Treasure Islands and Blue Lagoons
The theme park map is itself designed as an island, with blue and limitless boundaries that blend into an outside world that is at a remote distance. The island and the map are recurrent motifs within the boundaries of the carnival site; the theme park holds out the prospect of an uncharted and self-contained space of adventure, and within the park space, the island represents yet another zone of utopian possibility. A recurrent signifier of the ‘unknown territory’ is the map; it is often presented as antique and always surrounded by sea, suggesting that this is an environment that visitors have discovered for themselves, and that they have had to journey across the water to find. The motifs of the lagoon, the palm tree and the skull and crossbones have long been associated with sites of pleasure; they are the signifiers of daring and adventure associated with the sea. The titles ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Blue Lagoon’ are still resonant in the naming of cafés and attractions of seaside resorts. The seafaring adventure and the Treasure Island, however, have had a presence in popular culture that long precedes Robert Louis Stevenson's 1883 novel Treasure Island, which in the late nineteenth century was already recycling long-standing characters and stories of piracy and island adventure.
The dedicated space for the island fantasy at the Disney parks is Adventureland, a site that is structured into the park as the most wild and unexplored of all its territories, even more so than the claimed ‘wilderness’ of Frontierland. Adventureland is signified at Disneyland by a literal mapping, the site announced by a mock pirate chart. It is nonetheless (apparently) the most inaccessible space; at the Disneyland Paris site, it is presented as a perilous place to find: ‘To get on to Adventure Island you first have to cross a long bridge very carefully, swaying dangerously above cold and deep water’ (Walt Disney Company 2002: 55). In each of the Disney parks, Adventureland is sited at the far left corner – the furthest point from the known world of Main Street – and it is the only ‘land’ that does not have its designated ‘railroad’ station. It is thus the space most distanced from the world of commerce and civilisation, and the one most associated with nature. Adventureland, according to the guide to Walt Disney World, is ‘the most lushly planted of all the Magic Kingdom's … realms’ (Walt Disney Company 1998: 32). Adventureland is thus presented as a ‘natural’ environment that remains to be mapped by the theme park visitor. The island also represents the most ‘lawless’ of all the lands in the theme park because it suggests the ‘threats’ of piracy and smuggling. The most significant attraction at Adventureland is the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ ride, and the road to Adventureland is marked by a leering skull and crossbones motif apparently carved from the (concrete) rocks. At Disney World Florida, Adventureland is approached by way of the Jungle Cruise; at other parks it is reached by a rope bridge, suggesting swirling rapids beneath.
That most unnatural of environments, Las Vegas, surrounded by desert, is no less enthusiastic in theming its attractions with sea and island iconography. Water is such a precious commodity in the Nevada desert that a lavish display of water features becomes a display of conspicuous consumption. The Bellagio (to date Las Vegas's most sumptuous and extravagant hotel) features a nightly display of dancing fountains, while the Mirage complex is themed as a tropical island. A public spectacle outside the Treasure Island casino and hotel presents a show of warring pirate ships where pirates wage battle throughout the day. These extravagant displays and warring ships are resonant of the theatrical water spectacles that were so popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
At a time when Britannia really did seem to ‘rule the waves’ and the British Empire was reliant on its seafaring prowess, patriotic displays of the exploits of the navy regularly featured in panoramas and dioramas. Battles at sea, reproduced with model ships, were fairground attractions and regularly featured in theatre productions. Sea storms and shipwrecks were recurrent themes of eighteenth-century shows of all kinds, from pantomime to early forms of cinemascope. Richard D. Altick describes the Eidophusikon, a device combining shadow, mechanics and transparencies that was displayed in London and Paris with ‘the celebrated Scene, The STORM & SHIPWRECK’ (Altick 1978: 124). The Eidophusikon was developed by Philippe de Loutherbourg, a specialist in paintings of ships and the sea.
British trade and shipping was not only threatened by storm and by shipwreck but also by the illicit trading of pirates and smugglers. Pirate tales, like the Western or chivalric romance, are myths that have no direct source, but do have some basis in historical fact. Each coastal region and community has its tales of smugglers, sailors, ships lost at sea and of maritime heroes, which are handed down from generation to generation. The sea shanty is a form of ballad, an oral form that told tales of sailors, shipwrecks and notable pirates; some were entirely fictional, some based on historical fact, and the two were often indistinguishable. These tales of ships and seafarers became standard forms for ballads, broadsheets and chapbooks, and were regularly illustrated with images of sailing ships and shipwrecks. The ship in full sail or the storm at sea were standardised woodcuts taken from stock blocks for use as illustrations for seafaring stories of all kinds. As the print historian Patricia Anderson explains,
The stock image of a sailing ship illustrated everything from tales of shipwreck, sailors, and military victories (not necessarily naval) to love ballads, murderers; confessions and stories of religious conversion. (Anderson 1991: 43)
British seaside locations have developed their own superstitions and myths of smugglers and pirates. Ailing seaside towns in Britain have capitalised on real histories of smuggling and adventuring, and converted their caves into tourist attractions and their historical smugglers into dashing pirates. ‘Smugglers’ Adventure’ in Hastings was once the site of battles between customs and smugglers, and the publicity invites the visitor to ‘relive the dangers and excitement that faced the smugglers and Customs officers’ when some ‘40,000 men were involved in this illicit, profitable but dangerous trade’ (www.smugglersadventure.co.uk). The Hastings caves are real, with caverns and tunnels that genuinely did witness the ‘illicit trade’ of smuggling. The ‘themed experience’, however, owes more to the Disney attraction Pirates of the Caribbean than it does to its own history, with its animatronic figures and props of oak casks, muskets and galleon ships. Littlehampton Harbour Park, also on the British South Coast, not far from Hastings, has erased its harbour history entirely in favour of piracy; its promotional leaflet is adorned with the skull and crossbones and features smiling children dressed in the eye patches, headscarves and stripy tee shirts that are the iconic pirate uniform.
Such images suggest the extent to which the pirate is a paradoxical figure, at once engaged in illegal and aggressive acts and a popular hero. The folk hero pirate is a figure safely relegated to the past, far removed from any contemporary acts of piracy. The pirate, like variants of the cowboy figure, conforms to Eric Hobsbawm's definition of bandits as ‘kinds of robbers, namely those who are not regarded as simple criminals by public opinion’ (Hobsbawm 1969: 13). The confusion in the naming of the pirate figure also suggests ambiguity; the pirate, buccaneer and corsair are all forms of sea adventurer, and while the names are often used interchangeably, they represent different histories and differing degrees of legality. While pirates committed illegal acts of robbery, the buccaneers were privateers, sometimes sanctioned by their governments, and the corsairs represented a semi-legitimised form of sea attack. All, however, fit into Hobsbawm's category of bandits, along with Robin Hood and the cowboy.1 Like cowboys and explorers, pirates are maverick figures in search of their fortunes in uncharted territories,2 although pirates, unlike the cowboy, who is most often envisaged as a lone spirit, assert their power collectively. While some buccaneers might have had some form of legitimacy, other seafarers are lawless characters who profit from their misdeeds, but all are still celebrated as carnival folk heroes. Depending on patriotic allegiance, a seafaring adventurer can become either a naval hero or a blackguard pirate in the popular imagination.
