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offensive tom sawyer island

Controversial, potentially offensive names removed from Disney World attraction

Disney World has removed names from one of its most iconic and long-standing attractions in an effort to remain culturally sensitive and rid the attraction of the dated term.

tom sawyer island attraction

Credit: Disney Parks

Earlier this week, Disney World Cast Members removed wording that referred to “Injun Joe” at the Tom Sawyer Island attraction at Magic Kingdom. There was originally a sign that labeled a cavernous area of the attraction as “Injun Joe’s Cavern,” as well as a raft with the name “Injun Joe” on it. The plank on the raft on which Injun Joe’s name was painted was simply painted over, meaning that both references were removed from the attraction.

Disney also painted over the planks on the rafts that had the names “Becky Thatcher” and “Tom Sawyer” on them.

tom sawyer island becky thatcher raft

Credit: Becky Burkett, Disney Dining

In the story of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by author Mark Twain, it is Injun Joe who is the villain–a half-Native American who robs graves, is guilty of murder, and commits other crimes throughout the story.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer': Plot Summary

Credit: ThoughtCo

According to a post at ComicBook.com, “Twain wrote the character as a fundamentally evil and irredeemable character, with multiple characters in the book claiming that his evil nature was due to his Native American heritage.”

Not only is the character portrayed as villainous, but his acts are often attributed to the fact that he is a Native American. The name “Injun Joe” also includes a term considered derogatory by many for Native American men and women.

Last year, Disney made a pledge to be more diverse and more inclusive in its efforts as an organization. The Jungle Cruise attraction at Adventureland was also updated in an effort to remove potentially harmful and hurtful stereotypes from the attraction, and The Splash Mountain attraction at Frontierland is being completely reimagined for the same reasons. The current attraction is based on the Disney film from 1946, Song of the South. 

Song of the South': Fast Facts About Disney's Most Controversial Movie | IndieWire

Credit: Disney Studios

According to Disney, “Song of the South is a 1946 American musical film released by RKO Radio Pictures, based on the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris. The live actors provide a sentimental frame story, in which Uncle Remus relates the folk tales of the adventures of Br’er Rabbit and his friends. These anthropomorphic animal characters appear in animation. The hit song from the film was “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, which won the 1947 Academy Award for Best Song and is frequently used as part of Disney’s montage themes, and which has become widely used in popular culture.”

Splash Mountain - D23

Credit: D23

But Song of the South has received major backlash over the years from those who say the film harbors racist themes and is full of stereotypes against African Americans. For this reason, producers at Disney decided it would not be added to the streaming line-up on Disney+, and it is almost impossible to find it in digital form anywhere in the United States. Because the Splash Mountain attraction was inspired by the film, it was decided that the entire attraction would be reimagined and take its inspiration from the delightful story of Princess Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!