Muse #7: Painting Tom Sawyer Island

“Just as writers write the books they always wished they could read, Walt built the playground his inner child had always wanted to explore. Tom Sawyer Island was the tangible fulfillment of all his boyhood wishes.”

Walt’s Disneyland: It’s Still There If You Know Where to Look by Jim Denney

Often in the favorite attraction discussion, we include all the popular—and even unpopular—rides and shows across the various parks at Walt Disney World resort. However, we often forget the peaceful island in Frontierland, only accessible by log rafts: Tom Sawyer Island.

I have so many memories of this little island, from “shooting” guns on the roof of the fort to running around in Injun Joe’s Cave and Old Scratch’s Mystery Mine. It’s a perfect place to enjoy seclusion and nature when everything else involves more walking and waiting. One of the traditions I wish I’d participated in as a child is the daily paintbrush hide-and-seek. As reports:

“Each morning cast members would hide 6 paintbrushes around the island. If you were one of the lucky guests to find a paintbrush, then you would receive a prize! The price was usually a FastPass that would get you on any attraction (typically good for 3 people, too).”

“9 Facts and Secrets About Tom Sawyer Island”

If you enjoy Mark Twain (or even if you don’t), you’ve probably heard of the famous whitewashing scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The paintbrush tradition was only one of several references to that part of the story. However, in retrospect, it perhaps inadvertently points to the deeper nature of the island. Jeff Kurti, Disney Legacy Author, notes the following:

“Walt decided that among the somewhat ‘passive’ audience experiences within his Disneyland park, a place for self-guided exploration and spontaneous play might be just the thing for the island—and his Missouri-bred love for Mark Twain, and his heroes Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, provided a foundational story and theme.”

Jeff Kurti, Disney Legacy Author

As such, Tom Sawyer Island represents the beautiful bridge between boyhood and adulthood. Walt took a book that appealed to boyish, devil-may care attitudes and crafted it into an experience that adults typically appreciate more: the higher emphasis on thematic subtlety and the enhanced electivity in creating their own more unique memories. In that sense, it ties both halves of the Magic Kingdom. All its Imagineers ask is that you pick up your paintbrushes.

2 responses to “Muse #7: Painting Tom Sawyer Island”

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