The pirate is the obverse of the explorer figure; while equally a product of Empire, piracy represents a criminalised side of global trading. The pirate is a figure of both impoverishment and luxury, with no regular income but with access to exotic goods and possible treasure. The pirate's combination of excess and poverty is embodied in the ragged velvets and silks that parody the clothes of a wealthy eighteenth-century gentleman and, fitting for carnival, have a degree of camp.3 Like the Western hero Leatherstocking, the pirate's costume demonstrates that this is a figure who belongs in two worlds, a creature of social and economic ambiguity:
He is an outsider and a rebel, a poor man who refuses to accept the normal roles of poverty, and establishes his freedom by means of the only resources within reach of the poor, strength, bravery, cunning and determination. It sets him in opposition to the hierarchy of power, wealth and influence, he is not one of them. … The more successful he is as a bandit, the more he is both a representative and champion of the poor and a part of the system of the rich. (Hobsbawm 1969: 76)
The pirate expresses too the pleasures of overindulgence, particularly rum and women, as celebrated in song and in the Disney attraction Pirates of the Caribbean.4 The popular image of the pirate is masculine although, as Jo Stanley has demonstrated, women were very significant figures on pirate ships and also featured large in maritime stories (see Stanley 1995). Historically, there were certainly women pirates – the English pirate Ann Bonney is an equivalent figure in popular mythology to the cowgirl Annie Oakley – but they are rendered entirely absent in the theme park. The popular tale of the woman kidnapped by pirates (re-enacted in the Pirates of the Caribbean feature films) had a similar currency to the Western ‘captivity’ narratives of women abducted by Indians. Women in the popular genre of the pirate tale are present only as marginal figures, as objects of barter and acquisition. In the Disneylands’ Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, women are objects of consumption, chased by marauding male pirates.5
The urtext of shipwreck and desert island survival is, of course, Daniel Defoe's The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner, first published in 1719 (with a sequel the following year). Defoe's novel entirely refuses the spirit of rebellion of the seafaring voyager but chooses instead, as Marx pointed out, to celebrate bourgeois enterprise (see Rogers 1972). Robinson Crusoe makes use of many of the already standard tropes of chapbook tales of shipwreck and piracy, and confirmed them in a parable of the castaway. The sea storm, the pirates and the noble native savage, which are the currency of the genre, all make an appearance in the novel – as do the coves, lagoons and creeks of the theme park pirate landscape. Defoe was a singularly patriotic Englishman, and his island-stranded hero will not surrender the accoutrements and values of the English gentleman. Crusoe is raised in a ‘good family’ and runs away to sea, a sin for which he sees his subsequent trials as just and godly punishment. He fights pirates, is shipwrecked and discovers not just Man Friday but a tribe of noble savages on the island, and overcomes all to be reunited with his wife, fortune and God.
Robinson Crusoe is a key text in the history of the novel form, in its claim to be historical truth rather than fiction. As Walpole does in The Castle of Otranto, Defoe claims that he is the editor of a found manuscript. Defoe presents Robinson Crusoe as an authentic account of a shipwreck survivor, and he would also claim authenticity for his 1725 New Voyage Round the World, which charts an entirely fictional voyage. He chooses the form of an apparent autobiography, a form that was regularly used in faked narratives of exploration and in stories of the American West. As in tales of the chapbooks, ballads and superstition, there is some basis of fact in the narrative of a sailor who is washed up on an island, but there is no fixed point origin to be found. Pierre Macherey has cited Robinson Crusoe as a tale that is preoccupied with origins:
In 1719, that is to say before his time, Defoe, that brilliant journalist, initiates – in all senses of the word, dynamic, ludic, publicising – the theme of the man on an island. … He made the island the indispensable setting, the scene for an ideological motif which was only beginning to emerge: the meditation on origins. (Macherey 1978: 240)
The text of Robinson Crusoe has itself been the subject of many myths of origin. R.J. Broadbent is among the critics who have attempted to trace the origins of Crusoe's story, and one of many (see Rogers 1972) who claims the case of Alexander Selkirk as the source: ‘Defoe, it has been stated, derived his idea for this story from the adventures of one Alexander Selkirk, a Scotchman who had been a castaway on the Island of Juan Fernandez’ (Broadbent 1901: 213). Philip Edwards is among those6 who have firmly debunked this derivation; he instead argues that the narrative of Robinson Crusoe, along with other Defoe's fictions, represents a collage of elements from seafaring histories and fictions; as he puts it, ‘Defoe (was) ruthlessly pillaging genuine accounts of life at sea to create his wholly inauthentic Robinson Crusoe and Captain Singleton’ (Edwards 1994: 187).
Defoe was a journalist who is known to have read numerous travellers’ tales, many of them involving shipwreck and marooned sailors. The folk tale of the notorious Jack Avery, familiar from pamphlets and legend variously as the ‘King of the Pirates’ and ‘of Madagascar’, clearly shaped Defoe's Captain Singleton (1720) and must be an element in the story of Crusoe. Avery's story had been published in several claimed biographies and autobiographies; one version, The Life and Adventures of Captain John Avery, the Famous English Pirate (rais'd from a Cabbin-Boy to a King) Now in Possession of Madagascar, was published in 1709. Avery appeared in chapbook woodcuts, striding across ‘his’ island, shaded by a palm parasol carried by a black ‘native’. This is an image that would be regularly imitated in illustrations to Robinson Crusoe, to the extent that it has become a metonymic icon of the narrative. A flag with crossbones, a galleon in the distance and a palm tree are other elements in these images of Avery that would become the stock signifiers of pirate and desert island tales.
Illustrations were not initially a significant element to Robinson Crusoe; in its first edition, it appeared with only a ‘portrait’ of Crusoe and a single map. The novel's subsequent success meant that it was rapidly reproduced in numerous abridged versions for adults and children, which did feature illustrations. Thomas Stothard was commissioned to produce engravings for a 1790 edition of Defoe's text, which ‘changed hands many times and were still in use 100 years later’ (Muir 1989: 21). It is through these illustrations and subsequent theatre and pantomime versions of Robinson Crusoe that Defoe's narrative came to be condensed into a set of key characters and events: Man Friday, the island, the shipwreck and the discovery of the footprint. These popular versions served to establish Crusoe as a Western Everyman who settles and colonises an exotic territory (and man) and reasserts Christian order. As Patrick Parrinder puts it,
The mythical Crusoe is an English pragmatist and a universal man; it is his achievements as a settler, colonist, and mentor of Friday that are remembered, not his religious visions or his destiny as a wanderer. (Parrinder 2006: 77)
This ‘mythical’ Crusoe was abridged, parodied and copied from its first publication; the novel spawned an entire genre of imitations, which came to be known as ‘Robinsonades’, a title that described a wide range of variants of the original. As Kevin Carpenter7 explains,
[The Robinsonade was] a term current in France and Germany around a decade after the appearance of Robinson Crusoe. … It was coined to characterize the dozens of French and German imitations which announced their derivation by including Crusoe's Christian name in their titles. … Robinsonades proliferated rapidly in Germany, an ‘epidemic’ as one contemporary called it, reaching its peak around 1760, by which time some forty two had appeared. (Carpenter 1984: 14–15)
As Robinson Crusoe proliferated in Europe, it became an iconic text for English popular culture, the subject of satires and of commentaries from every nineteenth-century notable writer, from Sir Walter Scott to Karl Marx (see Rogers 1972). The emphasis in the original novel on Christian values and the focus on Crusoe's mission to cultivate his island translated very neatly into Victorian and imperial values. According to Peter Hulme, Robinson Crusoe is a key text in that it both references past histories of seafaring and shapes future forms of the genre.8 It is a novel that both celebrates a heritage of British trading and looks forward to the height of the British Empire:
By looking back beyond the great merchant companies to the age of Raleigh, Defoe could endow Robinson Crusoe with something of the heroism of the adventurer who risked life and limb as well as capital, therefore, adventitiously, providing a link between the Elizabethan era and the true age of adventure in the second half of the nineteenth century – an age which, through Ballantyne, Marryat and many others, sought the purity of adventure precisely through rewriting the story of Robinson Crusoe. (Hulme 1986: 184)
The Crusoe story was rewritten, imitated and plagiarised throughout the nineteenth century; some versions, like the Robinsonades, only made use of Crusoe's name and the island setting. The original text continued to be published by the significant publishers of nineteenth-century popular illustrated editions: Longmans, Cassell, Routledge, Blackie and Macmillan. Editions of Robinson Crusoe appeared with more and more illustrations; Cruickshank produced an edition in 1831 with thirty-eight wood engravings. The novel was reproduced in simpler versions for children, as in an 1838 reprint for ‘The Children's Library’. There were penny abridgements, with pictorial frontispieces. Variants of the novel were often published both as an illustrated volume and in penny serial issues. By the late nineteenth century, the name ‘Crusoe’ was enough to signify a tale of adventure and moral piety. There was even a female version of Crusoe: ‘Robina Crusoe and her Lonely Island Home’ appeared in the Girl's Own Paper in 1883. Other titles that clearly owe more than a debt to Defoe include the following: The Sailor Crusoe (1866) by Percy B. St John and George Emmett's Crusoe Jack, the King of the Thousand Islands, published in thirty-eight illustrated parts (1870). The Rival Crusoes was published as a novel in 1881 and issued as a part-work in 1895; Three Boy Crusoes; or Perseverance & Indolence appeared in 1905 (Barry Ono Collection, British Library).
The reproduction of the same elements in illustrations for Robinson Crusoe (many already familiar from chapbook and ballad woodcuts) established a clear iconography for Robinson Crusoe, for Robinsonades and for all such tales of shipwreck and desert islands. The condensation of the narrative into key scenes, sets and characters made it ripe for theatre, and particularly for pantomime. Robinson Crusoe; or Harlequin Man Friday was one of the earliest pantomime productions; first produced at Drury Lane in 1781, it brought together the basic plot of the novel with figures from the Harlequinade. Robinson Crusoe is one of the few pantomime stories that can be identified as an ‘authored’ text. The pantomime historian R.J. Broadbent has claimed it as a product of the English imagination: ‘Of all our Pantomime subjects, “Robinson Crusoe” … we can properly lay claim to as being “of our own make” so to speak, and written by Daniel De Foe, and, in the main, from the imagination’ (Broadbent 1901: 212). Robinson Crusoe would survive as a subject for pantomime well into the twentieth century and beyond (elements of the plot continue to figure in popular theatre and entertainments). Crusoe was the subject of an operetta with music by Offenbach, first performed in Paris in 1867, the scenario shaped by pantomime versions of the novel. The figure of Crusoe was often used as a hook to exploit the drama and popular imagery of the shipwreck and island, and as a means of theming a Harlequinade.
If Robinson Crusoe is the most iconic of island adventurers, he is part of a well-established and growing genre; Crusoe's shipwreck and survival belong in a long tradition of seafaring adventure and the voyage imaginaire. Robinson Crusoe has been claimed for the genre of the ‘imaginary voyage’, a form of adventure tale that flourished in the eighteenth century and that Jules Verne would popularise for the nineteenth.9Philip Gove has defined the genre as a ‘combination of travellers’ tales, real or imagined, and interest in distant lands, known or unknown’ (Glanfield 2003: 16). Edwards demonstrates that there was a ‘flood tide’ of eighteenth-century ‘voyage literature’; this literature included ‘official’ reports, accounts of voyages written up by journalists or publishers’ hacks, romanticised autobiographies and passenger tales and fictions, which like Defoe, often laid claim to authenticity. Tobias Smollett was another populariser of the sea voyage genre, which the Victorian writers R.M. Ballantyne and Captain Frederick Marryat would later emulate. Unlike Defoe, Smollett did have some experience of the sea, as a naval surgeon's mate (the basis for his 1748 novel Roderick Random), but his sea tales were no less focused than Defoe's on adventure and romance. The preface to his Compendium of Authentic and Entertaining Voyages (1756) promised to cut out ‘dry descriptions’ of naval technicalities, but instead to give the reader the excitement and drama of life at sea.
The British explorer and navigator Captain James Cook was a real-life seafaring adventurer, whose voyages had a wide following in the press. Triumphalist accounts of his excursions were necessary to secure funding (Edwards 1994: 126), and published accounts of his travels were written for The Gentleman's Magazine, Cook's ‘journals’ being actually authored by several different hands. Like Napoleon in Egypt, Cook was accompanied in his travels by artists. His own (and only) version of his exploits, A Journey towards the South Pole, was published in 1777: ‘illustrated with maps, charts and a variety of portraits and views’. Cook's ship and his landings in exotic climes were also the subject of numerous paintings. These images of Cook's ships would go on to shape the image of the galleon that is now familiar from children's picture books and actualised in the pirate ships of the pantomime and theme park. Cook's adventures became a standard subject for popular biographies published throughout the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; an 1874 version is titled The Adventures and Vicissitudes of Captain Cook, Mariner: Showing How by Honesty, Truth and Perseverance a Poor, Friendless Orphan Boy Became a Great Man. With Illustrations. Cook's popular image as a self-made hero was confirmed in Europe by the writing of Jules Verne; Captain Cook features large in his history of The Great Navigators of the XVIII Century. Published by Hetzel in 1886, Verne's history was profusely illustrated with engravings of islands, natives and maps. Cook as a subject combined education and adventure: he could be used to instruct on geography, naval and imperial history, cartography and seafaring. His dramatic death (reputedly stabbed by a Hawaiian chieftain) was the subject of numerous paintings, many reproduced in popular prints. Cook was a natural subject for boy's own stories, and he would feature in boy's magazines and comics well into the twentieth century.
The iconography and popular histories of sea adventurers neatly fitted with a patriotic celebration of British seafaring triumph. The British Empire was dependent on shipping, and so shipping news was significant in the press and in illustrated journals, as was patriotic triumph in the destruction of alien fleets. Images of ships and island landscapes, familiar from illustrations of Cook's voyages, made spectacular backdrops for the panoramas and dioramas that were the current fashion. Sea battles in which the English were victorious were a favourite subject for early nineteenth-century spectacles and magazine illustration; the first issue of The Illustrated London News advertised its special feature ‘View of the Battle of Waterloo’ at the Panorama, Leicester Square. The Napoleonic Wars provided opportunity for triumphal popular celebration; sea battles featured prominently in shows and displays. Sadler's Wells Theatre in London used its proximity to a river to its advantage, and specialised in sea battle extravaganzas, as George Speaight explains:
Sadler's Wells Theatre … was assured of a plentiful water supply, and used it to the full in reproducing a series of most elaborate aquatic dramas; a receptacle for water, measuring 100 feet by 40 feet, was installed on the stage, in which mimic naval engagements of every kind were freely represented. A whole series of dramatic aquatic spectacles can be traced to this stage and to other theatres which copied its example. (Speaight 1946: 30)
The aquatic spectacle survives in the contemporary theme park, and not only in the extravagant displays of fountains and water chutes. In a display that would not have shamed Sadler's Wells, Epcot World has featured an Electrical Water Pageant, starring King Neptune and an assortment of mermaids and sea creatures.
