Readers shared their own
experiences in reaction to my last few articles.
Mountain," one reader wrote:
I was on Space Mountain a few months ago when they had one
of those "cascade" stops. We stopped right in the
lighting tunnel where they take your picture. The scary thing
about it was that while we were stopped, you could hear all the
other rockets still traveling. Everyone in our rocket was
freaking out thinking that the rocket behind use would rear end
us. Lucky it didn't, but I knew that it was just a matter of
time before what happened during Labor Day weekend would happen.
In regards to the Space Mountain rehab that is slated to
begin in January 2004. I read in your article that it is going
to be eight months. Will Space Mountain be closed for the whole
IF the rehab goes as planned, I'm sure
Space will be down completely for that whole time. It will be
quite a serious reconstruction. That's a big if, as Disney is apt
to change its mind at any time.
It does bring up the problem of, if
Disney does rebuild five major attractions for the 50th
anniversary, winter/spring/early summer 2004 could be without
those five rides, plus any others on a regular rehab. Picture
green construction walls everywhere.
|A cast member reported:
Ft. Wilderness in an earlier
file photo by Bruce Bergman
I have heard from several sources (including Imagineers)
that Fort Wilderness is history. Their recommendation is that if
you want a last photo of the landmark, take one now (from the
Mark Twain or the Columbia) because it could be torn down before
|David Michael Kearns
Thanks for sharing another great article ("Good
News, Bad News" and "Tom
Smaller Island"). I remember when my dad would take
my brothers and I to Disneyland for a day on Tom Sawyer Island.
We'd play hide-and-go-seek all day long.
My brother and I were always pretty daring, him more than
I, so we would challenge each other to see who could climb
higher on the Chimney Rock. He, of course, always won, but it
sure was fun trying! We would search for Injun Joe's Treasure
and the first one who found it would be the King and would
receive all of the treasure as his own. We knew we wouldn't be
able to have it, but it was great just using the imagination and
dreaming of what we could do with it.
That is what this generation is missing: imagination.
Parents forget to teach their kids to imagine. As a kid, my
parents were always giving me books to expand my already
powerful imagination! It's so sad to see something that means so
much to me and many others be amputated like this.
|Lisa Edwards offered:
I know you've probably had your quota of comments on the
subject of TSI (Tom Sawyer Island) and injury lawsuits, but I
wanted to chime in as well.
After reading the numerous comments regarding the TSI
issue posted today it occurred to me that ultimately this is not
just a TSI issue. Anyone, child or adult, could easily be
injured anywhere at anytime. I'm thinking about how easy it
would be for someone to fall on stairways, trip on planter
surrounds, bang a head or knee on a railing or even on a
merchandise shelf -- the potential list could be endless.
The area surrounding Teeter Totter Rock is marked for drastic
Does this mean that if one of these incidents happen to
me, and I just happen to be in Disneyland, that I should sue
them for failing to provide a safe environment? If I did
something like that in my own house, or in someone else's, I'd
curse myself for not being more careful; I likely would not sue
the homeowner! It makes me extremely nervous to think how far
all the potential safety initiatives could go, and I fear the
day when Disneyland is no longer a magically interactive park.
Again, great coverage on the good and bad of the park.
This is what I love about MousePlanet. Sure, lots of bad stuff
IS happening in the company, but you also let us see the
glimmers of hope. However, its time for me to gripe.
Like so many others that wrote in I will miss the Tom
Sawyer Island I knew as a 5-year-old back in 1979. I too
received the Skinned Knee badge, and my parents' reaction? Well,
they were concerned, but told me to be careful. They didn't run
to get a lawyer. People today are so sue happy that it sickens
me to death. Do these parents who experienced Tom Sawyer Island
as kids forget the magic they felt climbing, exploring, and
getting scared by the Injun Joe cave? I guess not.
Now, I have seen Disneyland do many things over the past
year that has made me think that they could not reach a new
degree of stupid, but I stand corrected. I am speaking of the
yellow safety tape around the Sleeping Beauty drinking fountain.
I was so flabbergasted by that sight that I could not speak. I
am still a bit speechless about it. What's next, safety tape
around the railings where you eat beside Pirates Of The
Caribbean inside The Blue Bayou? Cargo netting under Tarzan's
Treehouse in case you decide to jump? A sign in front of Jungle
Cruise stating, "No Swimming"?
Better yet, a sign at the main gate that says,
"Welcome to Disneyland! No running, jogging, power walking,
walking out of boundaries that have been set for you, climbing,
shouting, screaming, charging the characters in childlike glee,
children that are not either leashed or in a stroller, strollers
in crowds, touching the merchandise unless you are buying, photo
taking unless you buy one of our custom photos, having fun on
the rides, and, most importantly, no allowing yourself to be a
kid again. Other than that, enjoy your day!"
|Allen Huffman wondered:
Was it you that mentioned TSI becoming a play land like
the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at DCA? It seems something
like that would solve a lot of the problems -- it could be
highly themed with many tributes to the old island, and offer a
safe environment for children to climb and play. You can get
into a lot more "adventure" at that area at DCA with
all the high catwalks, rock climbing walls, rope swings, etc.,
than TSI ever had. Perhaps that would keep everyone happy,
except for us who long for nostalgia...
I've personally been through the DCA area several times
and had a surprisingly good time over there. At age 32. Go
P.S. - If there is a new, larger capacity raft coming
(maybe so they only have to run one?) does this give us an idea
that they do plan to keep TSI around?
