Beautiful, right? Treasure Island, Discovery Island, however you know it, this jewel of Bay Lake served as a sanctuary to animals long before Disney’s Animal Kingdom was a glint in Joe Rohde’s eye. Of course, guests and Cast Members weren’t generally permitted to frolic on the shipwreck that had run aground on the island, but it makes for a wonderfully imaginative photograph that would spark potential guests’ dreams of what a vacation in Walt Disney World could be like. For me, it reminds me of a little known live action Disney film, Treasure of Matecumbe.
In a post-Civil War south, a young boy named Davie is left a map that supposedly leads to a buried treasure on the Isle of Matecumbe in Florida. While being pursued by a gruesome Union officer, Spangler, Davie must leave his Kentucky home in hopes of restoring his family’s name and wealth with the treasure. Along the way he is assisted by his uncle, a proper lady running away from marriage, a charlatan named Dr. Snodgrass, and his best friend, Thad.
The bulk of Matecumbe is set in areas like Kentucky, the Mississsippi River, and New Orleans. For such locations, Disney filmed in Kentucky and in California, including the popular Golden Oak Ranch. To supplement the everglades and swamps of southern Florida, however, there wasn’t much doubt that it would have to be filmed in Florida. Luckily for the production, Treasure Island could serve as their home and locale for the shipwrecked treasure of the Isle of Matecumbe. Rain effects were used and, obviously, the camera angles were careful not to show River Country, Fort Wilderness, or the tower of modern luxury, the Contemporary Resort.
The next time you’re on a motor launch between the resorts of Bay Lake, and you’re passing he now deserted island in the heart of the lake, remember that there is more film history to be found in Walt Disney World than one park can hold.