The battle or sea storm made for extravagant stage sets; rolling screens that provided the illusion of a ship in full sail were a popular sequence in pantomimes and spectacles. Pirates featured regularly as characters in popular theatre; John Gay's sequel to The Beggar's Opera was Polly (1728), in which Macheath is recast as a buccaneer and Polly pursues him to the West Indies. The sea battle as popular entertainment continued well into the late nineteenth century; ‘Our Naval Victories’ was a patriotic display at the International Universal Exhibition held at Earl's Court in 1898, which featured large models of ships and explosives (Glanfield 2003: 72). Patriotic pride also fuelled a fashion for shipwreck melodramas in the early nineteenth century, a form of theatre described by Martin Meisel:
Nautical melodrama and its descendants continued to provide opportunity for scenes of shipwreck. … Every actual nautical disaster to capture the popular imagination was re-created in the theatre, with means that were sometimes as remarkable pictorially as mechanically. (Meisel 1983: 197)
Among these many nautical dramas was Sir Francis Drake and Iron Arm, ‘A New Naval Spectacle, as performed for the first time, on Monday, August 4, 1800’. This was another case of a story of a sea adventure that claimed to be based on historical truth, ‘on the Life of Sir Francis Drake’ (Cross 1809: 2), but which came encrusted with myth and enhanced theatricality. The performance was indeed a spectacle, requiring a cast of Spaniards, mules and a crew of sailors. The sets offer a strange combination of the picturesque and patriotic fervour; the backdrop for much of the play is ‘a romantic View … a wild bridge over a waterfall’, while the climatic scene is of Spanish and English fleets in battle, with the curtain falling ‘to the huzzas of the gallant and victorious British Fleet’ (Cross 1809: 32).
The shipwreck and sea battle continued to be a strong presence in carnival sites throughout the nineteenth century. ‘Sea-on-land amusement’ was a popular fairground attraction; the seascapes and battles of the earlier dioramas were here extended into three-dimensional panoramas and augmented with mechanical displays. The Paris Exhibition of 1894 displayed the ‘Ocean Wave’; the same attraction was later installed at Manchester's Belle Vue pleasure gardens. The cumulative effect of these stage shows and spectacles was to develop a set of synecdoches associated with the genre: the galleon in full sail, the shipwreck, the swirling sea. Toy theatre plays reproduced the same iconography in sheets printed as souvenirs of the successes of the London stage, and nautical plays inevitably found their way into juvenile drama. Black Eyed Susan; or, Pirates Ashore is an example of a pirate narrative that began in oral culture and that crossed over into a range of media. What had once been a sea shanty became a popular song (John Gay contributed one version); it became a stage nautical melodrama in 1867, and was among the most successful of toy theatre productions a year later.10Black Eyed Susan was written up as a nautical romance and appeared as a serial in popular magazines, with accompanying toy theatre plates.
Patriotic re-enactments of sea battles were also produced for the toy theatre; The Battle of the Alma was published as a set of sheets for toy theatres in 1854, within a few weeks of the battle itself. The success of Robinson Crusoe as a pantomime and drama also ensured its appearance in toy theatre versions (one version is still in print as a Pollock's toy theatre set), where Defoe's text came together with the vogue for nautical melodrama and patriotic display. Robinson Crusoe or the Bold Buccaneers was published as a Hodgson's Juvenile Drama in 1822, based on an 1817 production at Covent Garden. Skelt's Juvenile Drama later produced another version in which Crusoe was accompanied on his island by a wife, and develops a thriving farm in a backdrop of palm trees. The play climaxes with the appearance of a ship in full sail sporting the Union Jack. Shipwrecks, bandits and pirates were the most popular scenarios for toy theatre dramas. In Speaight's catalogue of juvenile drama, plays of buccaneers, brigands, corsairs and pirates are the dominant category, with over twenty plays with such terms in their title. Plays such as Blackbeard the Pirate, The Brigand and The Brigand's Son far outnumber dramas with fairy tale and Gothic themes. The shipwreck could be borrowed for a range of genres, as it is with the Gothic and the fantastic in the 1827 toy theatre play The Flying Dutchman or the Phantom Ship.11
As the set for Sir Francis Drake had suggested in 1800, the spectacle of sea voyages and shipwrecks could combine aspects of both the romantic picturesque and of popular patriotism. The wildness of a stormy sea and the battle against the elements that were central to the nautical drama would also be attractive subjects for the Romantics. Both Wordsworth and Coleridge reconfigured Crusoe as a Romantic hero.12 Coleridge wrote his own version of the shipwreck drama in The Ancient Mariner, which was badly reviewed at the time (perhaps because its subject was so close to the genre of popular nautical melodramas). It nonetheless went into several editions, one illustrated by Gustave Doré in 1876, with appropriately romantic images of storm and battling waves and a shipwreck, not far removed from those of theatrical sets.
It is Byron, however, who made the most use of the erotic and legendary qualities of the pirate and the potential of the remote island. The Corsair was published in 1814, sold out its first 10,000 copies in a single day and by 1818 had gone into ten editions. Written in the already archaic form of heroic couplets, Conrad, Byron's pirate hero, served to confirm and to further romanticise a popular construction of life on the ocean wave. A contemporary reviewer recognised the extent to which Byron was working within an already established genre of pirate poems: ‘We have, in our popular poetry, the exploits of buccaneers, freebooters and savages – and pictures to shudder at, of remorse, revenge and insanity’ (Edinburgh Review 1814, quoted in Rutherford 1970: 56). The success of The Corsair extended beyond the readership of poetry; it was to be the subject of five ballets between 1826 and 1856; the 1856 version performed at the Paris Opera remains in the ballet repertoire.13The Corsair as poem and ballet is working with tropes of the pirate genre that are still in use; the dashing hero, the Pirate Isle and swashbuckling are all familiar from Hollywood, and the narrative of The Corsair was taken up by early cinema, filmed in 1914 by the Eclectic Film Company. Byron himself made use of the pirate's dangerous charm in his own celebrity persona, posing for a portrait in a headscarf and cutlass.
Celebrity writers known for their success in other genres also turned their attention to tales of smuggling and shipwreck. Scott, never one to shun a proven popular form, had touched on piracy in 1817 with his narrative poem Harold the Dauntless. He went on to publish The Pirate in 1821 in a lavishly illustrated edition with chapter illustrations and plates; it was to last for over a century as another iconic text of the genre. This novel was subject to much the same process of secondary circulation as Robinson Crusoe had been, if not quite to the same degree. As Andrew Wawn explains,
[C]ountless readers all over the English-speaking world … read and enjoyed Sir Walter Scott's novel … the work remained readily available for a hundred years, either as an individual novel or in successive Victorian and Edwardian reprintings and repackagings. The Pirate was also imitated, illustrated, epitomised, excerpted for children, set to music, dramatised on the London stage within three weeks of publication. (Wawn 1996: 1)
Scott's Redgauntlet, a tale of Cumberland smugglers set in the eighteenth century, also went into theatrical form; it was dramatised in 1825 and turned into an opera in 1834. Fenimore Cooper, claimed by many as the American Scott, also wrote pirate genre novels. His The Red Rover (1829) was a tale of a noble seamanship and wicked piracy in the American Revolution, and a favourite of Robert Louis Stevenson. The Red Rover was also staged as a play, and was another successful production that was reproduced for the toy theatre.
