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Jan

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WOW. Amazing news from MiceAge (as well as an interesting tidbit about the possibility of the POTC: AWE premiere NOT being held at the House of Mouse):

Goodbye Sawyer, Hello Sparrow

But what has Rasulo fired up in the short term for Disneyland is the same thing that has nearly everyone in Burbank bursting with excitement, and that's the Billion dollar business the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise has just pulled in this summer.

In a theme park proposal that was crafted in the corporate offices of Burbank rather than the WDI design studios of Glendale, the Pirates franchise is planned to expand its presence at Disneyland for next summer's release of the third Pirates movie. While another tweak to the lavish 15 minute long E Ticket attraction was always part of the equation, much to the very noisy annoyance of some people at WDI, the corporate bosses are now eyeing an additional piece of property just across the Rivers of America from the ride itself in New Orleans Square.

The Burbank bigwigs have Tom Sawyer Island in their sights, and if the budget gets approved later this fall that 50 year old piece of Disneyland history will go the way of the Skyway and the House of the Future. What Burbank has proposed is an ambitious plan to restructure and retheme the island into a pirate playground, where Captain Barbossa and Davy Jones would displace the less than blockbuster Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher.

The current proposal calls for over 28 million to be spent this winter rebuilding and rebranding the Tom Sawyer themed attraction. Gone would be the treehouses, trails and caves referenced in the literary works of Mark Twain and originally designed for the simpler audiences of the 1950's. In their place would be snazzier pirate themed activities designed for the kids of the 21st century who have grown up with extreme sports and Super Mario Brothers instead of barrel hoops and Tom Sawyer. The current lush wooded landscaping would also presumably be substantially altered, as tropical islands don't quite match the southern American landscape.

This proposal has been moving very quickly (and up to now, quietly) through the approval process and at its core it's driven by the insane profits and audience interest the second Pirates movie generated this summer. Once Burbank made it clear they wanted this remade attraction for Disneyland to coincide with the third movie release next May, the operations folks jumped on the bandwagon and happily added in requests to upgrade the infrastructure and physical facilities on the Island.

It's no secret that the Island has needed a makeover and more modern facilities installed for quite some time, and this project is just the ticket to get those things paid for. New bathrooms and regraded trails to accommodate wheelchairs and electric carts were added to the plan, as well as a snack bar and a small shop to milk a few bucks out of the expected hordes of parents and their children. In almost a complete reversal of the normal way a new attraction is proposed, the marketers and merchandisers drafted the concept and the plans and the Imagineers are now left to struggle to come up with the actual designs and themes.

The proposal is so sweeping and moving so quickly that it may not all make it by next May. Part of the plan calls for the old Fort Wilderness facility to be razed, and the space used as an interactive pirate museum using exhibits and interactive play spaces such as those used in the Sorcerer's Workshop in DCA's Animation pavilion, or the nifty Fortress Explorations attraction at Tokyo DisneySea. That proposal for Fort Wilderness may be pushed into a Phase Two plan, which would be just fine with Burbank if they move forward on an as yet unscripted fourth installment of the Pirates movie series. And the word is that Johnny Depp is amenable to yet another sequel.

Of course, it'a a given that die-hard Disneyland fans will likely recoil in horror when they first hear about this idea. But what should be kept in mind is that this project would make a beloved old corner of Disneyland exciting and relevant again for a new generation of fans.

A few years ago Disneyland was forced to go in and remodel some of the play areas on the Island to bring them up to code and pass muster from Disney's own safety department. During that physical rehab and freshening the Disneyland Entertainment department also added live Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn characters to the Island, young men dressed up in 1800's clothing who wandered the island telling stories and jokes as written by Mark Twain. The response from some of the older parents was of bemused interest, but the 7 to 12 year old crowd whom the entertainment was aimed at couldn't figure out who the guys were dressed in the funny clothes and why they kept talking about whitewashing a fence. Does Home Depot even sell whitewash? Is Mark Twain available on a PodCast?

While the recent appearance of Tom and Huck on the Island was a noble attempt on Disneyland's part to try and bring Tom Sawyer to life for 21st century audiences, it was obvious these were characters no one under the age of thirty knew much about. Ask a ten year old today who Huck Finn is and you'll get a blank stare, but ask him about Jack Sparrow and you'll get a high five. And that's what has most folks in Imagineering (WDI) a little more excited about the project, as they would love to make sure Disneyland stays as fresh and exciting to audiences in 2006 as it was a half century ago. Rest assured there is a bit of controversy over this plan up and down the halls of WDI, but as this is being driven directly from Burbank apparently they don't have much say in the matter.

