The Mark Twain

Disneyland Paris used to own two steamboats, the Mark Twain and the Molly Brown. Today, the Mark Twain haunts other waters.

The story of the Mark Twain

The history of the steamboat goes back to the creation of the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Walt Disney, during the conception of his project, had the idea of a paddle-wheel boat cruise on a man-made river. The project was not lacking in ambition, since this type of boat had not been built for half a century! This did not scare Walt, who even financed the boat with his own money. A great fan during his childhood of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, he named the boat after its author: Mark Twain (real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens).

In the end, the construction of the boat was both a technical and aesthetic success, and Walt Disney even took the opportunity to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary with Liliane on the Mark Twain, a few days before the official opening of Disneyland.

Later, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1971 and 1983, also offered guests cruises aboard a sternwheeler steamboat; the Tokyo boat was even named after Mark Twain.

A poster proposes to explore the "Rivers of the Far West" aboard the Molly Brown or the Mark Twain. It has a retro look.

A Mark Twain at EuroDisneyland

Pour EuroDisneyland qui doit ouvrir en 1992, il est construit deux « steamboats » : le Mark Twain, réplique de la version californienne (« sternwheeler », roue arrière), et le Molly Brown, un « sidewheeler » (deux roues sur les côtés du bateau, à ce jour encore le seul modèle dans les parcs Disney). Les deux bateaux naviguent sur les « Rivers of Far West », lac (artificiel) de la ville de Thunder Mesa qui encercle la montagne  de « Big Thunder Mountain » ; l’enbarcadère, nommé « Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing » est situé tout près de « Phantom Manor », le manoir de la famille Ravenswood.

The Mark Twain sails around Big Thunder MOuntain, past Phantom Manor before docking at Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing

At EuroDisneyland, which later became Disneyland Paris, a cruise on the “Rivers of the Far West” is an opportunity to see the “Big Thunder Mountain”, inspired by the American natural site of Monument Valley, and the route of the crazy train of the eponymous attraction, up close. Then the boat goes along a natural cave, which has become a smuggler’s hideout, before arriving near old Joe’s cabin, which must be quite lonely in this rather wild place; moreover, the landscape is transformed into a luxuriant vegetation as the boat progresses.

We then arrive at the highlight of the route, a geological and geothermal site of great interest as geysers smoke alongside a dinosaur fossil.

The life of Mark Twain and Molly Brown

In the early 2000s, during a Halloween season, a revenant had the curious and frightening idea of wanting to take over the Mark Twain, which he towed on the “Rivers of the Far West”! The effect is striking, but will not be repeated for technical reasons.

On 16 May 2005, the Molly Brown’s engine overheated, causing heavy smoke and the guests were evacuated from the ship, fortunately without injury.

At the same time, the Mark Twain was in dry dock for rehab, which led to the temporary suspension of cruises on the Rivers of the Far West until the Mark Twain returned to service a few months later in March 2006. After extensive refurbishment, the Molly Brown was once again carrying Guests on a Rivers of the Far West cruise in the summer of 2007.

In 2010, the Molly Brown left for a major refit, leaving the Mark Twain as the sole master of the Rivers of the Far West. Upon her return in 2011, the Molly Brown is shining brightly and sporting new colours.

The Mark Twain, a sad disappearance

The return of the Molly Brown with great fanfare hides a much darker reality: the Mark Twain has been placed in dry dock… to rot in unbearable agony.

In the summer of 2011, after the extensive rehabilitation of the Molly Brown, it was her turn to go into rehabilitation. It was supposed to return for the 20th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. It did not return. It was included in the 2014 Reenchantment Plan list with the aim of returning in 2018.

Sometimes, when the Molly Brown is in rehab in dry dock, the Mark Twain was out of its sarcophagus, in full view of guests, revealing to us its state of disrepair. But for several years now, it has completely disappeared from the tumultuous waters of Frontierland.

In 2019 Daniel Delcourt, Senior Vice President, Operations of Disneyland Paris, officially announced its rehabilitation, with the goal of returning in 2021. since …. No more. The exploding budget for the new Frontierland Theatre has caused the funds earmarked for its rehabilitation to be redirected. It’s 2022 and the Mark Twain is still not back. It’s a safe bet that the promise to rehabilitate will never be kept.

The carcass of the steamboat is probably rotting away in some obscure corner. It may have gone to the Boot Hill graveyard…

Disney and me, it's a long love story. I fell into it as a child and never got out. From movies to theme parks, through the history of the Walt Disney Company, to comic books, everything fascinates me.