Among the attractions that will vanish for at least 18 months during the construction of the new land devoted to Star Wars, there's a good chance that at least one, located on Tom Sawyer Island, might not return: Dead Man's Grotto.

After the enormous (and unexpected) success of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the folks at Walt Disney Imagineering began developing an extensive makeover of Tom Sawyer Island into something that would expand the presence of Pirates into a much larger area of the park, and also motivate more people to make use of Tom Sawyer Island.


Two things led to a half-hearted final product. First, fans loved Tom Sawyer Island (even though most folks didn't visit it) because it had been designed by Walt Disney himself and it was a great (and generally safe) place to let your kids run around while parents sat in the shade. It is an important part of the park's history.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, the budget for the project was repeatedly cut so the end result was still pretty much Tom Sawyer Island with a few pirate things worked lightly into it, including a short-lived Captain Jack Sparrow Meet and Greet at the far end of the island where few people seem to go.


The most notable and interesting part of the addition took place in what had previously been "Injun Joe's Cave."


And when the Island was Pirate-ized, the cave became Dead Man's Grotto.


While the overlay on the exterior parts of the island was fairly modest, there was a lot of technological fun to be found in Dead Man's Grotto. Among these were the Treasure Chest containing the heart of Davy Jones (whose voice could only be heard if you touched the chest and were standing directly in front of it), and some more sophisticated pieces. What I'd really like to show you is the prison cell housing a pirate in chains whose face changes into a horrible skeleton when the moonlight shines on it—this is something I've dragged many well-versed park veterans to see and they were not only impressed (and creeped out) but had never heard of it. It used interior projection technology that Imagineering would later put to excellent use for the faces of the Seven Dwarfs in the Mine Train in Walt Disney World and The Hatbox Ghost in The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Unfortunately the early use of the technology required the cave to be so dark that it's almost impossible to videotape (at least with my camera).

Instead, here's a short video of another vignette located within Dead Man's Grotto, this one starring the pirates Pintel and Ragetti. It's guaranteed to make folks jump.