Now before you storm the MiceChat boards, just try to keep in mind that this still hasn't received the formal green light and funding from Burbank. But it's a project that is moving so quickly and with so much political muscle that it was important to bring to light now. It's also something that needs to be ready to open in just seven short months and there's plenty of work to do, so the formal decision will need to be made quickly, if it hasn't already been decided by the time you read this. We'll of course keep you informed if this gets the green light and we'll keep you in the loop as the endless details of the project get ironed out through the fall. (And yes I'm also wondering what'll happen to the Indian village out back, not to mention the itchy bear and every other river-side tableau.)

Add to all that the inclusion of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly animatronics to Pirates itself, plus the massive Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage that promises to be the talk of Southern California next summer, and the rather corny Rockin' Space Mountain and Rockin' California Screamin' overlays for this winter and spring, and suddenly Disneyland's dance card for the next year is very full.

The pirates movie premiere is slated for Southern California for a third time next May, although it may take on a different format than the previous two events. Some managers in Walt Disney World had lobbied to have the next premiere staged at their property, but they were shot down by Burbank executives who didn't want to put up with the hot and rainy Florida climate or the cost of flying in a dozen or two celebrities when they could have 100 celebs happily show up for a fraction of the cost in warm and dry Anaheim.

But this time, instead of staging the premiere inside Disneyland, the event may end up on the shoreline near Long Beach. If Rasulo has his way, they will have pulled the financials together and be able to use the movie premiere to announce that the third ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet is being built and will be home ported in Southern California. Regardless of where and when that announcement is made, it's a commitment that should be announced by next summer with a first year sailing itinerary slated for the end of this decade. You can expect summertime trips up to British Columbia and the Alaskan glaciers, and wintertime trips down the Mexican Riviera, all tied in to a few additional days at Disneyland.

I suppose that means good-bye to the river boat Mark Twain, as it would make sense to replace it with a pirate ship. They already have one in Fantasyland, though it could be replaced by something else. Who knows?

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What fun! Sounds like we need to plan the family vaca for Disneyland next year, to check out all the new scenery (or maybe a cruise..)!

Thanks for bringing us this, Jan!

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Interesting article, Jan and, if I might say, a little sad. I find this bit especially regretful:

...it was obvious these were characters no one under the age of thirty knew much about.

It seems we won't be burning books in the future ala "Fahrenheit 451" we will simply be relegating them to gather dust and grow moldy on shelves, forgotten and forlorn.

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:fear: I don't know what to think. I am very happy that they may revamp the island. But I was looking forward to another agonizing day in the sun staked out on main street. I guess we have a while to wait and see. If I'm allowed to be where the premiere is, I'll be there. And hey, a cruise? Why not? I've never been on one before, and it will be my 3oth birthday. :naughty:

Thanks Jan!

Anar

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I am a "Disney baby" through & through and I think it's great that some of the older things that aren't working are getting revamped. Things do tend to become obsolete as time passes.I hope I never do! :blink:

Begin :jacked:

However, that being said, isn't it a sad state that such an interesting, important and "controversial" work is so practically forgotten? Adrianne I suppose you're right about the burning and the forlorn dusty relics sitting lonely on shelves!

End :jacked:

Jeep

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:jacked: for a few minutes. I just have to say that Mark Twain and Huck Finn are very much alive and well in my neck of the woods. I live about 25 minutes away from Hannibal MO where they is plenty of Twain-oriented memorabilia. And each summer there are Tom Sawyer Days (around the 4th of July) with a designated Tom and Becky to lead the festivities. One of the highlights is a fence painting contest.

WW

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We have the 'West Coast' Mark Twain as well; he spent time in San Francisco (as in the great quote "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco) - and the Gold Country, which I live on the edge of. They still have the Calavaras County Frog-Jumping Jubilee every year in Angel's Camp, which he wrote about in one of his stories.

And when I was on vacation in New England a few years back, I visited his home in Hartford, Connecticut; a beautiful old Victorian, lovingly restored.

Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were required reading when I was in school. Things have changed.

