17 February 2021

Habitual Bungling

Some of the biggest names in the Disney catalog come from roots set down in the West. Zorro, Crockett, Pecos Bill, and others were so much a part of the mid-20th century that there was an entire land dedicated to them in Disneyland, a land whose legends only grew as the kingdom parks spread across the globe. One pair of infamous, if only for their bumbling ways, grifters have found themselves immortalized in not one, but two postings in the queue of the Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We’re naturally speaking of Amos and Theodore.

Amos Tucker and Theodore Ogelvie, portrayed by Tim Conway and Don Knotts respectively, first appeared in 1975’s The Apple Dumpling Gang, based upon the 1971 book of the same title. At the time the audience is introduced to them, the pair of misfits are no longer members of the Stillwell Gang, having shot the leader in the leg, and have taken to calling themselves the Hash Knife Outfit, a not so subtle nod to a 1933 Zane Grey novel. After continually trying to rob Russell Donovan, and then his three wards who found a gold nugget, before befriending the group. Enter the Stillwell Gang, a hijinks-filled bank robbery, and a happy ending for the newly formed family, leaving our pair of reformed ne’er-do-wells asking to become farmhands.

Apparently, the simple life doesn’t satisfy Amos and Theodore, as in 1979’s The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again the duo, in an attempt to stay on the straight and narrow, end up being suspected of bank robbery, get recruited for a train heist, and end up working with an undercover soldier to clear their good, if a bit dented, names. While this sequel doesn’t feature Russell Donovan or his family, it does end with the pair returning to the safety of the farm.

The postings in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s queue definitely line up with what we know about the pair. One announcement includes a reward and a description of the two, claiming that they are wanted for “attempted bank robbery, chicanery, skullduggery, tomfoolery, and habitual bungling.” Sounds like Theodore and Amos alright. The second notice includes sketches, that are a darn good likeness, of the duo, and was posted by the T.W. Bullion Silver Mine. The Bullion name is a story in and of itself for another day. It states that the two claimed to be metallurgists and that they “fouled up our whole operation and took off with ten pounds of lead. Complete incompetents.”

Seems like the pair haven’t totally reformed their reputations, or their grifter ways, and they definitely haven’t forgotten how to enrage local constabulary and businesses, blunder their own prospects, and entertain the masses while they’re doing it. The next time you’re in the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, keep a sharp eye out for Theodore and Amos, or, at the very least, the signs that they’ve been mucking about.

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