Among those interviewed for this article, none had any reservations about making over Tom Sawyer’s Island or any other Disneyland attraction. They all subscribe to the philosophy that Disneyland is not a museum, and that even Walt Disney wouldn’t think twice about replacing an underperforming attraction with something “new and exciting.” Even so, almost all of them had serious concerns about the possible impact of some of the proposed changes to the island playground.
Tom Sawyer’s Island is surrounded by what Disney calls “The Rivers of America,” a wide waterway bordered by Frontierland, New Orleans Square, and Critter Country, all firmly rooted within the continental United States. “What they’re proposing is bringing the Caribbean up out of the basement,” another Disney insider said.
The banks on either side of The Rivers of America are literally
rooted in Midwestern foliage as opposed to the tropical Caribbean.
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He was referring to the fact that the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is actually outside the Disneyland Railroad berm, the traditional boundary of the park. To get from New Orleans Square to the Caribbean, guests depart a Louisiana bayou dock in flat boats that sail off the edge of a series of waterfalls, which lowers them some twenty feet below grade, before they drift out of the park and into Disney Caribbean waters. At the end of the ride, they float back under the berm and up another waterfall, which returns them to New Orleans Square.
“It isn’t just Tom Sawyer’s Island that would be affected by the change in theme and story,” another Imagineer said. “You’ve got all that Americana, like the Indian village, on the opposite bank of the river. What’s to become of that?”
Then there’s the matter of the two ships that sail The Rivers of America on a daily basis. A change in theme from Midwest American riverbank to Caribbean island won’t be that startling as the sailing ship Columbia circles the island; however, as one Imagineer put it, “What are guests going to think of the Mark Twain (a stern-wheel riverboat) gliding around a tropical island?”