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Entries in Frontierland (12)

Friday
Jun012012

Big Thunder Mountain Model

We've got lots of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad love for everyone. This marvelous 1/4" = 1' scale model can be seen in the lobby of the "Frontierland Tower" at the Disneyland Hotel. It's the wildest model in the wilderness!

 


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Origins

Young Imagineer Tony Baxter had recently worked on the install of some Magic Kingdom Fantasyland attractions prior to Walt Disney World opening. He landing work in the model shop and was working with Marc Davis on plans for Thunder Mesa and Western River Expedition. The area would have included a train ride and a very elaborate boat ride sometimes explained as “Cowboys of the Caribbean” or “Pirates of the Caribbean with Cowboys and Indians”.

Rising 1970s gas prices, lower-than-desired park attendance, and guests expecting a pirate ride ultimately led to the management-promoted idea of axing Marc Davis’ Western River Expedition and the entire Thunder Mesa complex in favor of Pirates of the Caribbean at a fraction of the cost.

Baxter himself was not very happy with the current state of his mine train ride concept. “It has no story, no theme. It’s just a train rolling across a hillside, nothing more.” The train wasn’t very thrilling until later in the ride. Baxter pitched to executives his ideas of a bat-infested cave, an earthquake, and a more thrilling experience starting from the beginning of the ride. Card Walker told Baxter to start work on a stand-alone E-Ticket runaway train thriller, independent of Marc Davis’ project.

Meanwhile the concept of Space Mountain was becoming more and more attractive to Magic Kingdom management. America had recently landed on the moon, people were more interested in space flight than the Old West, and the park needed its first “thrill”. Space Mountain became top priority amongst Imagineers at W.E.D. Space Mountain opened in January 1975 at Walt Disney World. Shortly after construction started on an entire Space Mountain complex at Disneyland which opened in May of 1977.

Everyone in both parks had thrill fever– guests and management alike. Disneyland management had grown tired of Frontierland’s great Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland and it’s high maintenance costs. They wanted yet another thrill. Tony Baxter’s mine train now had new potential. Would his Florida concept fit in MTTNW’s location? Plans were “flipped” and the more-fitting rock style of Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park was selected. The style was to allow for a nice transition between this part of Frontierland and the very nearby Fantasyland.

Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened September 1979. The name “Big Thunder” came from a large waterfall in Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland. Magic Kingdom wanted a thrill for its west side and debuted their Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in November of 1980.


Thoughts

I, for one, love the Big Thunders. They are very well crafted, have great layouts, a touch of thrill without being obnoxious, and are super immersive. As nice as it would be to ride Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland (it was like three time larger in footprint than its replacement) Big Thunder Mountion wonderful. It lacks a lot of the "nature" of Nature's Wonderland and it's difficult to watch any animal for more than a few seconds (many of which were originally in Nature's Wonderland!). It lacks that charming ride narration and the ride ends much much sooner than the original but really it's a gem.

 

Related posts:

The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 1 ]
The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 2 ]
Buena Vista Street Model
Swiss Family Treehouse Model
Disneyland 1955 Model Close-ups
Mars and Beyond Robot


Tuesday
Feb282012

Magic Kingdom at Night

Will you be pulling an all-nighter at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom as part of Disney's "One More Disney Day"? I will be at home and in bed by ten. After watching "Disneyland After Dark" on dvd of course. Here we present some old nighttime photos of Magic Kingdom.

Where was this photo taken? The top of the train station tower? We get a nice view of backstage parking and even Tinker Bell's landing spot atop one of the Tomorrowland buildings (in green lights).

Many of the following photos were sent to us by Ryan Rewasiewicz as part of our Photo Hunt. They were taken in either 1975 or 1976.

Tomorrowland. STUNNING. What great nighttime views old Tomorrowland offered.

Liberty Square.

Frontierland. And the still-in-operation Diamond Horseshoe.

Adventureland. So nice at night. Look at those old signs. "Tropical Serenade" and "The Enchanted Tiki Birds". The Sunshine Pavilion, unique to Florida, was such a delight. This photo is from an old souvenir picture book.

Ahh the soothing water fountain. Excellent photo, Ryan.