At the Disney parks, Adventureland, like Frontierland, is presented as a set of wild sites in need of cultivation. The ‘Swiss Family Treehouse’ is the tallest and most noticeable of the attractions in the area, and is an image of the triumph of Christian enterprise and domesticity. The attraction is based on the 1812 novel Swiss Family Robinson, by Swiss missionary Johann David Wyss, and makes use of the sets from the 1960 Walt Disney film. The Treehouse maintains the illusion that it is sited in an inaccessible place, far from the trappings of civilisation. The 90-foot high Treehouse is of architectural interest as the highest point in the park and resembles the fashionable observatories of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century landscaped garden (see de Bay and Bolton 2000: 276). The Treehouse gives an apparently panoramic view of the collage of geographies and landscapes offered in Adventureland, but the boundaries and workings of the park remain disguised even from that high vantage point. The ‘New Guinea’ island on which the original Swiss Family Robinson were shipwrecked was described by Wyss as a ‘botanical garden’; as contemporary critics pointed out, the flora and fauna described included more species than could possibly exist in a single geographical location; the planting of Adventureland uses a similarly improbable range of flora. Wyss's novel was another narrative of the taming of nature and of natives; it directly references Robinson Crusoe but adds the dimension of family values through the device of washing an entire family overboard. The novel was first published in English in 1814 by the Juvenile Library under the title The Family Robinson Crusoe: or, Journal of a Father Shipwrecked with His Wife and Children on an Uninhabited Island.
As in the English publication of Perrault and Grimm's fairy tales, Wyss's text was subject to translations and revisions that took considerable liberties with the original. The novel was abridged and adapted for children, and the more tedious of Wyss's (lengthy) pieties excised, to become a popular success, illustrated and issued in various forms throughout the nineteenth century; versions of Wyss's tale continue to have a life as ‘classic’ children's books. Cassell produced an edition in six monthly parts between 1869 and 1870, the translator freely admitting to his considerable corrections and describing his translation as ‘an entirely remodelled edition’. The novel appeared in France as The New Swiss Family Robinson and, like the English translations, toned down some of the more verbose Christian sentiments of the original. Nonetheless, the novel was seen as a parable of Christian settlement in Europe and America; it was revised for an American audience by the Western writer Owen Wister in 1882. The French edition was edited by Hetzel, Verne's publisher, who specialised in elaborate illustrated editions; he printed an introduction that emphasised the educational potential of the novel's botanical and geographical details. A condensed English edition with the title The Swiss Family Robinson was published with ‘300 illustrations’ by different artists in 1870; Frederick Warne published an equally lavishly illustrated edition in 1877, later reissued as a cheaper ‘Chandos Classic’. The variations and reworkings of the text continued into film versions of the novel; RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) Pictures first produced a film version in 1940. In 1960 Disney brought the novel to the screen in the relatively new and exciting formats of colour and widescreen, its elaborate sets ensuring the novel's presence in the Disney parks.
A key figure at Disneyland Paris, Jules Verne is another novelist who would inevitably turn his hand to tales of piracy and shipwreck. Verne was clearly very familiar with sea voyage writings of the eighteenth century, as the second volume of his history of great travellers devoted to the ‘Great Navigators’ demonstrates. Verne was to make much use of this knowledge in his fiction, which regularly features seafaring voyages. In the 1873 Around the World in Eighty Days, Phileas Fogg travels by pack boats from Suez to Bombay and from Calcutta to Hong Kong and Japan. Unsurprisingly (in terms of the novel's cheerful pillaging of scenes from popular culture), he experiences storms at sea. The illustrations to Verne's novel evoke the conventions of the stock shipwrecks and storms in chapbook woodcuts and theatre sets. Verne was also a writer of the pirate romance; Facing the Flag (1896) features a pirate villain, while The Mysterious Island (1875) has echoes of both Defoe and Wyss, and features a ragged ship's crew that would later become very familiar from Treasure Island. Verne's use of the pirate and island motifs demonstrates the extent to which the maritime romance (with or without pirates) had become a standardised genre with its own narrative and pictorial conventions.
A horde of popular nautical novels appeared throughout the nineteenth century, some written out of seafaring experience but many others reworking the established plots and settings of the pirate or island romance. Pirates and buccaneers were regularly featured in illustrated papers as the subjects of serial fictions. The 1835 History of the Pirates, Smugglers, etc. of All Nations was among the first titles produced for the popular publisher Edward Lloyd (James 1974: 29). Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Pirates of Penzance, or the Slave of Duty (1879) testifies to the popularity of the pirate romance on the stage and its place in popular culture, now such a firmly established genre that it could be spoofed.14
The patriotic story of seafaring adventure and Christian instruction fitted the Victorian imperial frame neatly and was a significant element in a burgeoning fiction for young people, especially boys. Robinson Crusoe continued to be reconfigured throughout the nineteenth century, now as a tale of Victorian enterprise, in a process that Peter Hulme has described as ‘the imperial production of Robinson Crusoe as a boy's adventure’ (Hulme 1986: 222). One of the key figures in the ‘imperial production’ of the maritime adventure was Captain Frederick Marryat (his title important in invoking the authenticity of his fiction).15 Marryat was instrumental in turning the nautical romance into a form for juvenile readers, writing his own variant of The Swiss Family Robinson in Masterman Ready, or the Wreck of the Pacific (1842). Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho! (1855) evoked the glory days of Sir Francis Drake in his fictional marine adventurer, Sir Amyas Leigh, Knight. The Coral Island,16R.M. Ballantyne's 1858 novel of three young boys shipwrecked on an island (where they meet with pirates and cannibals before being rescued by a Christian missionary), fitted all the established tropes of sea and island adventure into an imperial and moral fable and was the ‘most popular boys’ story of the century’ (Sutherland 1989: 147). These are some of the key titles and authors among a flood of seafaring adventures published and republished in increasingly cheaply available and illustrated editions throughout the nineteenth century.
As Cook's voyages and Verne's imaginary journeys had been, the nautical romance was swiftly taken up by popular publishing in magazines and serials addressed to boys. The Boy Pirate; or Life on the Ocean, A novel. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings was one such title published in ninety-two weekly parts from 1865. Tales written by Ballantyne and Marryat were regularly serialised in the Boy's Own Paper and in Every Boy's Annual. A regular contributor to the Boy's Own Paper, G.A. Henty, wrote a series focused on piracy, Among Malay Pirates. According to Philip Warner, ‘[t]he perils and hardships of maritime life were never glossed over by the B.O.P, possibly because the paper wished to discourage boys from running away to sea’ (Warner 1977: 93), a position supported by such titles as ‘A Terrible Tale of the Sea’ and ‘Wrested from the Deep’. These fictions of piracy and island adventure were supported elsewhere in the papers with educational features and images: sea storms and islands were regular inclusions in ‘miscellanies’, and were used as illustrations to articles on marine history and travel. Boy's Own Paper published regular pictures of shipwrecks and stories of brave boys confronted by piracy; ‘Great Shipwrecks of the World’ was another regular feature. The boy's own papers also published stories with illustrations intended to be cut out and used as toys or in toy theatre sets.17‘Jack Rushton: or, Alone in the Pirate's Lair’ is one example of the magazine story circulating across popular forms, being reprinted as a book from a serial in the Boys of England magazine in 1866, and issued as a play for toy theatres in 1870.
