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Walt Disney's: Frontierland
Walt Disney's

Walt Disney’s: Frontierland

Frontierland is one of the themed lands one will find at any Disney park. While the various versions of Frontierland are mostly the same, each park has its own unique differences to their Frontierland areas. This is the story of Frontierland and its various versions at the different Disney theme parks around the world.
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The Disney parks all around the world all have themed lands in them, and most of them have the same lands. One of these lands is Frontierland. It was part of the original Disneyland park in California and is included in the other Disney parks, as well. It is designed to look like the American Old West in the mid to late 1800s. At any Disney Frontierland, you will find things like pioneers, saloons, cowboys, and gold mines. The red rock buttes of that landscape are also part of Frontierland.

This land was conceived by Walt Disney himself, though it originally did not have many attractions. Instead, its initial version contained open spaces with wilderness and plains scenery that guests could travel through and explore using stagecoaches, pack mules, covered wagons, and walking trails. The first ride at Frontierland and Disneyland opened in 1960 and was called the Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland. This was a slow train ride around the landscape dioramas. The ride closed in 1977 to make way for the thrilling, guest-favorite roller coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (which opened in 1979).

The "Mark Twain," a 105-foot stern-wheeler, steams proudly up to dock in Frontierland.  The first one built in America in over 50 years, the "Mark Twain" is a replica of its older sisters.
The “Mark Twain,” a 105-foot stern-wheeler, steams proudly up to dock in Frontierland. The first one built in America in over 50 years, the “Mark Twain” is a replica of its older sisters.

The gateway to Frontierland at Disneyland is made of ponderosa pine logs. It has a long shoreline along the Rivers of America, which is a great viewing location for the nighttime Fantasmic show in Frontierland. The docks to the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia are both located along the river. Tom Sawyer’s Island is in the center of the river and is considered to be part of Frontierland.

This land includes the Westward Ho Trading Company, which has elk and deer antlers on the roof. The placement of elk antlers on the roof of a store was a tradition in the American Old West so that the cowboys who came into town for the first time would know at a glance where to go to buy their supplies. Frontierland also has a storefront at the Crockett and Russel Hat Company that honors actor Fess Parker, who played Davy Crockett in the Disney Company’s version of that story.

The "Mark Twain" a romantic replica of the stern-wheelers of 50 years ago, docks at Frontierland to pickup passengers for a trip down the "Rivers of America." Other Frontierland travel includes stage coaches, wagons and mule packs.
The “Mark Twain” a romantic replica of the stern-wheelers of 50 years ago, docks at Frontierland to pickup passengers for a trip down the “Rivers of America.” Other Frontierland travel includes stage coaches, wagons and mule packs.

Frontierland borders Fantasyland, Adventureland, and the New Orleans Square. It also connects to Central Plaza using a set of gates that are modeled after those found on Old West forts.

Disneyland has the original Frontierland, but not the only one. There is also a Frontierland at Walt Disney World in Florida, which opened in 1971. It initially only had three attractions. These were the Walt Disney Railroad Station, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, and the Country Bear Jamboree. The Tom Sawyer Island attraction opened in 1973. An area at the northwestern corner of the land was supposed to have a huge attraction built there, but it never came to fruition. That area stayed empty until Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was built there in 1980.

In Frotierland's Indian Village along the banks of the Rivers of America, hearty braves in their colorful native costumes entertain Disneyland's guests with authentic dances to the throbbing beat of Indian drums.
In Frotierland’s Indian Village along the banks of the Rivers of America, hearty braves in their colorful native costumes entertain Disneyland’s guests with authentic dances to the throbbing beat of Indian drums.

Walt Disney World’s Frontierland did not change again during the 1980s. In 1991, construction began on Splash Mountain, and everything in the northwestern part of the land was demolished except for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The Walt Disney World Railroad station was rebuilt from scratch and made into a two-story building. Both Splash Mountain and the new railroad station opened in 1992. At Walt Disney World, Frontierland borders Adventureland, Liberty Square, and the Rivers of America.

Tokyo Disneyland also has a Frontierland, but it is called Westernland because the word “frontier” does not have an equivalent in the Japanese language. It is essentially still the same land found at the other Disney parks. Most differences there to other parks are quite minor, such as variations in color, themes, and names. The only big difference is the presence of the Mark Twain riverboat that sails on the Rivers of America.

A real foot-stopin' hoe down featuring the Five Bear Rugs, greets visitors to Frontierland's Country Bear Jamboree.
A real foot-stopin’ hoe down featuring the Five Bear Rugs, greets visitors to Frontierland’s Country Bear Jamboree.

Disneyland Paris has a Frontierland, as well, located in the place occupied by Adventureland at other Disney parks. It opened in 1992 along with the rest of the park and was originally called Euro Disneyland before the name was later changed to Disneyland Paris. It has some noticeable differences from other Frontierland areas at other Disney parks. As an example, the entire land has a backstory about the town of Thunder Mesa, which was founded by Henry Ravenswood to earn money to support mining at Big Thunder Mountain.

The backstory supports several of this land’s attractions, like Phantom Manor (a variation of the Haunted Mansion from other Disney parks, this time with a western theme and a darker tone). Disneyland Paris has the largest Frontierland of all the Disney parks.

Log rafts transport fun-seeking youngsters of all ages to Tom Sawyer's Island in Frontierland where fishing, climbing and exploring can be enjoyed.
Log rafts transport fun-seeking youngsters of all ages to Tom Sawyer’s Island in Frontierland where fishing, climbing and exploring can be enjoyed.

Characters from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas appeared at Disneyland Paris’s Frontierland in 2008, marking their first appearance at any Disney park. They met and greeted guests outside Phantom Manor during the period between Halloween and Christmas. The characters who appeared were Jack Skellington and Sally.

There are two riverboats circling the river at Disneyland Paris — the Mark Twain and the Molly Brown. This land also has the Woody Roundup, which is a meet and greet area with the Woody and Jessie characters from the Toy Story 2 movie. The entire land is converted into Halloweenland in October, with pumpkins and Halloween characters dotting the landscape.

The saga of the West is relived in Frontierland as guests enter a fort which is a replica of one which linked the America Frontiers together.
The saga of the West is relived in Frontierland as guests enter a fort which is a replica of one which linked the America Frontiers together.

The Frontierland at Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in 2012, is called Grizzly Gulch, also because of the word “frontier” not translating to the Chinese language. This is the smallest of the Disney Frontierland areas, and only has one ride, the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars (which is the equivalent to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad).

This Frontierland is modeled after a northern California mining town. According to the park’s story, the town was established in 1888. The town struggled initially, due to geysers being there. It eventually became a successful town when a family of bears leads a prospector to a large gold deposit. This led to the Big Grizzly Mountain Mining Company being established, and bears were declared to be the town’s lucky charm.

About the author

Will Moneymaker

I enjoy collecting postcards as a way to inspire my own adventures. Over the years, I’ve found them incredibly valuable in sharing memories — places I've been and places my loved ones have sent cards from.