December 5, 2014

Western River Expedition: Thrills Before Splash Mountain

Long before Splash Mountain made its debut, there were plans in the works for a flume ride for Walt Disney World on the books long before the park's opening in 1971. If the above images look familiar, the reader certainly recognizes this as some concept art for the infamous and unbuilt Frontierland attraction  Western River Expedition.

Imagineer Marc Davis, the brains behind such Disney classics as Pirates of the Caribbean, America Sings, and the Country Bear Jamboree, conceived this massive mountain, Thunder Mesa, to actually host a series of attractions within its confines. The only adventure to make it past the drawing boards would be totally reimagined by Tony Baxter: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (A central scene the Expedition could be found in EPCOT Center's World of Motion attraction.)

When the project for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World  was scrapped due to its also massive budget and public demand for a Florida version of Pirates, the project was cancelled. Later, it was shaved down to just the runaway mine train adventure. Left behind was the Old West sing a long cruise Western River Expedition, the planned hiking trails, the Indian Village at the top of it all, and some report, even a resurrected pack mules journey. 

It was within the Expedition that the final surprise would take place, a rush down the mountain waterfall as an escape from a raging forest fire. (Look closely at the image on the right.)  Pirates had a couple of nice but mild drops. This would be big and steep with more than twice the thrill; a thematic boat ride, broadway style country musical, and thrill ride all rolled into one. Certainly epic and certainly enough of a landmark attraction to persuade a Disneyland fan travel to Florida from the West. 

With all the attractions built at parks outside the States, it may never come to pass as Frontierlands seem out of style and cowboy and Indians may be politically incorrect. There's one small chance, however. Disneyland Paris has a large enough plot of land set aside by the Cowboy Cookout, and the French park has never worried about bowing to political correctness. Here's hoping!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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