Accounts of seafaring voyages at one level could be edifying and educational; at another, nautical and pirate tales were also about perilous adventure and violent death. The nautical melodrama and the pirate romance were consistent elements in both the penny dreadful and the more instructional boy's own papers; both regularly featured illustrated stories concerned with doomed ships and sea storms with titles such as ‘The Death Ship’ or ‘The Pirate's Bride’. Thomas Wright bewailed the vulgar ‘garbage’ of the contemporary boys’ ‘dreadful’ magazines, and it is noticeable that the titles he cites are dominated by tales of piracy and banditry: ‘the existing race of dreadfuls – The Boy Highwayman, The Boy Brigand, The Boy Pirate, The Boy King of the Outlaws, &c., are modern inventions’ (‘On a Possible Popular Culture’ 1881, quoted in Bristow 1991: 10). Wright was mistaken in seeing these tales as ‘modern inventions’, for many were not far removed from chapbook accounts of piracy and banditry, while others reproduced stories familiar from the Robinsonades and toy theatre. The island adventure could, despite Wright's distaste, be educational and used to serve the purposes of rational recreation; it imparted lessons in geography, botany and natural history (as well as promoting Christian and family values), as it had in Swiss Family Robinson.
The emblematic boy's story of islands and piracy, Treasure Island, emerged from a context in which the combination of the boy hero, the island and piracy was a very familiar narrative across a range of forms of popular culture. The novel is, in Bristow's phrase, the ‘perfection of a tried-and-tested genre’ (Bristow 1991: 95); by the time Stevenson wrote his nautical romance in 1885 both he and his audience were saturated in images and stories of piracy and seafaring adventure, particularly those of the toy theatre. Stevenson's essay ‘Random Memories’ (Stevenson 1922) repeatedly refers to his immersion in the popular press and charts his own intertextuality, particularly with Robinson Crusoe and the plays of the toy theatre. In another essay, ‘Popular Authors’, Stevenson uses a representative writer of penny fiction who is, significantly, a writer of naval and shipping adventure. Stevenson nonetheless describes the genesis of Treasure Island as deriving from his own boyhood imagining of an island map:
I made the map of an island; it was elaborately and (I thought) beautifully coloured, the shape of it took my fancy beyond expression; it contained harbours that pleased me like sonnets. … As I pored upon my map of ‘Treasure Island’ the future characters of the book began to appear there visibly among imaginary woods. (Stevenson 2005: 237)
These characters and ‘imaginary woods’ owed a great deal (as he acknowledges elsewhere) to Stevenson's pleasure in the toy theatre and his familiarity with ‘sheets of characters such as “Skelt's New Smugglers”’.18 Another essay, ‘Memoirs of an Islet’, frames Stevenson's remembrance explicitly in terms of a toy theatre set: ‘little coloured memories of men and scenes, rigging up (it may be) some especial friend in the attire of a buccaneer’ (Stevenson 1922: 94). Treasure Island followed the pattern of earlier serialised illustrated pirate adventures; it was first issued as a serial in Young Folks in 1881, under the title ‘Treasure Island or the Mutiny of the Hispaniola’, apparently authored by a ‘Captain George North’ (in emulation of Marryat). The first book edition appeared in 1883, with a frontispiece ‘facsimile’ antique map that evokes the sea voyages of the eighteenth century and which is a clear model for the Adventureland maps of the theme park. Kidnapped followed Treasure Island as a serial in Young Folks in 1886, and was published the same year in book form. Stevenson's Treasure Island would go through much the same process as Robinson Crusoe and The Pirate in the rush to abridgements and adaptations. The circulation, however, was even faster because the novel appeared in the period of the mass production of popular texts. Like Crusoe, the characters and settings of Treasure Island would appear as a narrative and set of images across a range of media. Songs were composed, with sheet music covers echoing the palm trees and sand of theatre sets. A school edition appeared in 1903, a musical drama in 1909. Theatrical and pantomime versions continue on into the twenty-first century (Laurel and Hardy, Sooty the Bear, the Muppets and Spike Milligan are among the many cultural icons to have inhabited versions of ‘Treasure Island’). At least one new illustrated edition appeared in every year of the twentieth century.19 The novel that had been so shaped by the toy theatre was itself to become one of the longest-serving juvenile drama titles.
It is, however, the pirates and shipwrecks of Peter Pan that are most closely associated with children and theatre, and J.M. Barrie's play was a regular Christmas event throughout the twentieth century. Peter Pan was first performed in 1904 at the Duke of York's Theatre in London, produced there for the next ten years and then became a standard seasonal production in the West End. It was a great success on the American stage in 1905, a year after the British version. Although ostensibly a straight drama, the play incorporates many of the familiar elements of pantomime, with fairies, flying and exotic sets. Peter Pan, like Treasure Island, emerged from a popular culture saturated in the fables and imagery of piracy; the pirate and the treasure island were by now established as essential ingredients in boys’ games. It has been well documented that the writing of Peter Pan evolved out of pirate adventures that Barrie played in his own childhood and later with the Llewellyn-Davies boys20 (see Lurie 2003: 125; Green 1954). Photographs of their holiday games were published as The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island in 1901, a privately printed book of photographs with captions, with a binding designed to resemble that of Treasure Island. The boys’ games are themselves derived from Treasure Island, Coral Island and The Swiss Family Robinson. Barrie's captions borrow the form and parody the chapter headings of the pirate and island genres, in phrases that are still resonant as place names in theme park sites: ‘Black Lake Island … Primeval Forests … Dead Men's Point’ (see Green 1963: 24). Barrie's imagination, like that of Robert Louis Stevenson before him, was shaped by boy's own stories of shipwreck and maritime adventure, as Barrie was to remember: ‘I spent much of my time staring reflectively at the titles of the boys’ stories in the booksellers’ windows’ (quoted in Green 1963: 117). Peter Pan did not take long to join the titles in the bookseller's window and to become a repeatedly illustrated children's book. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with illustrations by the noted fairy painter Arthur Rackham, appeared in 1906.
Peter Pan cheerfully slings together all the key elements of late nineteenth-century boy's own popular culture, with a smattering of fairy tale romance. It incorporates eighteenth-century sea voyages (Captain Hook sports Captain Cook's wig and frock coat and mimics his name); the galleon ship and rigging are familiar from eighteenth-century panoramas and patriotic spectacles; the first stage productions of Peter Pan even included a ‘Napoleonic Tableau’. There are ‘redskins’ and coonskin hats derived from Fenimore Cooper and his imitators, a crocodile from travel and explorer narratives, mermaids and Tinkerbell from fairy tale, while Peter himself owes something to Robin Goodfellow (he is described in the stage directions as ‘an elfish looking boy in woodland garments’).21Peter Pan, with its encounters of fairies, pirates, Indians and redskins, works across a range of genres. At the Disney parks it is not clear which ‘land’ it belongs in, and it traverses both Fantasyland and Adventureland.
