One Foot in the Past
“Walt had one foot in the past and one in the Future” Tim O’ Day Former Public Relations Executive
Yep, led off with that quote for Tomorrowland. This however, is about Frontierland and covers the first part of the quote. Walt was fascinated by the trials and tribulations of the Frontier and the birth of this country. Daniel Boone, Johnny Tremain, Zorro, all just a peek into his fascination with the grit and determination to make this country something to be proud of. Walt enjoyed shows that told our countries story.
In my very humble opinion, Frontierland’s most historical attractions would be The Golden Horseshoe Revue, building design by Harper Goff. Yep, those of you in WDW area know the Harpers Mill building on the Rivers of America. This is a nod to Harper Goff. Right before Disneyland opened, Walt held his 30th anniversary there. It’s official opening date was July 16th, 1955. Yes, that is the day BEFORE Disneyland opened. Walt hosted a show for sponsors the day before the park opened.
Wally Boag was one of the stars and he never missed a performance he was scheduled for. Steve Martin was his stand in, in case Wally could not make it. Steve was never called. Did you know The Golden Horseshoe Revue holds the Guinness book record for longest uninterrupted stage show? The show ran 39,000 times! Wally Boag also voiced Jose in The Enchanted Tiki Room among other voice talents.
Today, the Golden Horseshoe is a restaurant. The stage is still there and you can almost feel the ghosts of Revue past. Betty Taylor who played Slue Foot Sue, and bizarrely enough, passed away the day after Wally Boag (6/3/2011 and 6/4/2011). Off topic, Paul Winchell, the voice of Tigger died the day before John Fiedler, the voice of Piglet (6/24/2005 – 6/25/2005 respectively). Eeerrie.
If you want to transport yourself back in time, check out the made-for-television movie of the same title on YouTube. You will see the cast of regulars along with Ed Wynn, Annette, Gene Sheldon and Walt himself.
Initially, Frontierland didn’t have a heck of a lot. The Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Island, burros, covered wagons, the Indian Village and the little mining town Rainbow Ridge. If memory serves me, the burros and covered wagons had to be among the first replaced attractions. Enter the Mine Train through natures wonderland. Marc Davis initially designed this attraction to be realistic, taking his queue from True Life Adventures shows. Walt directed Marc to add some humor into the ride. I am sure you all have heard the narration on the Jukebox.
Credit: Oh My Disney
The ride was so popular, it was expanded and more features were added. As is typical with attractions that are replaced, some of the old attraction is saved, in this case Rainbow Ridge was carried forward. In fact, Rainbow Ridge went from burros and covered wagons, to the Mine Train through Natures Wonderland, to today’s Big Thunder Mountain.
Today, Frontierland clamors with the sounds of train whistles and the cho cho noises of Big Thunder Mountain. The Mark Twain still circles The Rivers of America, and if you listen real closely, you just may hear a piano, some laughter, and the applause of an audience from a vaudevillian style show in the recesses of history’s mind, all interrupted by the whistle of a train.