These six trading cards, which combine to form a map of Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, were distributed throughout Disneyland in the summer of 2016. Their release marked the re-opening of the Rivers of America after a year-and-a-half closure and refurbishment brought on by the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge expansion.
On the reverse side, each card depicts a separate Rivers of America attraction, along with its re-opening date, and a fun fact about the attraction. The map itself is a variation (smaller and with slightly rearranged peripheral detailing) of the one found in the 2007 “Explorer’s Map of Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island” brochure map. The Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-themed refurbishment, for which the ’07 map was issued, brought upgraded landscaping and show elements to the original island-attraction, which first opened on June 16, 1956, at the start of Disneyland’s second summer season.
Despite the modern re-branding, the island represents the only theme-park attraction ever hand-designed by Walt Disney himself. After discarding several early concepts, including Mickey Mouse Island and Treasure Island, Walt settled on a Mark-Twain-inspired theme. Walt spoke several times about his admiration of Twain’s work. Furthermore, he’d grown up in Missouri, the setting for Tom Sawyer’s adventures, which meant both the stories and the Disneyland attraction held special places in his heart.
Continually dissatisfied with the designs his team of Imagineers (the likes of Claude Coats, Herb Ryman, Sam McKim, and Vic Greene) produced throughout the development of the island, Walt finally spent a night in his backyard barn workshop sketching out his vision for the attraction. The next morning, he presented it to artist Marvin Davis with the proclamation, “Now, that’s the way it should be.”
The island was built to Walt’s specifications and opened with a grand celebration, starring honorary guests Chris Winkler and Perva Lou Smith, the young Hannibal, Missouri, residents who’d recently been crowned the town’s first official Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher representatives. An order of catfish was flown in specially from Missouri, and an “old-fashioned fish fry” was held back on the mainland at the conclusion of the festivities.
The island, which guests reach by way of “log” rafts, boasts several interactive elements and landscape features from both the Twain stories (and now the Pirates of the Caribbean universe), as well as original Disney designs. The first major refurbishment took place in 1992 on the southern end of the island to facilitate the park’s new nighttime entertainment offering, Fantasmic!. Fifteen years later came the overhaul and name change. Incarnations of the original island exist in both Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland.