losing Tom Sawyer's Island is so damn important. To lose TSI is to lose the heart of what's left of Frontierland, which then extinguishes much of what's left of Walt's celebration of the American spirit.

(That today's generation of take-no-risk, safe-at-all-costs, lawsuit-happy parents are the ones who have already neutered TSI, part of a homage to the hardy, risk-everything pioneers that paved the way for our happy and cushy lifestyles is something I find highly ironic. And it's also why California Adventure - even if it becomes Pixarland or whatever - will never match Disneyland's popularity and success if it doesn't grab our hearts and souls more than it grabs our wallets.)

So how about it, Team Disney? Rather than just another crass marketing exercise for a movie that'll be forgotten in 10 years (anyone remember "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"?), why not do something better? Rebuild Tom Sawyer's Island to be a true adventure, one that will open our kids eyes not to just the latest movie fad, but to the true ideals that have already stood the test of over 100 years: the spirit of the pioneers, the spirit of the Old West, and the spirit of America!

BrunoB said...

This debate is REALLY fascinating- I keep tuning back in to see what will happen next! I feel a need to summarize, because a lot of pertinent points have come up that are themes that get discussed over and over again on this blog.

Such as Disneyland: The Museum. As one poster put it: why not? In many ways, Disneyland has earned the right to historic preservation. Unfortunately, much of what should have been preserved was chucked out by the accountaneers in their quest for short-term booty. Still, that doesn't mean we shouldn't restore and preserve important aspects of the park that remain.

And there's the rub. Importance is in the eye of the beholder. Is Tom Sawyer Island important? It was designed by Walt, and was an original staple of the park. And as another poster so poetically put it, Hannibal is not far from Marceline, MI, so this was part of Walt's childhood. But as I and many others have observed, TSI was never a strong point of the park. It always felt to me like a bit of ignored set-dressing with a few dusty paths.

Which leads me to the last theme- theming itself! How does this island fit into the greater scheme of mood and setting in the park? What should people see from the cafes of New Orleans Square and the plaza in front of Frontierland? Some good arguments were made that pirates aren't too ill-placed in the New Orleans setting (hence the RIDE!) but long-neglected and abused Frontierland doesn't work very well, does it?

Personally, I've turned my opinion some. I think there's a possibility that a Pirate Isle could be well done, but the motives are poor and short-sighted. Pirate mania will end in a few short years, and then they'll want to theme the thing all over again. I wish someone had never thought of reverse-engineering the rides into movies!

I think the next thing this blog needs to tackle is Frontierland itself. Long-neglected, someone could really pull this area together with some loving care. For my part, I recommend turning some of that extensive complex of shops into a ride or a show or something, and ditch the ice-cream parlor plans.

StrangeVoices said...

IF it was done in a way that capitalized on the more historic aspects of pirating and IF the themeing fit in with the surrounding locations, and IF it was done in a way that it was not just another spot Capt. Jack Sparrow attraction, then yes, I would certainly support a Pirates themed makeover.

But that is likely not the case here. What we are seeing here is a quick attempt at trying to wring every last penny out of a marketing gimick. Pirates of the Carribean - not Pirates of New Orleans or Pirates of the Texas Coast. It's not a fit with New Orleans. And there certainly isn't any idication that this is a well planned out themeing, either.

What worries me more than loosing TSI (which I think could be made into quite a great attraction with some serious thought), is the constant branding of Disney Rides. Up until recently, there were really only two rides that were at all associated with Disney features - TSI and Swiss Family Robinson treehouse. Why suddenly does everything have to be themed after an existing movie or feature?

I belive that the marketing department may be incredible at promoting, and can litterally turn pennies from stone, they are terrible at long term brand value. They are killing their franchises with poorly executed sequels and tie-ins, and they are turning the Disney parks into a joke of publicity stunts. The parks were built upon a philosophy that attractions and themeing were an artform themselves and very different from animation and movies. They were not copied storylines, but new ideas and new experiences. It's time to bring back that higher level of imagination.

Anonymous said...

The only part of this Pirate Island plan I am unequivocally on board with is the suggestion that some sort of food sales will be added to the area. Some sort of refueling station is sorely needed over there.