I had thought of this same thing, and
it's why I listed this "Good News." The downside, I
suppose, would be that the drivers often prefer to wait until a
raft is full before casting off and sometimes will only leave the
dock at less than capacity if the second raft is ready to go.
If there's only one raft and it's much
larger, I wonder how long it will take before they cast off on
We were at Disneyland Paris last year (which we enjoyed SO
much more than any of our recent trips to Disneyland) and their
version of the Island was thoroughly enjoyed by our kids, who
spent hours there. If there is a rehab, I hope it goes in this
direction. Maybe Paris is a little "safer," but it's
still fun. Granted, their Island is in their Adventureland,
which affords thematic opportunities missing from Frontierland
(skulls, pirates, etc.), but it was very well done, with caverns
and waterfalls far superior to anything in Anaheim. There were
excellent lighting effects and a backstory involving a hidden
treasure trove which the kids could discover themselves in the
In fact, Anaheim could learn a lot from Paris in terms of
presentation. The whole park was cleaner, far better landscaped,
Disneyland Anaheim reminds me of Michael Jackson's face.
They had such a good thing going, but they've been
"improving" it to the point it doesn't even resemble
the Disneyland we all fell in love with years ago. The irony is,
they're taking out all the rides that matched kids' fantasies:
riding in a sub, getting miniaturized, playing on a wild island,
etc. As fun as some of the new rides are, they match movies, not
kids' dreams. No kid fantasizes about driving a four wheel drive
vehicle through ancient ruins.
Thanks again for a great article. Tom Sawyer Island was
always an interesting place for me. Almost a Pleasure
Island-type place where kids were given the freedom to run
rampant and explore every corner of the island. You could hide
in the recesses of Injun Joes cave, scale the rocky terrain,
explore the treehouse, jump on the suspended and barrel bridges,
run around the fort, get a quick Coke and a snack, then shoot at
the passing ships from the fort.
Times, unfortunately, have changed. I would love those
carefree days back again, but we live in a different era. Today
parents have to be reminded that they are parents and that they
need to, well, parent. They actually have to be reminded that
they are RESPONSIBLE for a little human being who has a
boundless amount of energy, a lack of experience to tell them
that they could get hurt, and no comprehension that there are
consequences to every action. Further, some today actually teach
their children that there is no responsibility for their actions
by shirking blame and pushing the responsibility of supervision
onto the park. "My kid fell from this rock, it was too
high." "My daughter lost her finger, she shouldn't be
able to put her finger in there." "My kid lost his
balance and scraped his knee, that shouldn't happen."
Next, Disney is not up on its upkeep. As evidenced by the
recent cave-ins near the treehouse, we see that certain parts of
the island are in dire need of repair. The bridges have been
closed for years now. The fort is being invaded by termites.
Most of the island is roped off for repair and Disney is unsure
where to go with it.
Finally, times are not as innocent. The dangers inherent
in allowing children to run loose without keeping a direct eye
on them are evident. The caves were a fun place for hide and
seek and exploration, but dark, out of the way places are
perfect places now for dangers to linger. Children fall into the
danger of being abducted, and what's more our country is under
the constant threat of a terrorist act.
With all these situations looming, one can understand
Disney's not being sure what to do. It seems virtually
impossible to create a safe, durable escape island that Disney
would feel safe opening to the public in an increasingly
Padlocked fence keeps guests away from Teeter Totter Rock
I argue that it is possible, though. It would take a lot
heavier planning and money than I am sure Disney is willing to
pour into it, however. Three or four separate enclosed areas
where children can play freely with trails leading to one
another is one suggestion. The Injun Joe's Explorer Caverns
(with only one exit and a central area that parents can sit and
supervise), the Old fishin hole (complete with restored bridges
and water cannons), The New Fort Wilderness (with slides,
passageways, and cannons that shoot foam balls, along with a new
snack bar and picnic area), and maybe even a Treehouse play area
on top of the subterranean cavern area.
The difficulty with changing the island is that you are
playing with people's memories. Parents want their children to
enjoy the same things that they did while growing up. Time moves
on, though, and even Disney said he didn't want Disneyland to be
a museum, but a constantly changing piece of work. I think that
if you stay true to the core idea but at the same time, build
for the new times we live in, purists are less likely to cry
foul. That includes myself. And Disney would only be respected
|And finally, Michael Howe
This world is getting even crazier all the time. I still
cannot believe that it seems that Tom Sawyer will feel like
nothing more than a shuttered "ghost island" of
I had never been to Tom Sawyer Island until summer of 2000
(I was 20 at the time). I took my youngest sister (13 at the
time). It really was a nice little place to visit, and one of my
favorite memories before I left for college was crisscrossing
through the caverns and scaring the beejeezus out of my sister.
We went all over the island, but neglected to go to Fort
Wilderness. "I'll go next time I come," I thought. Of
course, that will probably never be.
Sadly, both of the suspension bridges were closed as well.
The suspension bridge has been ignored for years
While I was there, I was sitting around and watching the
kids play on teeter-totter rock, and just running around, and
just the unbridled feeling that when I think of it, this was
what Walt envisioned for the island: if only I had come here
when I was 8 or 9.
When I was 13, I was playing a game in the dark with some
friends and ran smack into a clothesline and fell to the ground.
Heck, I've slipped, knocked my head by a pool and fell in, but
did I turn around and file a lawsuit? No, because I knew it was
my own fault for running on a slippery surface.
Common sense, it saves more lives than lawsuits ever will.
Send your comments to David here.
David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.
After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.
He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.
You can contact David here.
Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.
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