December 15, 2011

Frontierland- When the West Was Simply Wild

Love these old souvenir books! This great little map is from my 1957 Disneyland guide. Doesn't this Frontierland look like Davy Crockett's (or wannabe Davy Crockett's) dream? It sure was mine! My mind races back to others times and places just looking at it, and my imagination starts to work in full color. I know I wasn't alone in this bit of play. The old The Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland and its Rainbow Caverns certainly had its impact on John Lasseter and the design of Carsland's Radiator Springs Racers.
One aspect I really enjoyed about the younger years of the park is that Disney allowed you to create your own adventures. Sure, stories were told- and often times they were of a company film- but especially in Frontierland, we were encouraged to exercise our own imagination a bit. There we could explore caves, an old fort, the Indian village, or even an entire western landscape by mule or train. Paddling a canoe or taking a cruise on an old steam wheeler took us places where we didn't know what lay ahead. Great fun!

There was something very hands on about the place, be it shooting rifles, searching for the perfect coonskin hat, or hanging on to the ropes while crossing those pesky barrel and suspension bridges of Tom Sawyer Island. Nowadays, hands on tends to mean "hands on the controller" as Toy Story Midway Mania and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin take prominence at the Disney parks. Sure, those rides are fun, and the parks need this kind of variety, but the simple pleasures of simpler times also have their place. Yet, these kind of smaller attractions are no longer built. With their absence, we are also missing a part of homespun Americana and the opportunity to embrace our own imagination.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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