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You know, I think it will be cool to see a change on the island. Although getting rid of all the elements doesn't seem totally necessary. As it would be cool to go through the caverns and find bits of treasure. I'm sure though, that whatever Disney does, it will be pretty awesome. :2thumbs:

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Well I've never been to Disneyland before, although I hope to go one day. So I don't know what the Tom Sawyer Island is like, but I think it is quite sad to see something the older generations will have known as kids, being lost. But I suppose it's necessary for Disney to do to keep them new and exciting. I love the idea of a Pirates of the Caribbean Island. Before just the idea of the Pirates ride, was enough to get me hankering to go. I like seeing what inspired things, and stuff like that. The ride is part of the films history, and I like that. ( Yea, a fifteen year old who likes history, I know :wtf: ) So the thought of being able to go on the ride which is quite outdated now, made me excited, so being able to wander around a whole island just bursting with Pirates goodies makes me do this ---> :yahoo::yess: :cheer: . This sounds like great fun.

And Will and Elizabeth animatronics added to the old ride! :cheer:

Thanks for the info Jan.

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Guest Gwen

As someone who has been going to Disneyland since I was a little girl, I'm horrified to hear this. Tom Sawyer Island has been one of my favorite "rides" since I was a little girl, and I have incredibly fond memories of playing on that island. It's been around for so long and a countless number of adults have fond memories of playing on that island as a child. I'm really stunned that they want to completely give it a makeover. As much as I love Pirates. I doubt it's what Disney would have done. I'm really saddened to hear this. It makes me not want to go to Disneyland ever again for fear that everything will be gone/different. Sometimes it's best to leave things be; especially when they're such a signature/trademark.

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Well I've never been to California and thus Disneyland, but I have been to Disney World many times and I wonder what this means to our Tom Sawyer Island. It definitely has seemed a little outdated and lonely out there for some time, I'm glad they are trying to revive that area, but in Disney World Pirates is a part of Adventureland and is no where near the island. I wonder if they will do this change at all since it would so jarringly pull a theme ride from one area into another where it doesn't really fit. I mean, imagine if they put the Buzz Lightyear ride on Main Street :oh: . We shall have to wait and see.

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I'm of 2 minds about this. On the one hand, it would be great to have more pirate themed attractions at Disneyland, but it is a real shame that it appears to be at the expense of Tom Sawyer. The only thing certain is change.

BTW, my daughter, who is not quite 10 and an avid reader, certainly knows about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, though she hasn't read the books yet.

What I am really excited about is the possibility that the movie premiere will NOT be in Disneyland, thereby making it more accessible to the masses like us, who don't want to pay admission to Disneyland in order to go to the premiere. There are many possibilities opening up in my fevered imagination. :hmmm::wacko:

This could be good.

Aliza

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What I am really excited about is the possibility that the movie premiere will NOT be in Disneyland, thereby making it more accessible to the masses like us, who don't want to pay admission to Disneyland in order to go to the premiere.

aliza I had never thought of it that way! I had wished our premiere would have involved as many Ka-Bloomies as the London one did. I would be thrilled to meet more people, and that would be great to not have to pay to go to the premiere. Then I could meet more of you. :clap:

However, with the hundreds of people we saw at Disneyland, who paid to be there, I can not imagine the group we would have somewhere else. It will be a giant movie, with just as many Johnny Depp fans, and Kiera's too. The thought of that crowd scares me to death. On the other hand, our London Ka-Bloomies handled it beautifully. I can only hope that no matter where it is, it is a great experience for all.

Anar

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I can only hope that no matter where it is, it is a great experience for all.

Anar

We are sharing a brain, my dear.

Aliza

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Well I've never been to California and thus Disneyland, but I have been to Disney World many times and I wonder what this means to our Tom Sawyer Island. It definitely has seemed a little outdated and lonely out there for some time, I'm glad they are trying to revive that area, but in Disney World Pirates is a part of Adventureland and is no where near the island.

I also wonder what this means for Magic Kingdom's Tom Sawyer Island. It has long needed a revamp as well. You should have seen it after the hurricanes came through a couple of years ago. What a mess! I would hate to see it go, though, because it is the one place you can go for a respite from the crowds and Aunt Polly makes one outrageous brownie sundae. :yum:

There is also the problem of logistics since MK's island is a "land" away from the POTC ride, not to mention space constraints. I am even wondering if they will bother to put Will and Elizabeth into the ride itself.

