Tom Sawyer Island is an artificial island encircled by the Rivers of America. It includes structures and caves with references to characters from Mark Twain’s work The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, as well as interactive, climbing, and scenic activities. In 2007, the attraction was rethemed and extended as Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland, with connections to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film series added.
The neighborhood first opened in 1956, one year after Disneyland Park.
Prior to the 1992 launch of Fantasmic!, when the south end of the Island was rebuilt to accommodate the nightly show, Tom Sawyer Island underwent very little modification. The imitation weapons at Fort Wilderness were taken from Disneyland in January 2001 when a six-year-old child lost part of her finger while playing with one. When Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island reopened in 2007, it got extensive upgrades, new show elements, and a complete re-theming. Much of the earlier Tom Sawyer theme was removed in favor of characters and aspects from and inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. A chapter from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper go off to play pirates on a nearby island provided justification for connecting the Tom Sawyer and pirate themes, with the idea being that all of the Pirates of the Caribbean elements added to the island are all a part of their imaginative play.
The opening of Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island coincided with the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End in theaters.
Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, as well as the other attractions and performances along the Rivers of America, closed temporarily on January 11, 2016 to make way for the building of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. On June 16, 2017, Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island reopened.
Geography and characteristics
Guests arrive to the island, which is ringed by the Rivers of America, on a motorized raft operated by a Disneyland cast member.
Disneyland guests ride clockwise around the island aboard the Sailing Ship Columbia or the Mark Twain Riverboat. Looking to starboard, they can view the island’s varied locations and adventure potential. To port, they see Disneyland and, on sometimes, a Disneyland Railroad train passing by. The Burning Settler’s Cabin, located near the northern extremity of the island and inaccessible to guests, was a cabin that used to burn by spitting fire from its roof. Despite visitor complaints, the park no longer uses propane to light the roof of the cabin every time a watercraft passes by. The Walt Disney World version survived until 2006, when the pipes (originally installed in 1971) were damaged by aging and being shut off when the Riverboat was being refurbished.
The cabin’s theme has evolved through time: originally, it was claimed to have been set ablaze by a hostile aboriginal tribe. Due to complaints from Native American guests, this storyline was eventually changed, and it was said to have been the home of a moonshiner who had fallen into a drunken stupor when he should have been minding his still; later, after the live flames were extinguished, the fire was described (at least in the Mark Twain steamboat narration) as the result of unspecified carelessness, and as having left not only the cabin’s owner homeless, but also some local wildlife. In 2007, the house’s exterior was cleaned up and all fire damage was eliminated, transforming it into just another homestead near the seas. The narration (and conversation from the cabin) now indicate that it is the residence of Mike Fink, a keelboater and self-proclaimed “King of the River.” The cottage was dismantled when the island reopened in July 2017 owing to the island’s shortening for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. As a tribute to the original blazing cabin, a new cabin that does not catch fire was built on the island’s northernmost tip.
Lafitte’s Tavern, previously Harper’s Mill, is the most visible structure on the island, visible from Frontierland, Adventureland, and New Orleans Square.
Next Point of Interest: Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin