18 January 2017

Ride on the Wings of a Butterfly

There are wonderful details throughout Walt Disney World, little nuggets that tie into Disney’s history in film, animation, and theme parks. Few areas, however, may be as rich in these types of details as Frontierland. And perhaps the one spot with an embarrassment of riches, when it comes to story driven details, is Big Thunder Mountain. Since it’s refurbishment in 2012 that added in more of the mining story and the history of Barnabus T. Bullion, there have been layer after layer to uncover about the second Magic Kingdom mountain.

This poster entices those seeking to travel west to do so with the Butterfly Stage Line. It is a gorgeous example of posters that would entice travelers with daring calls and reasonable fares. Of course, the more stops a stagecoach could make, and the quicker they could make the trip, the more passengers could utilize the line for travel. In this case, the Butterfly Stage Line guarantees passage between St. Louis and San Francisco in just a matter of three weeks, not a bad deal in those early Frontierland days. For me, however, the real attention grabber is the stops the line will make along the way.

This section reads: Stages of BUTTERFLY STAGE LINE leave St. Louis daily at 6 A.M. for San Francisco, via Fort Smith, El Paso, Thunder Mesa, Fort Concho, Rainbow Ridge, Quake City, and Tumbleweed, connecting at Tumbleweed with the San Francisco and Carolwood-Pacific Railroad Company.

The above listing bookends the journey with several real life locations. St. Louis, Fort Smith, El Paso, and San Francisco are all places that really exist and could be visited, most of which are not intricately tied to Disney lore. The remaining stops are where things get a little interesting.

The good portion of the Butterfly Stage Line’s destinations has a tie to the Apple Dumpling Gang. This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering the bottom of the poster tells us that the line’s founder and president is Colonel T. R. Clydesdale, Dusty’s father from the original Apple Dumpling Gang film. This film just happens to take place in Quake City, the first to last stop along the stagecoach’s route. Moving on to The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, we find a film that opens with Amos and Theodore arriving in one of our other destinations, Fort Concho. While Fort Concho is a real location with a fascinating history, it is the fact that was a setting utilized by the Apple Dumpling Gang that lands it on the route.

Jumping back a ways, we see Thunder Mesa, and this is where we’ll begin our adventure into Frontierlands from around the globe. Thunder Mesa is the clapboard and sagebrush setting for Disneyland Paris’ Frontierland. The town was a boomtown just like all of the fabled Frontierlands, with the Ravenswood family being the top billing in a town that prided itself on its availability of gold, silver, and copper.

Moving further along, we find a stopover in Rainbow Ridge, the original Frontierland. The name Rainbow Ridge dates back to the earliest days of Disney theme parks, when it was part of Disneyland’s 1956 attraction Rainbow Caverns Mine Train. While the mining town known as Rainbow Ridge has undergone many facelifts and relocations over the years, it can still be found alongside Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in the original park.

The end of the Butterfly Stage Line route leaves us in Tumbleweed, the home of Big Thunder Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, and coincidentally where we find ourselves examining this poster. This is where the line meets up with the railroad. Listing the Carolwood-Pacific isn’t as subtle a nod as it used to be, but it is still a worthy name in Disney canon. The Carolwood-Pacific was Walt Disney’s backyard scale railroad, it is the name given these days to anything that showcases Walt’s love of the railroad. It is mentioned as part of the Walt Disney World Railroad at multiple stops, and more of its history can be uncovered in both One Man’s Dream over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and at the Wilderness Lodge.

No matter where you get on or jump off of the Butterfly Stage Line, there are stories abound to discover that run between parks, film, and even some of Walt Disney’s own life. The only question is, how far will you be moseying on down the line?

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