The success of the stage play in London and in New York (where it ran for seven months)22 meant that it was inevitable that it would become a Hollywood film; Peter Pan was first filmed in 1924, scheduled for the Christmas season. The film was made in consultation with Barrie, and The New York Times enthused: ‘a brilliant and entrancing production of this fantasy. … It is not a movie, but a pictorial masterpiece’ (quoted in Parish 1995: 113). Subsequent stagings in the West End and on Broadway were showcases for the theatre and screen stars of the day. In 1950 Boris Karloff appeared in New York as Captain Hook and Mr Darling, with Jean Arthur as Peter. Mary Martin recreated her success in the 1954 Broadway musical version in television specials broadcast in 1955, 1956 and 1960. The film was remade for RKO in 1953, as an animation (which, unlike the female Peter Pans of the stage versions, used a male voice). Disney had been interested in animating Peter Pan from as early as 1935 and negotiated for the rights to the novel and play in 1939; by 1954, he is cited as ‘Mr. Walt Disney, present owner of all film rights in Peter Pan’ (Green 1954: viii). The Disney version of Peter Pan was promoted in a Disney television special in 1951, to advertise Disneyland, and Tinkerbell became a corporate sign for the Disney parks (which she remains). Barrie's admirer, Roger Lancelyn Green, grudgingly accepted the limitations of the 1953 animated film, but bemoaned its departures from the original novel (the Disney film abandoned the stage script entirely). He astutely noted, ‘[t]his Peter Pan is a splendid proof of the complete acceptance of Peter and his adventures into the realms of legend: Barrie the author may not be very evident in the film, but Barrie the myth-maker is there throughout’ (Green 1954: 167). Peter Pan is one of the few authored texts to appear among the genres of the theme park, but his status there is as a legendary character who is positioned in the realm of myth rather than literature.
If J.M. Barrie's character Peter Pan eschewed the feminine and celebrated the shipwreck and the island as boy's own adventures, Henry De Vere Stacpoole's novel The Blue Lagoon gave the Crusoe narrative an erotic charge and reimagined The Swiss Family Robinson in terms of Rousseauesque innocents discovering their sexuality. De Vere Stacpoole was a regular contributor to the Boy's Own Paper and a prolific author of romances, historical and maritime. He had been a ship's doctor and had acquired expertise in the geography and landscapes of the South Sea Islands, knowledge that he puts to use in his island romance, in the tradition of the lavish settings of The Swiss Family Robinson. First published in 1908, The Blue Lagoon: A Romance (one volume in a trilogy) was a huge popular success with its combination of prurience and morality. It rapidly went into sixpenny and sevenpenny editions, with coloured paper covers showing romantic views of a desert island. By 1947 the novel had been published in twenty-one editions, and the title, like Treasure Island before it, was borrowed for popular songs and attached to a range of products (often with remote relevance to the novel). In a preface to the 1947 volume, De Vere Stacpoole himself notes the proliferation of his title, which, he says,
almost at once began to travel the world, leaving behind it all sorts of things other than its readers: Blue Lagoon swimming pools, canoe lakes, bathing beaches, inns and crockery ware. Paris scented itself with a perfume Blue Lagoon. (De Vere Stacpoole 1947: vi)
De Vere Stacpoole was particularly proud of the play version of his novel, first staged by Basil Dean in 1920, which ran for nine months in the West End. Dean's lavish production involved a cast of thirty sailors, the deck of a large sailing ship and a staged shipwreck, all elements in the tradition of marine spectacles and pantomime. The stage directions describe the essential signifiers of the desert island drama, familiar from illustrations and stage productions of Robinson Crusoe: ‘A rough half-wigwam, half tent stands. … At R. are cocoa-nut and palm trees … a waterfall and rock-pool … and Down L are wonderful tropical plants and flowers and trees’ (MacCowan and Mann 1920: 35). These conventions for the island romance continue to shape the landscaping of theme park ‘island’ spaces and the mise en scène of film versions. The success of the stage production and the opportunity it offered for exotic landscapes saw the scenario move into cinema; The Blue Lagoon was first filmed in a British version in 1923, remade in 1949, but its adolescent nudity was most fully exploited in the 1980 Hollywood version. The original text is nonetheless now long forgotten; while the naming of seaside restaurants and cafés in the 1940s and 1950s might still have had some frisson of the text's eroticism, this is entirely gone in theme park references. ‘The Blue Lagoon’ at Thorpe Park offers a space for children to swim; the Disneylands’ Blue Lagoon restaurant resituates the Blue Lagoon in the Caribbean. The menu is printed on an ‘antique’ map of the Atlantic Ocean and features all the signifiers of the pirate romance, with images of a parrot, casks of rum and a galleon ship in full sail.
Early cinema was drawn to spectacles of disaster at sea (which had been regular features in magic lantern shows) and reproduced the popular iconography and tales of shipwreck, treasure islands, lagoons and piracy23 found in theatre and illustration. The proven popular successes of water spectacles and sea storms were clear attractions for the special effects showman Georges Méliès. Méliès filmed a version of The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe in 1902, based on an 1899 theatre production in Paris, which Edison pirated for the American market. Treasure Island was another popular subject for early film, as it had been in theatre, with silent versions appearing in 1908, 1912, 1918 and 1920. The pull of the island story that was such a staple ingredient of the boy's own papers was replicated in the comic book stories that supplanted them. Variants on the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, the Swiss Family Robinson and Jim Hawkins were created in comic strip form. Their travels could be updated to embrace new elements in twentieth-century popular culture (as the boy's own stories had updated them for the late nineteenth century), and could now encompass the new world of outer space. Kevin Carpenter has charted some of the many pirate and desert island titles that appeared from the 1930s:
[C]omics have seen Black Pirates, Yellow Pirates, Reluctant Pirates, Sky Pirates and Space Pirates, Pirate Islands, Tiger Islands, Shark Islands, Cannibal Islands, Sinister Islands, Horror Islands and Islands in Space; Curly Crusoes, Girl Crusoes, numerous shipwrecked schools, at least one Shipwrecked Circus, a Space Family Robinson and a Football Family Robinson. (Carpenter 1984: 92)
Combinations of these titles and elements continue to appear in fairground and seaside attractions; ‘Space Pirates’ is a mechanical coin-operated ride at Brighton Pier. By 1938, the elements of the pirate adventure were so iconic that they could be reproduced as the pieces of a board game, in Waddington's Buccaneer. The playing board is a chart mapping the routes to a treasure island, the cards are a pirate crew and the ships carry treasure and bottles of rum, an indication of quite how condensed and widespread these metonymic icons had become. The title ‘Treasure Island’ was now detached from any text and had become a signifier of any exotically planted location; in 1939 it referred to an artificial island on the site of the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.
As it had been for Byron, the wicked charm of the pirate made for an attractive role for male film celebrities. Errol Flynn's star persona was bound up with seafaring adventure; before becoming an actor he had worked for an Australian shipping company and sailed his own boat to New Guinea in search of gold.24 Flynn was known for his swashbuckling in historical romances;25 his first starring role was as Fletcher Christian in In the Wake of the Bounty, and in 1935 he embodied Captain Blood in Michael Curtiz's film (in a remake of a 1924 version). His star persona as a maverick pirate hero was confirmed in the image of the buccaneer fighting from the ship's rigging in the 1940 The Sea Hawk. Flynn went on to star as variants of the pirate figure, including a 1948 version of The Adventures of Don Juan. The posters, sets and costumes for these movies replicate the motifs of stage sets and magazine illustrations, the galleon, the skull and crossbones, and the boots, tricorn hat and striped shirt of the pirate.
