Here's just a snazzy little piece of Imagineering concept art for Disneyland's Frontierland. There's much to like about it, although I must admit that having the Indian encampment outside the fort's gates feels very politically incorrect these days.
As far as I can tell by looking backwards, this buildout never happened once the park was opened. Instead, the tepees made their way over to the far side of the park out in a secluded area of wilderness far from Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, and other heroes of the American West. In a sense, the park was all the better for it. The new remote area was a perfect place to showcase the customs and art of the peoples who occupied the land long before settlers from the East Coast.
However, at Disneyland Paris, where being politically correct is not an issue, this same piece of concept art looks similar to what was actually built for Disneyland Paris decades later. The tepees and their occupants are out in front, next to the fort, and the references to American folk heroes are not nearly as pronounced. But there is much detail to be found everywhere you look.
A walking journey up inside the stockades of the fort provides some great information as well as some truly spectacular views of Frontierland. This is one of the areas in which Disneyland Paris outshines the other Magic Kingdoms, even Walt's original park. The vistas are so expansive and yet so focused on only the land in which you are presently inhabiting. It's so easy to imagine yourself really being there "back in the day". Well done! (It's a trademark of the entire park. Read my detailed article here.)
In place of the Old West focused on cowboys and Indians, the town of Thunder Mesa is present with its folklore tied to a search for gold (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) and a rich mining family torn apart by greed and suspicion (Phantom Manor). With the beautifully majestic Molly Brown cruising the river, Paris' Frontierland has an energy and a presence that the other kingdoms can only dream to possess. Kudos to Tony Baxter, Jeff Burke, and the team of Imagineers for pulling this off.
Back in the States, Disneyland's ode to the Wild West is in need of some love and care. The original saloon show at The Golden Horseshoe needs to return, pirates need to be given the boot at Tom Sawyer's Island, and the Mike Fink Keelboats should return to the river.
There's even room for expansion, and I hope a newer version of the Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland can take its place next to whatever Disney Imagineers have planned for the area. Let's face it, it will never be rebuilt. Most likely, we will see a tie-in to the soon coming Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp. An even longer shot would be to build Imagineer Marc Davis' unrealized Western River Expedition. We can dream, can't we? In California, where the Pirates of the Caribbean plays to full audiences even after 45 years, Western River Expedition would be appreciated perhaps as much as the beloved New Orleans Square staple.
For one more additional improvement to return Frontierland to its glory days, I would go so far as to say Fantasmic needs to disappear as well. In fact, save Fantasmic's return for the Third Park. With the nighttime show removed, the evenings on that side of the park could once again feel as remote, romantic, and mysterious as they were years ago. It would make those delightful nighttime cruises on the Mark Twain all the more possible.
Needless to say, if I had the money to transform Disneyland, it would certainly go to Frontierland (and of course, Tomorrowland as well). And let me say one more thing: please do not add Splash Mountain to Disneyland Paris' Frontierland. We do not need more characters invading this gorgeous park!
(Artwork copyright The Walt Disney Company.)