2-4 | Mark Twain, Walt Disney, and the Playful Response to Pirate Stories

Article

Mark Twain, Walt Disney, and the Playful Response to Pirate Stories

Mark I. West

Abstract:

Like many a modern play theorist, both Mark Twain and Walt Disney were enchanted by the way children act out stories, in particular pirate tales. For both Twain and Disney, this fascination grew out of their small-town, midwestern boyhoods, where avid reading and fantasy play helped stave off boredom and fill emotional gaps for both of them. Even while remaining true to their literary convictions, both men understood how children incorporated and changed printed stories to fit their imaginations, and both wove this insight into their adult creations—Twain into his novels and Disney into his theme parks and theatrical productions. Indeed, the pirates that haunted The Adventures of Tom Sawyer became the focus of Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland and Disney World.