/ Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

by Makena W.

My feet hit the ground hard as I ran my fastest down a rickety bridge. The sound of the planks when I stepped on them reminded me of my mission. I looked behind me to find my dad right on my tail. I could taste the cold air as my eyes whipped around, looking for a glance of red. I smelled popcorn, knowing that we were getting closer to one of our many adversaries. I signaled this to my dad and we ran the opposite direction of the delicious scent. It seemed to be taunting us. You will never find us! Your competitor will recover us first!

Okay, so maybe that is a little dramatic, but that’s what looking for a paintbrush on Tom Sawyer Island felt like! For those of you who don’t know, the Cast Members who work at Tom Sawyer Island used to (I am not sure if they still do) hide paintbrushes on Tom Sawyer Island in the morning. If you found one, you returned it to the raft operator and you got fastpasses to Big Thunder Mountain or Splash Mountain. But I didn’t want to do it for the fastpasses; I wanted to experience finding one and it was something I wanted to do for a long time. Will I? You will find out soon enough…

It started as a regular Disney day-a bus running later than I wanted for a park opening. When our bus finally came, we squeezed in and arrived at Magic Kingdom. My family and I ran off the bus so we could make it to rope drop. And, just like in the movies, we made it there JUST in the nick of time. I guess a little pixie dust helped us out! My father and I darted to Tom Sawyer Island. We passed Splash Mountain, with the water not yet running down Chick-A-Pin Hill. I guess something was wrong. Anyway, we had a lot of time to think about that because Tom Sawyer Island doesn’t open up with the rest of the park, it opens up an hour later. There was already a line of 3 people waiting to hop on a raft, and we joined in. Good thing we did, because about 15 minutes later the line extended to the end of Splash Mountain (where it loops around after the big drop).

Eventually, a raft made its way around the island. The line cheered as it stopped at the dock in front of us. Everybody piled on the raft. Now here is where the story gets upsetting. In my last blog, I capitalized on doing nice things for people. As everybody piled on, there wasn’t room for all of us. I was sure we all had the same goal in mind, because I heard some people in front of us and behind us in line that were talking about it. People left on dry land included a 5 year old girl and her mother. Really? I would have given up my spot of the raft for them, but they were way behind us in line and by the time I realized that not everybody who was standing in line could fit on the raft, it was too late. Another disturbing fact, everybody was on the right side of the raft (the one facing the island) so our raft wasn’t evenly balanced. Most of the people seemed to be high school seniors or college freshmen. They had their minds set on the paintbrush and wouldn’t let anybody get in their way. They insisted that they stay on the right side so that they could be the first off the raft and on to the island. When our raft captain informed everybody that it was uneven and that some people had to more to the left side of the raft, nobody moved a muscle. My dad and I were squashed in the corner, so we didn’t have a choice but to stay still. But the people who had the option to move didn’t because they wanted to be the first on the island. So here we are, about to sink (okay maybe not sink) and people aren’t moving because they wanted to be first to find a paintbrush. They were holding everybody up! After some kind people moved to the left, the raft captain accepted that not a lot of people were going to move and our raft got going, even though we were still leaning a lot. But I’m not done yet with this kindness rant. On the raft, a man and two children (I’m guessing his daughters) were getting ready to embark on their paintbrush journey. There was no mother and sight, and the girls were at the age where they go where they want to go and just run around. Catch is, this man had a broken foot and was walking around in a boot. This family was squashed by everybody on the boat, and they ended up next to us. We talked on the raft ride there, and found out that they were in fact, going on the paintbrush adventure.

Time seemed to slow down as we came closer to the dock on Tom Sawyer Island. All our training came down to this. All those years of running and playing Where’s Waldo have lead me to this moment, standing on a raft, awaiting dry land. Our raft driver alerted us that there was no running off the raft and into the wilderness. But of course, as soon as the little rope was dropped, the high school/ college guys led the stampede off the raft, and the raft became horizontal. Everybody was going in different directions. Most people went to the left, but we went to the right. We lost sight of the man with the boot and his 2 girls, but we knew that he would be fine.

