Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom's Tom Sawyer's Island: Frontierland
Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island: Frontierland
The differences? The obvious difference is the pirate overlay at Disneyland, which was installed in 2007 to take advantage of the immense success of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But the pirate overlay's not inconsistent with the original theme as Tom and Huck Finn's river play place - in the original "The Adventure of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, Tom and Huck did pretend to be pirates when playing. Plus, the pirate overlay provided Disney Imagineers with an excuse to do some needed freshening and upgrades throughout the island. Unfortunately, Disney did not restore Fort Wilderness at the northern side of the island, which remains off-limits to visitors.
I began working as a Tom Sawyer's Island raft driver at Walt Disney World in 1988, and have spent more hours than I care to count walking the trails, caves and play areas on the island. Maintenance standards on the island have fluctuated over the years, with elements such as the windmill, grist mill and fort coming, going, coming back and going away again. But it remains a great place for children with a love for books and an active imagination to run around, burn some energy and pretend.
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These days, both islands make me a bit sad. Walt's original idea for Tom Sawyer island was to make it a place where kids could play, climb and explore. I was lucky enough to visit the DL version when I was 8. It was a little boys dream. There were rocks to climb, a cave to explore and all sorts of adventure to be had.
Much of that is still there, but what makes me sad is what the lawyers have done to the place. Any place where a kid might possibly fall and scrap his knee has either been blocked off, removed or made "safe" by adding paths, stairs and warning signs. Gone is the sense of climbing and exploration. It all feels so controlled now.
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