I must question the "unattended" assertions about TSI as it is now; when I visited the park earlier this year, I did see people over there. Not many perhaps, and most of the parents weren't letting their kids run around, but it hasn't been entirely abandoned by guests. I think making it an appealing (read: CLEAN) place to be again and visibly plussing what's already there will draw plenty of people, regardless of theme. The treehouse additions certainly caught my eye from the Columbia and made me make a note to check TSI out again when I was less rushed, and I haven't been a running-around little kid in decades.

Merlin Jones said...

>>Up until recently, there were really only two rides that were at all associated with Disney features - TSI and Swiss Family Robinson treehouse.<<

"Tom Sawyer" was never made as a film by Walt Disney, though he always wanted to do it and I read that he had the title researched in the 40's (Selznick had done a popular version in the 30's). Other producers in the MPAA had the title "reserved" - a practice among them at the time. So he was told it wasn't available, but he could make "Treasure Island" instead. By the time the title was available to him again, he had other priorities - - though he may have been planning it in the 60's before his death. Of course, Richard and Robert Sherman did their very Disneyesque version for Reader's Digest/United Artists in the 70's (with Johnny Whittaker and Jodie Foster) and I'm sure they had Walt in mind.

So, Tom Sawyer Island was NEVER a commercial film tie-in for Walt Disney, it was a labor of love and a remembrance of his own childhood fancies.

(Also, so far as live-action films at Disneyland go -- in addition to Swiss Family Treehouse - - The Matterhorn was inspired by Third Man on the Mountain, 20,000 Leagues had an exhibit and certainly inspired aspects of Submarine Voyage, Babes in Toyland had an exhibit, there was a Mickey Mouse Club Theatre and Circus, Nature's Wonderland was inspired by the True-Life Adventure films and there were various Davy Crockett tie-ins -- not to mention that Jungle Crusie was inspired by the non-Disney film "The African Queen").

Anonymous said...

"When we consider a project, we really study it--not just the surface idea, but everything about it. And when we go into that new project, we believe in it all the way. We have confidence in our ability to do it right. And we work hard to do the best possible job."

Walt Disney

Anonymous said...

and as far as previous tie-ins? i believe every dark ride in fantasyland was tied to (and artwork based on) a classic disney animated film.. alice, mr. toad, snow white, peter pan, pinocchio, and dont lets forget dumbo.. but i'd venture to guess the pirate movies wont ever have the lasting effect and staying power those films have had.

Anonymous said...

"The public doesn't appear to be comfortable with the idea. And, of course, the public is always right."
And your scientific survey of the ubiquitous public is...the statistically insignificant sliver of people who read your website. News Flash: "the public" has as many opinions as there are members of same. Please, make your point, it's your website. But stop this pandering. It should be beneath you.
And with all due respect to your phrase, "It's not a museum, but..." Well, show me 3 changes or additions you're happy with. I've visited your site since its inception, and I can't find even 3 things any of you have approved of. So please just admit you want everything to stay exactly the same as when you were kids, or whenever your first visit was.
And seriously, for someone who so hates the current incarnation of Disney's theme parks, why don't you just stay the hell away and get a real job? Seriously. Anyone who b**ches this much and this often just has unsolvable issues. I think you began with a few constructive comments and now you need Immodium AD for your mouth.
Things change. Deal.

Mr Banks said...

To Anonymous above:

1. You're right, there isn't a scientific study out there begging the question of whether Tom Sawyer's Island should be turned into Jack Sparrow-land. Still, if the Los Angeles Times publishes an Op Ed peice decrying the idea you can bet the public isn't too far behind.

Regardless, Imagineers are creative enough to forego public polling when it comes to delivering timeless quality entertainment, and they understand a rushed counter-theme redressing of this space spearheaded by MBAs and Marketing Managers rather than imagineers is a scary proposition. Period.

2. Though you've obviously mis-read or ignored the header to this site, there are more than a few positive blog entries here at Re-Imagineering. Check out 'Let's Get On a Plane', 'Cutting a Line' and 'Attention Must Be Paid'.

3. As for getting a real job, we're all gainfully employed here at Re-Imagineering and absolutely love the work. And yes, they are real jobs.

4. Things do change. Yesterday it was Michael Eisner. Today it's Bob Iger with John Lasseter helming many of the creative sign offs at Imagineering. We're all dealing pretty well with that.

5. If you want a website dedicated to Disney that is as positive and upbeat as you prefer may I direct you to They do an excellent job there and I guarantee you'll agree with everything they have to share with you.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Banks -- you dodged the question just a wee bit. I think all of us can name three things Disney has done right in the past 24 months. Here's my list of 7 strictly dealing with Anaheim:

1) The ground up rehab of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland.

2) The plussing at Disneyland's Jungle Cruise with the addition of the pirrannah pool. When I attended the 50th kickoff -- it created a fair amount of buzz. Good ROI for what it was.

3) Turtle Talk with Crush -- I really think Walt Disney himself would be delighted with this small but truly magical attraction.

4) The retooling of Space Mountain and getting it reopened in time for the 50th's big summer draw.

5) The restoration of The Lilly Belle for Disneyland's Railroad. This one gave me hope that someone (maybe it was Matt Quimet or CEO Bob Iger but I sincerely doubt it was Jay Rusulo) really cared about something more than what some cost/benefits analysis might say.

6) Monsters Inc. Mike and Sully to the Rescue -- an awesome C-ticket dark ride chock full of clever visuals.

7) The Block Party Parade at Disney's California Adventure -- probably the best traveling show/parade since the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Mr Banks said...

Thanks, mnmears! My understanding of the question was whether this site had actually mentioned three positive things about the parks. Though Re-Imagineering wasn't designed to cover what's positive about the parks (as it's assumed that's pretty obvious) but what has devolved over the last couple decades, it was still important to underline where Imagineers have recently batted it out of the park. We'll continue to do that when inspiration strikes.

Thanks for your list! I agree on all counts!

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous person who said ."And seriously, for someone who so hates the current incarnation of Disney's theme parks, why don't you just stay the hell away and get a real job? Seriously. Anyone who b**ches this much and this often just has unsolvable issues."

I believe the reason why I personally find this site to be most interesting and helpful... at the same time being so upset at the misteps of the Disney Management when it comes to Walt's Disneyland is: I feel a bit hurt that something so wonderful and so special to me could be 'raped' by management. The reason I care about this blog is because Walt Disney's Disneyland is very special to me. The mismanagement of Walt's dream, seems disgusting to me, and sad. Because Disneyland was so special is the reason why I continue to visit, to "relive fond memories of the past", same reason I visit this blog, - because it means something to me, like family. I get upset and saddened if people treat family members cruely, the same I feel I get annoyed and sad when Management treat Disneyland in a way that is below the best possible standards that Walt believed in.

Anonymous said...

This just absolutely breaks my heart...

Shrunken Ned said...

TSI is sacred and hotly debated in part because we all experienced it as children. This is deeply emotional stuff. As a young boy, it was my favorite place in the park. Now like Lincoln, it has been spayed and nutered into it's present diluted form. WDC Lawyers will never let it be restored to it's former glory.

If you told me at that same tender age that TSI was gonna be a Pirate Island with buried treasure, etc. I would be going nuts with expectation, theming or not. If it isn't done with sensitivity to the area, that's another story.

Some accuse the company of shameless synergy.

In the 50's, Westerns were number one with kids, those who accuse WDC of shameless Synergy forget that Walt was the worst in that Frontierland was one big promo for Davy Crockett, the Jack Sparrow of 1955. I don't blame the company for wanting to be relevant by catering to the biggest film they ever had.

Walt was a cheesemeister as well with Holidayland. promoting Mickey Mouse Club Circus. A Synergistic move at best.

Oh well, the "beat the subject to death" light just went on.

Anonymous said...

