Sunday, October 03, 2010
1500th Post - It’s A Celebration, Pt. 3: Frontierland
Acreage-wise, Frontierland is probably the largest land in the park (if you count New Orleans Square and Critter Country in its parcel). The Old West provides the perfect setting for imagination and exploration, which are excellent ingredients in the recipe of guest satisfaction. Here’s a warning for those with short attention spans: this post will be a long one, so hang in there!
Walt loved the Old West, and Frontierland provided an ample playground for him to build plenty of homages to the wide open spaces and homespun entertainment one would expect to find here. You can be sure he was having a ball taking these children around this area before the park had even finished construction.
Through these gates lies a land that is no longer accessible in the real world: FRONTIERLAND!
The colorful and eye-popping graphics in these early posters make the Frontierland batch my fave. The Nature’s Wonderland attraction had no less than 3 different posters over the years; here are two:
There were lots of choices to fill your belly in Frontierland. An early fave for Disneyland was the Casa de Fritos:
The original location on New Orleans Street:
v2.0, which was in the heart of the Frontierland shopping district:
Aunt Jemima and her crew served up the tastiest buckwheat pancakes until 1970:
Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo BBQ took over the vacated space of Casa de Fritos, and for a few magical years provided some lip-smacking barbeque to Disneyland guests:
The Chicken Plantation might look familiar to patrons of the Blue Bayou; eventually it was removed to make way for New Orleans Square.
If you came to Frontierland for entertainment, then you certainly could get an eye and earful! Wally Boag, Betty Taylor, and the rest of the Golden Horseshoe gang kept guests entertained for years:
Here’s Wally doing double-duty on top of the GH, performing some stunts in a shootout spectacular.
Young tots were mesmerized by the classic good guys vs. bad guys conflicts that popped up out of nowhere:
Besides cowboys, sheriffs, and villains, guests could meet real-live Indians and learn about their culture by watching ceremonial dances. Here we have the original Village People:
No contest here: this is one of my very favorite photos at Disneyland. EVER. The connection between these two is magical.
Prunella on the left seems to be out of her element—talk about looking uncomfortable!
Frontierland was also a great place to pose:
When it came to transportation, Frontierland was no slouch! Here is The Mighty Mark Twain, with Cascade Peak being built in the background:
Here is Cascade Peak, the final product, in all its thundering glory:
Although a beautiful ship, The Columbia is also known as “The Floating Skillet” due to its lack of shade. The museum below deck is a good alternative for those who worry about baking in the hot sun!
Here are some construction images of The Columbia:
For a more rustic choice, you could pick a Conestoga Wagon or a Stagecoach:
They may not have been the smoothest ride, but the Pack Mules were still a popular way to see the sights:
One of the most popular ways to view the attractions of Frontierland was the Rainbow Mountain Railroad, which boarded at the quaint town of Rainbow Ridge:
Of course the town that Walt built for Frontierland had to be near a river; how else would all of the fantastic mercantile offerings make their way to the shops?
Right in the middle of The Rivers of America was Tom Sawyer Island, the ultimate playground for little boys and girls. Note that the original TSI poster had a reference to pirates with the skull & crossbones insignia on the raft’s flag:
Here is an early construction shot:
The view from TSI, March 1958:
Walt liked to show glimpses of the not-so-sweet things in life. Here is the dead settler at the Burning Cabin being attended to by a cast member:
FRONTIERLAND TODAY: Still bears the same rustic charm that it did back in 1955, but definitely has more "polish" (not necessarily a good thing) and is definitely more developed. Although the landscaping has matured, there seem to be fewer wide-open spaces.
Nature’s Wonderland has been removed, and part of that parcel was converted into Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Although thrilling and lots of fun, it doesn’t bear (pun intended) the repeated rides that its predecessor did. Nature’s Wonderland was all about the journey and the discovery of different landscapes & animals; BTMRR is mainly about the thrill. Nothing wrong with a thrill...it just doesn’t linger in your heart as long. On the plus side, BTMRR has a replica of Rainbow Ridge, which is a nice nod to the past.
The Golden Horseshoe still packs ’em in, even if Betty & Wally aren’t there to do the entertaining:
Casa de Fritos is a thing of the past, but Rancho del Zocalo carries on the tradition with a number of tasty Mexican dishes. Guests can choose between indoor or outdoor seating:
There are still plenty of transportation options in Frontierland, although many of the previous land-based ones have disappeared. The Mark Twain, The Columbia, the canoes, the rafts, all still coexist beautifully on the Rivers of America.
There are still a number of familiar faces here:
...which helps alleviate some of the missing ones who kept Frontierland a little more honest about what it used to be like. There is no dead settler here, nor is there any fire. Instead, the “Burning Cabin” has become downright suburban.
The Indians were pushed out for Bears and Critters; not really sure that can be called an improvement.
The chance to dance with real indians lingers in the memories of guests longer than the thrill of a drop at Splash Mountain.
Thankfully, Tom Sawyer Island is still a playground for the young at heart, despite the fact that it has been taken over by pirates.
I am probably a little too old fashioned, but I believe that in trying to make Frontierland more up-to-date and relevant, the Imagineers have tainted it with elements that just do not fit. I still love it...I just used to love it a lot more.
Next up: NEW ORLEANS SQUARE! View more vintage and current Frontierland photos on my regular website.