12 July 2010

That river town

Over the past several years, the face of the Magic Kingdom has slowly been changing. First came the inclusion of Captain Jack Sparrow as the unofficial mascot of Adventureland with the invasion of the movie pirates and the transformation of the old Armory to The Pirate’s League. In Liberty Square the Haunted Mansion added more ghoulish games and a complete readdressing of the Hall of Presidents. Across the park, monsters from Monstropolis moved in and the Space Mountain’s rocket to the stars were given a fresh cosmos to wander in Tomorrowland. Currently, an expansion of Fantasyland will not only add new attractions and interactions, but will dramatically shift the story of Fantasyland as well as incur on Mickey’s Toontown Fair. The real question here is, when is it Frontierland’s turn?The last major expansion in Frontierland was the addition of Splash Mountain in 1992, almost twenty years ago. The other major attractions in the area opened long before then, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (1980), Tom Sawyer Island (1973), and Country Bear Jamboree (1971). The rustic landscape and vegetation growth that have continue to grow roots since the park’s opening have only added to the bordertown feel of the area, but Frontierland is due for a fresh coat of dust and grime. Here are a couple of ideas:

While the Liberty Belle technically calls Liberty Square home port, the majority of the Rivers of America has a distinctly Frontierland feel. The recent Rivers refurbishment at Disneyland cleaned up some critters, added some new sight-gags, and plussed the entire experience, including the addition of some of Frontierland’s most famous residents, or at least their voices. Adding a few more scenes, cleaning up the ones already available, and injecting a few characters would work well for Frontierland’s Rivers of America, as well.

A couple of months ago, I put forth the notion that Zorro could find a home in Frontierland, or at least on the border of Frontierland and Adventureland. I still hold firm to the thought that an interactive character experience with Zorro or hacienda dining establishment could work on this lonely stretch of dusty trail.

Lastly, the area could do with a whole new attraction. It has often been talked about, much dream about, and most certainly lamented over, but the absence of Western River Expedition in Frontierland is nonetheless a tragedy. The boat ride through the old west, which would have included rain dances, banditos, and unruly saloon patrons was eventually shelved in order to acquiesce to guests’ call for a Walt Disney World Pirates of the Caribbean. Delving into the history and details of the attraction is best left for its own article, however, I highly recommend the article on the Western River Expedition by Jeff Heimbuch in Issue 8 of Celebrations. It is sufficient to say that boat ride reminiscent of both Pirates of the Caribbean and Disneyland Paris’ Phantom Manor would be a crowd pleaser in Frontierland.

I was a boy of two minds as a child, I had one foot in the past and one foot in the future. Both were idealized pictures of what these times were, or would be, like, but if I had one attraction to visit it was Frontierland’s runaway mine train, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The heart of Frontierland is dirty, adventurous, untamed, free, and just a tiny bit uncouth, everything a young cowpoke could ask for. The current ailment of Frontierland, however, is that every heart needs fresh blood to keep it beating, and Frontierland could most certainly use a dose of some new, or old as the case may be.


Anonymous said...

When you teased this post on Twitter last night I was hoping you were referring to Frontierland! Frontierland is my favorite section of Magic Kingdom because of it's theming and attractions (Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are awesome!), but like you said it could use some updating. Besides the things you've listed, I'd like to see the following:

1. Diamond Horseshoe open year-round as a counter service restaurant during lunch hours and a table service dinner show at night.

2. Characters from Disney shows of old, such as Davy Crockett and Zorro (as you mentioned), have some part in the land.

3. Keep Tom Sawyer Island, but update it somehow. It's clear that kids like searching for paintbrushes each morning, so why not add some interactive games/attractions to the island that include more of Tom's shenanigans? Also, I really wish Aunt Polly's was open year-round (or even during peak times); it's such a great location!

Jason G. said...

Honestly i never even thought about the Zorro connection. A great way to connect to a longtime Disney tradition while also appealing to a still-relevant modern archetype. (Which i think would be more difficult with say Davy Crockett). Awesome idea.

Also dig that you took a look at Frontierland, which is not a land that people typically think of as one in need of some attention. With the two mountains, it's already one of the most thrilling sections of any of the parks. But it also has all that land and yet a majority of its visitors passing through so little of it. Love your ideas.