I am holding out that the rumor about MGM's Backlot Tour might take effect sooner or later. The water FX segment based upon Pearl Harbor is way outdated and based upon a bomb that hardly anyone realizes was a Disney film.

Maybe Disney feels we have enough of our own pirate history out here and that they don't want Captain Jack to compete with the real thing. :beatsme: In any case, I feel like I have to get myself out to Disneyland once it's all said and done.

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There's a lot to be said for both sides of the Sawyer vs. Pirates debate. I can understand how people who have grown up thinking of Tom Sawyer as a part of Disneyland it's hard to let go of something connected with such strong childhood memories.

I didn't post this right away yesterday because I didn't want to offend anyone but I really feel the need to say this. For people who love literature and have never been to Disneyland, it's just one more bastardization of a classic novel that will be lost and mercifully forgotten. The Disney version of Tom Sawyer was sadly watered down and too busy trying to be popular to capture the feeling and message of that book. Personally, I feel like this is just proof that all great literature endures while the bad knock-offs based on those works are eventually forgotten.

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And when I was on vacation in New England a few years back, I visited his home in Hartford, Connecticut; a beautiful old Victorian, lovingly restored.

Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were required reading when I was in school. Things have changed.

Totally off subject but yes, MT's Hartford residence is wonderful. I especially love his "step outside" balcony. The balcony was his amusing way of not lying when MT told his staff "he was not in to receive visitors."

The casual attitude toward classic books bothers me. The ride, hey, it's merely a ride, no big deal. Yet the corporate mentality regarding the books, well, is crass. Ha, and I should be surprised? :blink:

Spanky

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I found the following at Miceage.com. It is an article written by AL Lutz on January 9, 2007. You can read all that he has to say here.

Booty Delay

Speaking of timing, the other big project coming to Disneyland next summer has timing headaches of its own. The now officially titled Pirates Lair at Tom Sawyer Island (remember to thank the L.A. times editorial staff for this name) was originally set to close down Tom Sawyer Island and begin construction on January 16th. But now the start date for this project has been pushed back until at least early February, as late last week the project managers still couldn't quite land on an accurate start date.

Since we were first with this story last fall, we've told you how this is the ultimate rush job and an attempt by Jay Rasulo to prove to John Lasseter that he can get a movie project into a park by the time it debuts in theaters. The unfortunate thing here is that Rasulo has bitten off a bit more than he can chew with this one, as there are simply logistical hurdles that the modern WDI bureaucracy can't handle on an accelerated timetable like this. The newly delayed start date for the island stems from the fact that WDI simply doesn't have contractors lined up and ready to begin work yet, and it will still be another 30 days before they can move forward with construction. While Rasulo has approved throwing more money at the project to get all of the eye candy and new toys he wants included, there is no amount of money that can turn back the clock six months to buy enough time to do this project sanely.

At the same time Disney World management was taking a pass on another Pirates update, WDI has been putting the finishing touches on the plans for the massive new Pirates of the Caribbean ride planned for Hong Kong Disneyland, and some nifty new effects and additions have recently been worked up. Since the fourth movie in the series is already in pre-production, there are tentatively more plot references and sight gags that could also end up in the rides. With all of those pieces falling into place, it was decided Disneyland would instead focus its energy and resources on getting the new Pirates Lair at Tom Sawyer Island open in time for the third movie premiere, and they'll be pouring over 14 Million dollars into that island project in 2007.

And so Disneyland will also forego adding that Keira Knightley animatronic that Studios chief Dick Cook mentioned on the red carpet at last summer's movie premiere. That movie premiere hasn't formally been penciled in for Disneyland, but the plan to launch the West Coast version of Disney Cruise Line has been bumped up to later this month and the cancellation of Fantasmic! only makes it easier to host the premiere for the third time at Disneyland. Assuming the third movie isn't a flop, and does at least 500 Million in global box office sales, the fourth movie will go into production and may be timed for an opening around 2010 when the Hong Kong version of the ride opens.

I do not know much about Al Lutz, if anyone does please feel free to fill us in. :)

Anar

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( Yea, a fifteen year old who likes history, I know :wtf: )

[thread jack]That's not so wierd, I love history, I'm 16 but I've been a history freak since I was about 5.[/thread jack]

Thanks for the info Jan. I've only been to Disney Land once before but now it looks ike I have a perfect excuse to go back sometime soon.

Deirdrex

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