I just survived a week at Disneyland (“The Crowdedest Place on Earth!”). Although I’ve been to the various Disney parks on many occasions, this time something had changed:
Pirates have conquered the Magic Kingdom.
I first noticed this while walking down Main Street. In lieu of mouse ears or fairy wings, kids now stalked the grounds wearing cutlasses and eye patches. I know pirates have always been one of the popular themes at Disney, due to their famous “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. But with the overwhelming popularity of the recent movie series, it’s clear that Mickey and the other traditional characters have one foot, paw, or wing in the unemployment line.
The “Pirates” ride itself, formerly a rambunctious romp to the hearty strains of “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!” is now a paean to drug-addled gay pirate Jack Sparrow. While one can understand Disney’s cashing in on the popularity of the movies and updating the ride to form a closer tie-in, what is not so clear is why the Disney overlords also decided to change Tom Sawyer’s Island to The Pirates’ Lair. Perhaps midwestern Tom was too Americana for California. Or perhaps they were attracted to another tie-in, with those lovable Somali scalawags that have been in the news of late. Sure, throughout history pirates have been murderous thieves and rapists, but that’s better than associating the Disney label with some middle-America kid from a red state with his capitalist, white-washing notions. To hammer this in further, they even have Tom’s grave on the island! (I couldn’t find the marker for the spot where the pirates no doubt brutally raped and murdered Becky Thatcher, but maybe I just missed it.)
So there we have it. Kids are turning aside from Tinkerbell face paint in favor of Jack Sparrow bandanas and heavy eyeliner. Mickey Mouse ears have been replaced with bloodstained swords, and the Jolly Roger will soon be fluttering over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
But I, for one, miss good ol’ Tom. Rest in peace, lad. Maybe Disney will make a series of blockbuster movies about your adventures some day, and you’ll be allowed back in your old haunts. Or maybe the Disney executives will realize that Mark Twain’s all-American boy deserves better homage than the most villainous scum of the earth, and they’ll put family values over greedy corporate profit.
But probably not.