Beacon Joe or Old Joe is a character from the Disney Parks.
Beacon Joe was a man who settled in the Big Thunder Mountain region sometime prior to 1849. He was considerably familiar with the fur-trappers, early pioneers and indigenous shoshone people and was present when pioneer Henry Ravenswood discovered gold in the mountain. Ravenswood would go on to establish the town of Thunder Mesa and the Big Thunder Mining Company though Joe did not partake in these operations, rather taking up residence on the secluded Discovery Island in the Rivers of the Far West.
By the late-1850s/early 1860s, Beacon Joe took up residence outside of New Orleans, in the Louisiana parish. Joe's most notable home would be a shack in the Blue Bayou although he also had a shack in a separate alligator swamp. Joe made a living by marking rivers, checking them for hazards so that riverboat sailors wouldn't encounter them first. He'd develop a relationship with these river sailors although he'd be quite arrogant with them. Joe is also known for having had a pet dog named Moonshine.
Beacon Joe first appeared, unnamed near the end of the Blue Bayou scene in Pirates of the Caribbean. He sat on the porch of his shack, smoking a pipe as riders passed by. Meanwhile banjo music leisurely played: "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)", and Jack Sparrow's theme-music.
In Walt Disney World, Beacon Joe does not appear in the Pirates of the Caribbean due to the redaction of the entire Blue Bayou sequence. However, Joe's figure does appear on the Liberty Belle riverboat attraction.
Beacon Joe is seen in a shack along what is presumably the Mississippi River due to its relation to Tom Sawyer's Island. His shack shows him selling bait and has a sign reading, "Alligator Swamp". Near him is a pet dog watching fish jump from the river. Instead of just smoking, Joe is here seen fishing as-well.
Upon seeing him, the ride's narrator Sam Clemens exclaims, " Well, I’ll be! Look who’s drifted out of the bayou. Off to port, Captain- it’s Beacon Joe", seeming to imply that this is the same character from Pirates of the Caribbean. Captain Horace Bixby of the Liberty Belle Riverboat goes on to explain Joe's job as a river-marker and how according to Joe he could navigate the Liberty Belle better than anyone in its crew.
Rivers of the Far West (Disneyland Paris)
Joe can be found on Wilderness Island along the Rivers of Big Thunder Mountain in the Thunder Mesa region, again with his dog on this riverboat tour. Here he is identified as a fisherman by the name of Old Joe or Ol' Joe who has his own riverboat landing and fishing supplies shop.
The Western River (Tokyo Disneyland)
Joe makes another appearance in Tokyo Disneyland's counterpart to the Rivers of America. Here he is seen fishing along the docks of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Once again, Joe is shown with a dog by his side.
Thunder Mesa Daily Messenger
A story on Beacon Joe was featured in a 2016 released edition of the Thunder Mesa Daily Messenger which talked about how he lived in Thunder Mesa from before it was even a town.
A character made to resemble Beacon Joe was featured in this film although he didn't make it to the final cut. In the film, the Cypress forest of the Pantano river in Cuba is used as a counterpart to the Blue Bayou with said river being used to recreate many Blue Bayou elements. Old Joe was to be shown in this locale with a dog at his feet, watching Jack Sparrow and company and making them disheartened. Images of this were featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Visual Guide.
- There is a popular theory regarding the ride that Beacon Joe himself was once a pirate and quite possibly a member of the crew of The Wicked Wench. According to this theory, the reason Joe is the last character seen before entering the pirate world is because Joe is reminiscing on his life of piracy as a narrative-device.
- Given the timeline of Beacon Joe's life in relation to Big Thunder and the Liberty Belle him being a former crew-mate of the Wench is unlikely as it would make him roughly over 100 years old. If he was a pirate it is more likely that he served under historic 19th-century pirate Jean Lafitte who is frequently referenced in New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Contrary to popular belief, Joe doesn't play the banjo. Banjo music does come from his shack but Joe himself does not play it. There is likely someone within his shack playing it.