I love Disneyland and my memories of Tom Sawyer's Island are grand... but when I was a kid I knew who Tom Sawyer was. I was excited to pretend that I was in that adventure and was thrilled to be immersed in a world that I had only seen on TV or in my imagination. The sad fact is this: Children today are not excited or engaged by the Tom Sawyer mythology as they were in the 1950s. Granted there are kids who still enjoy Tom Sawyer's island as it is. They find some enjoyment from climbing around and running through tunnels regardless of who Tom Sawyer actually is, but it's not the type of all consuming joy that it was for our generation. Most kids today yawn at Tom Sawyer’s Island, but would be positively THRILLED to go and experience a Pirate like adventure out on the island. That's a tough pill to swallow but it's true. It has certainly been stated on this site that Disneyland is for adults AND children, so why should children's current interests not be considered? Why should they not be able to revel in the excitement of being a Pirate if that is where their interests are focused? Simply because a bunch of adults want to preserve their childhood fantasies? It's like trying to force your kids to like your old Atari. "Hey son, I used to love these old games!" Can you see your children's eyes rolling at that one? Does that mean Disney should get rid of Frontierland? Maybe. Tear the whole thing down to the ground and put something in that kids and adults can enjoy together (and not just the nostalgic adults), as long as it is done well. There is no excuse for the crap that fills DCA, but who is to say Disneyland is not capable of giving birth to new creations that make our kids feel about Pirates (or anything else for that matter) the way we did about space exploration? Many of the posts on this topic are so bitter and short sighted that I think that many people have absolutely no vision for a change no matter what the circumstance or for whom the change is intended to benefit. They want only things that THEY like and if it wasn't in the park when they were children, then it's crap. This website is a fantastic source of information and discussion, but I dislike when it exists only as a platform to whine and complain about everything that bites about the current Disneyland. Disneyland is a great place because it is a living breathing thing that changes and continues. This site acknowledges the "Not a museum" argument over and over, but rarely have I seen it actually defend that notion. One thing is for sure: some day, some kid will be on the web writing a 50 page essay on why it's so bloody awful (yes the kid is British) that Disneyland is ripping out The Pizza Port. That place where he and his dad used to go to share a Nestle's Strawberry milk together before going into Innoventions. How could Disneyland be so cold and mean and rotten to rip out this fantastic shrine to Pizza which generations of families have enjoyed. Here is what people will tell that kid "Kid: No one eats Pizza anymore. It's a fad that passed many years ago and we want Disneyland to a place where people are excited to come to see and experience things they care about. It's supposed to be everyone's happiest place on Earth, not The Happiest Place for you to relive the 1990's."

Anonymous said...

Just visited Tom Sawyer Island yesterday for the first time in probably 20 years. It could really use an overhaul. The fort was mobbed by tweens and even some teens, practically mowing down my 2nd grader and 3 year old. Even with the Winnie the Pooh playground, there's still a need at Magic Kingdom for a modern low-liability big kid playground like the bug one at Studios or the dinosoaur one at AK. A Tom Sawyer / cowboys and indians theme would work and keep us old farts happy, but with today's kids, pirates get their imaginations going.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this sad. very sad. that place was a heaven for my brothers, they played there for hours. but when I went this summer it was not fun. the smoking is terrible. you must wait in the sun while ONE boat takes people back and forth. The bathroom was so small that a women opened the door and hit my daughter who was waiting for one of the two stalls on the island. plus it seemed to stripped down.

Kirstin said...

No no no! I always try to go to the island at Disneyland, but the rafts are always full. You've got to be kidding me. The island, one of the few places kids are really allowed to climb around and run amok, is one of the best things about Disneyland. Argh. (not to quote Jack)

Anonymous said...

Ah Yes, TSI! One of Walt's greatest ideas. TSI is a place to just run around and play! Where else can you do that in THE PARK?
The so called new age Imagineers have truncated TSI, with the removal of Fort Wilderness, the elimnation of the Indian Village that guests were locked out of, and the removal of several walkways on the far end. It's Jack Sparrow Island now, and sadly, a lot less fun. As a Child, TSI was a land in itself. I just loved the secret passage into the FORT. Whenever with a new friend, I would use that passage to confound and confuse the uniitiated. Long ago removed! Now the whole FORT has been removed, or should I say reworked? I think Walt had a certain fondness for the Fort. As the Fort theme is found in at the entrance to Frontierland. As a boy, I remember climbing those Fort Towers, and shooting the rifles, both in Frontierland and on TSI. All I remember is running up the steps and having to wait to use those rifles. Now the Towers on TSI are no more, and the towers of Frontierland have long since been blocked off by a locked door at one location, and conversion of the ground floor for ATM use at the other. Wow, coonskin caps, rifled to shoot indians with. It was perfect back then! I really do miss it in its orginal form. Plase somebody, make them put it all back.