Now, I have never seen anything like this. Everybody was running around and looking EVERYWHERE. Under benches, in trees, people were digging and laying on the ground hunting for a paintbrush. Sometimes you would pass people that were going in the opposite direction with a paintbrush in their hand. They would either try to hide it so you wouldn’t think they are showing off or they would make a big deal out of it. We would usually say congratulations to people who passed by, but some didn’t respond. How rude! Our strategy was to take our time and not rush. What if you found out that somebody found a paintbrush in the same exact area you were just looking, but you rushed ahead! You will see if our strategy worked out for us in a little bit…

It was really awkward when two people are hunting in the same area. Some are in it to win it and others are kind and give you pointers. At one point my dad and I were searching near Superstition Bridge along with another couple in their 40s. They didn’t speak to us and basically ran away when they saw us. Every once in a while you encountered kind people. I distinctly remember when we were hunting in the docking area when there was a girl a little bit older than me and her dad hunting. The girl asked me if this was my first time on a paintbrush adventure, and I responded yes. Her dad then jumped in the conversation, saying that they have done this once before and they found it. She gave me pointers and even pointed out where she found it, in the middle of a huge bush. She told us they aren’t obviously hidden, but they will show you a bit of red or a bit of white so you know that there is something there. I thanked her and wished her luck as we continued our journey.

I remember this next incident like it was yesterday.  We had been searching for about an hour when we arrived in an area where we continued this advanced scavenger hunt. We were the only people in an area that I am not going to mention because that would be giving away a hiding spot. My dad and I split up so that I was on the opposite side of the search location. I am intensely searching when I hear “Psssst! Makena….Makena!” I turn around to see my dad holding up a paintbrush. I screamed as I ran up to him and hugged him.  My dad’s intention if he found a paintbrush was to put it back and have me find it. When he first got it, he was so excited (because he had told me several times that we shouldn’t get our hopes up – he thought that we weren’t going to find one yet he knew how disappointed that would make me) that he couldn’t contain himself.  Sometimes his mouth works faster than his brain and he immediately attracted my attention. When I turned, he looked like the Fairies when they reached Aurora just a second too late at the spinning wheel ….. upset because he couldn’t rewind the clock and keep his secret for a few more seconds. How could I be mad? We had found the elusive paintbrush!!

We were getting ready to catch a raft back to Frontierland when my dad asked “Do you want to keep looking for another paintbrush?” I said yes, and when he asked why, I responded “I want to find a paintbrush for the man with the boot and the 2 young girls.” So we continued our expedition. As we approached the long rope bridge, we noticed that from the opposite side, “you-know-whom” was heading towards us. Yes, that’s right, those kids.  The kids that were almost responsible for the first sinking of a Tom Sawyer Island raft and the stampede that followed. We could tell by their body language that they were still looking for a paintbrush. The Makena-and-Dad team huddled together and came up with a brilliant idea. As the kids came in our direction, I carried the brush like the honor guard carries a flag, proudly displaying our find triumphantly as the team that was victorious marched across the rope bridge. As we approached to pass them, we could pick up the sense of disappointment in their conversation to each other. I guess it didn’t help when I used my newly found paintbrush as a pointing device to point**** towards a nearby bush to my father. They proceeded to make a comment about our find as they got off the bridge empty-handed, grumbling under their breath. We continued to search for 15 more minutes and we came across a few other people who had paintbrushes and we congratulated each other. We decided it was time to return to Frontierland.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find another paintbrush for the other family. When we turned it in, we got a fastpass for everybody in our party. I elected to save them as souvenirs. But we were happy with the paintbrush we found. It was an experience I will never, EVER, forget!

This week’s “Where in the World” picture is in one of the four parks and is part of one of this park’s E-Ticket attractions.

See ya REAL soon!
~ Makena



5 thoughts on “The Quest for the Hidden Paintbrush”

  1. Mark Vitek says:

    A great experience, and always so much fun. And you added to that fun too. 🙂

    It is sad, and unfortunate, but Disney has stopped the hidden paintbrush. Back in January the reason given by many of the CMS was that BTMR was down for refurb, but they haven’t come back…yet.


  2. Brian Skinner says:

    As of July they are still no longer hiding the Paintbrushes. Of the times we have searched we have never found one when looking but rather stumbling across it in accident. That was One of the great hidden things to in the Magic Kingdom.

  3. Tony E says:

    I never realized the paintbrush hunts got that intense. Great story Mak.

    BTW Where in the world looks like part of Expedition Everest.

  4. Lindsey D says:

    The “where in the world” is in Animal Kingdom as part of Expedition Everest.

    That’s so sad that the paint brush excursion has been taken out. That was our reson for going a 2nd or 3rd day to the MK. And we have never found one before, so congrats. We have tiny tikes (two 1 year olds, 2, and 3 on our last trip) so it is difficult to look high and low quickly. I heard you could also get sodas or meals for your whole group too as a prize. I wish we were able to do this when our kids are older.

  5. Sammie_Kay says:

    That is so cool that you got to find the paint brush.When I heard they stopped it,it made me sad because I never got to look for them. I wish they would bring it back. Great post tumblr buddy! =)