Like the Western, the island and seascape narrative offered vistas and adventure, and were shown to their best advantage on the wide screen. If the pirate and treasure island narrative did not appear in quite the numbers of the Western (perhaps because of its relative expense), the 1950s did see a surge of pirate films (Jaeger 1989: 78). Pirate tales provided Hollywood with another genre that allowed it to assert its superiority over television in the 1950s; the television screen could not give the space that was required for spectacular ships. Pirates were also icons of nonconformity – and particularly welcome in American popular culture of the post-war era.
Some of the best-loved directors and stars contributed to Hollywood versions of the genre in this period. Jacques Tourneur, Raoul Walsh and especially Michael Curtiz all made their contributions to the genre, and all replicated the narratives and settings of the boy's own pirate adventure and the sea storms and battles of the patriotic water spectacle. A director most associated with the musical, Vincent Minnelli, directed Judy Garland in the 1948 The Pirate, along with Gene Kelly – who danced as a pirate with another American icon, the animated Jerry mouse. The pirate was now reclaimed as an American figure, and Yankee Buccaneer appeared in 1952. For Hollywood cinema, buccaneering tended to be situated away from the seas that European and Chinese pirates had sailed (in history and film) and was largely located in the Caribbean (where the Disney attraction is firmly set).
Treasure Island was the basis for the first Disney live-action feature without any animation; filmed on location in England26 in 1950, it was featured as a two-part broadcast on Disneyland TV in 1955, to promote both the park and the film. The Swiss Family Robinson feature film in 1960 was another example of the synergy of the corporation, which made use of the film sets as an attraction for the theme park and brought its stars, Hayley and John Mills, to the opening of ‘The Swiss Family Treehouse’ at Disneyland. The Disney version provided a further condensation of what was already a long line of adaptations and abridgments of Wyss's text. According to the film's director, Walt Disney instructed the producer to compress the novel into its basic elements:
[L]et's throw the whole book out the window! Let's just keep the idea of a Swiss family emigrating, trying to emigrate to America. They get shipwrecked. … Then they make a life on an idyllic island. … Let's make it a wonderful show for the whole family. (Quoted in Parish 1995: 172)
The Disney organisation took the theming of the island and the seafaring adventure to its logical conclusions with their own ‘Treasure Island’27 made out of the Florida swamp lands of Disney World in 1974. In 1998, the Disney Magic and Wonder Cruise Ships launched, to ferry families to another Disney ‘deserted island’, the holiday resort, Castaway Bay. Captain Hook features large in the on-board entertainments while the logo for the cruises features Mickey Mouse in pirate attire.
The theme park Adventureland emerges out of a long history of the mapping of the world by imperial interests, a mapping that produced countless images of galleons, pirates and heroic maritime explorers. The narratives of Treasure Islands and Blue Lagoons found in the theme park are configurations of a voyage literature that has been central in European popular culture. Such travel literature has informed the terrain of adventure stories and popular spectacle to become an integral genre of the carnival site, inevitably signified by a map. Macherey has described the ideological importance of this sign and of what he calls the ‘geographical novel’:
By means of a map the journey is a conquest of the same sort as a scientific adventure. It recreates nature, in so far as it imposes its own norms upon it. The inventory is a form of organisation, and thus of invention. This is the meaning of the geographical novel. (Macherey 1978: 183)
The undiscovered islands where Robinson Crusoe and the Swiss Family Robinson are washed up are initially geographically unspecified places, which remain to be mapped by Western settlers. The theme park literally recreates nature and asks its visitors to map a space that has already been mapped.28 Adventureland may be geographically unspecific, but less because it is unexplored than because it is a conflation of geographies that have already been colonised. The histories of the British, Spanish and French Empires are hauled into the service of a celebration of global trading at the Disney parks: ‘Adventureland bears the mark of all those who have come, conquered and passed on’ (Walt Disney Company 1994: 25). Contemporary commerce is positioned as a global good, in contrast to the lawlessness of the pirates and smugglers of the ‘bad old days’. Although Adventureland may be coded and landscaped as a wild space, it has as many retail outlets and restaurants as other sites in the park. Hurricanes and pirates may threaten, but the Treasure Island and the Blue Lagoon suggest the possibility of solitude and the abundance of nature; both qualities are notably absent, and therefore particularly desirable, in the carnival or theme park site. The desert island, the water features and the lavish plantings of the Adventureland site give an illusion of freedom from constraint and seem to allow the illicit pleasures of the buccaneer. But the way back from the Treasure Islands and Blue Lagoons of Adventureland must always be through Main Street; there is always a return to regulation.
Fairground Attractions - Notes and Bibliography:
1. To confirm Hobsbawm's point, the narratives of the cowboy and the pirate are often closely aligned in the theme park: Legoland's pirates exist in a space devoted to the Gold Rush, and their pirate map marks the Black Hills and Indian territories of the Western genre. Tokyo's Disneyland situates its island adventures in ‘Westernland’.
3. A story cited in Turley's (1999) account of pirates tells of a pirate ship that had damaged sails after a sea storm; the crew had to raid their stolen loot to replace them, and sailed out of harbour with bright pink silk sails.
4. In 1997 it was reported that the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disney parks would no longer feature male pirates chasing young women, but instead would express their taste for excess in terms of gluttony. The male pirates, however, continue to chase young women: ‘the mechanical swashbucklers will still pillage and guzzle rum, but they will no longer chase skirts. Instead, park officials said, they will run after women who carry trays of food’ (The Observer, 5 January 1997).
5. Ann Bonney was represented as a character in some of the Hollywood pirate films of the 1950s and 1960s, and featured as the heroine in Jacques Tourneur's 1951 Ann of the Indies. More recently, although the sequence begins with the abduction of the heroine, the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean film series has allowed for women pirates to be members of the crew; by the 2007 third film of the sequence the film's heroine is recruited as a pirate herself. This does not, however, feature in the theme park attraction.
6. See also West (1997).
7. Carpenter has compiled a comprehensive search of the pirate theme in popular fiction for young readers in the nineteenth century. He argues that ‘[i]f one could isolate one single theme which exemplifies the historical development of nineteenth century English juvenile fiction, it would have to be the island story’ (Carpenter 1984: 7).
8. The same ability to simultaneously cherish the past and to look forward to the future is found in Wyeth's Swiss Family Robinson, another popular success that would survive throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
17. Pirate titles for the juvenile drama in this period include: Adrift on the Spanish Main: A Story of the Old Buccaneers, 1885; The Pirates’ Isle, 1885; and Morgan the Buccaneer; or the Terror of the Seas, 1890 (see Speaight 1999).
18. In the recorded memory of Mr Benjamin Pollock, Stevenson was particularly fascinated by plays about pirates and highwaymen (see Speaight 1999: 27).
22. See Green (1954) for a history of stage productions of Peter Pan and the draft scenario of the Disney film.
23. Parish (1995) has painstakingly charted the output of Hollywood screen versions of pirate tales, from the 1914 The Corsair (based on Byron's poem) to Hook, Spielberg's version of Peter Pan, in 1992.