Back to Main Street.

For those of you who make it through the night, this may be your view as you turn around on your way back to your car (minus the Skyway poles, of course). Also from a souvenir book.

Why will I not be there for the Leap Year all-night thing? It does sound fun but I'm going to stick with the memories of the many many all-night adventures I had over the years. Grad Nites, Y2K preparation, Hurricane ride-out crews, other work assignments, sneaking around after hours, sleeping on some old couch in the break room under Main Street.

 

Related posts:

THEN AND NOW: MK Tomorrowland [Part 1]
If This Doesn't Scare You.....
Magic Kingdom Map Found in a Main Street Wall
THEN AND NOW: MK Fantasyland [Part 1]
Atop Cinderella Castle
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63
EYE CANDY: Not Having Fun at Disneyland


Wednesday
Nov302011

Frito Kid Mysteries Continue

Last year we posted a look at the mysterious Frito Kid at Disneyland. Since then we have set out to answer a few questions about him– specifically “Where exactly was he located??” and “What still exists today?” Here's what we've found.

 
Location 1– 1955-1957

We knew his first location was next to Aunt Jemima's Pancake House (River Belle Terrace today) just inside the front door. But which door? We searched high and low for a photo showing the Frito Kid taken from a distance.

After no success I decided to adjust this old Casa de Fritos photo from Daveland. A simple curves adjustment in Photoshop and bam! There he is. Just inside the front left door.

Zoom in and compare.

UPDATED. Dave from Daveland has provided a lightened version of the original photo. Notice the detail!

Now to visit the location to see what remains.

Hmm. Door slightly ajar. Let’s open and have a peek. Sadly there is a wall right behind the door.

According to the cast member bussing tables, “there is nothing behind that door”. Also according to the cast member, “the Frito Kid was never anywhere near this building nor was Casa de Fritos”. That’s ok, they don’t teach this stuff in orientation. I was happy to hear that he had at least heard of the Frito Kid/Casa de Fritos. Kudos also to the girl at the River Belle cash register for knowing that the restaurant was once Aunt Jemima’s.

In 1957 this part of the building became home to Don DeFore's Silver Banjo Barbecue. So the odds are slim that anything from the Fritos setup still exists today. But maybe there's a utility box with a "Frito Kid" label on it? Or something? Someone let me know if this is the case.


Location 2– 1957-1967?

The Frito Kid and Casa de Fritos stayed in their first location just shy of two years. Though Casa de Fritos stayed in its second location for over 25 years (Rancho del Zocalo today), the Frito Kid was removed much sooner. I'm guessing his removal took place in the late 60s when Fritos corn chips stopped using Frito Kid as a mascot.

So where exactly was the Kid in this second location? This fantastic photo (thank you to whoever posted this online) shows where he stood. The architecture on the left still stands today. The wooden log structure around the figure no longer exists.

Now to determine more exactly where he stood. At first I believed be backed up right against the Frontierland Shooting Gallery (Frontierland Shooting Exposition today). Side note: The Shooting Gallery was not an Opening Day attraction like some official Disney history publications claim. The Miniature Horse Corral preceded it. Ok...

Looking at old photos and blueprints (blueprints that don’t happen to mention the Frito Kid) I noticed a hallway running behind the Frito Kid, between him and the Shooting Gallery. So he had to have been located a few feet away from the Gallery wall (with the mural), right about here:

So now we know. Now we know a little more about something extremely obscure and quite insignificant. But isn't that what makes it great? Now you can go to Disneyland with your friends and whip out this bit knowledge and be the nerdiest one in the group. If you read this blog, there's a good chance you are already the nerdiest. We see that as a good thing.

If you happen to have Frito Kid photos not currently on the internet, send 'em to us! I've never seen a video so send those too.

For some more Frito Kid history, visit Kevin Kidney

 

Related posts:

Frito Kid and Deeee-licious Fritos!
THEN
 AND NOWDisneyland [Part 1]
Frontierland Shootin' Arcade Like You've Never Seen It
Diana Lai: An Original Enchanted Tiki Room VIP Hostess
The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland
Swiss Family Treehouse Model
Marc Davis and Disneyland's Rivers of America Rehab