Frontierland is themed around the American West, the visitor is invited to experience life in the mining town of Thunder Mesa. Themed to the American Frontier of the 19th century, Frontierlands are home to cowboys and pioneers, saloons, red rock buttes and gold rushes along with some influence from American history and North America in general. The attractions of this country are therefore all places that are part of this fictional city.
The theme of this land is the conquest of the West in the United States in the 19th century. The theme is the celebration of the American pioneers who crossed the continent from the banks of the Mississippi to the mythical west aboard covered wagons. Other elements round out the theme such as Tom Sawyer Island and Rivers of America paddle steamers for the shores of the Mississippi.
The decor is not only the Wild West but extends from the banks of the Mississippi to the California border depending on the parks. The land includes cowboys, pioneers, ghost towns, the Colorado Plateau and the California Gold Rush. This part covers more precisely the period covered from the years 1790 to 1880.
Pull up spurred boots and ride through the city of Thunder Mesa in search of the West’s most famous saloons and attractions. Hop aboard the Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing, take to the water for a trip on an old steamship around Big Thunder Mountain. Adventure into Frontierland Playground, play in the beautiful landscapes of the Old West. Look out over Frontierland from the top of the haunted Big Thunder Mountain, or push open the creekiest door in the West and step inside Phantom Manor…
The original concept of land when Disneyland was more oriented towards nature and its representation. The main attraction was Nature’s Wonderland closer to Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. It reproduced the majestic scenery of the American West and three attractions made it possible to travel through these scenery: by stagecoach, by train and on the back of a mule. The decor is full of details that give the impression of having returned to the era of the theme. The land also includes many graphic elements, posters imitating the period.
Beginning in the 1970s, the idea of a crazy train type roller coaster germinated in the minds of imagineers. Nature’s Wonderland was therefore closed in 1977 and replaced in 1979 by the crazy train running through an abandoned Big Thunder Mountain mine. The theme of this attraction is the Gold Rush of 1848 – 1849. This attraction was copied the following year at the Magic Kingdom in Florida on the site of another attraction then in the conceptual state, Western River Expedition, which did not see the light of day.
In 1992, efforts to enrich the theme made the Frontierland of Disneyland Park a land with great thematic unity. The land offers an architectural and geographical journey through the American West. The theme adopts that of a small town with its myths, its personalities… One of them would be the owner of Phantom Manor and the disused Big Thunder Mountain mine.
The main entrance is from Central Plaza through Fort Comstock, a typical log fort, featuring an exhibit on Davy Crockett, called Legends of the Wild West. However, you can also enter Frontierland by rail, thanks to the Disneyland Railroad, stopping at Frontierland Depot.
Through the main entrance, on leaving Fort Comstock, one comes to a plaza, on the left is The Lucky Nugget Saloon which hosts a show and the Last Chance Cafe. On the right, there are three stores (Tobias Norton & Sons, Bonanza Outfitters and Eureka Mining Supplies) grouped under the name of Thunder Mesa Mercantile Building which offerWild West related items. This small square opens onto Rivers of the Far West, the banks of this river are bordered by a path, taking the left leads to Phantom Manor, while the right leads to Big Thunder Mountain.
On the way to Phantom Manor is Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing from which one can cruise the river in one of two paddle steamers, Molly Brown or Mark Twain. Further on, still on the edge of the river, a small cemetery at the foot of Phantom Manor offers a view of the mountain of Big Thunder Mountain but also of a rocky ensemble inspired by the sulfuric concretions surrounding the geysers as in Yellowstone National Park. A dinosaur skeleton (presumably an allosaurus) and two geysers decorate the water basins also nicknamed mammoth feet. One can find on the left of Phantom Manor, the Silver Spur Steakhouse restaurant, which serves mainly meat, grilled under the eyes of visitors.
On the island in the middle of the river rises Big Thunder Mountain, representing the mine of Thunder Mesa, to board this roller coaster course you just have to walk along the lake to the right at the exit of the fort. The visitor can also stop at the Rustler Roundup Shootin’ Gallery just before the mine entrance to practice rifle shooting. Opposite the entrance to the mine, the atmosphere changes and evokes Mexico with the Fuente del Oro Restaurante, which was used for the opening of the stage park for appearances by Zorro.
The path continues around the mine entrance to the far end of Frontierland where the Disneyland Railroad ‘s Frontierland Depot is located. Along the way the visitor will find a barn housing the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue, then a small path leading to the Pueblo Trading Post and the Frontierland Playground, a playground built in 1996 on the edge of the river next to the old Indian wharf. Canoes, disappeared in 1994.
Further at the foot of the Frontierland Depot station is the Forest Treasures shop (closed since 2017), in front of it is the Frontierland Theater which offers the show The Lion King and the Rhythms of the Earth (The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands).
Cowboys and cowgirls can enjoy authentic saloon decor and the west’s atmosphere at the Last Chance Cafe, generous Tex-Mex cuisine at the Lucky Nugget, and a view of Big Thunder Mountain at the Silver Spur House. At Fuente del Oro, enjoy this delicious Tex-Mex treat. Head to the Last Chance Cafe for this hearty dish. Feast on signature ribs with barbecue sauce at the Lucky Nugget Saloon. At the Silver Spur Steakhouse, enjoy classic French cream puffs in the image of the famous cowboy Woody.
Legends of the Wild West
Legends of the Wild West is a walkthrough attraction that marks the entrance to Frontierland. The attraction takes place in a Civil War-inspired fort, known as Fort Comstock, located at the entrance of Thunder Mesa (the fictional city portrayed in Frontierland). It opened in 1993, and features wax characters from the American Far-West, and even famous “Legends”.
Guests are led to the upper floor, where the following wax figures are visible: The Forty-Niner, who has just found golden nuggets during the Gold Rush; The Thug, snoring in prison, waiting for a jailbreak; The Sheriff in his office, full of Wanted posters. He is getting ready for his next shootout; Davy Crockett, here seen shooting another man; Buffalo Bill in his home, preparing his Wild West Show with two other men.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a mine train roller coaster, Paris’s version is unique as it is situated on an island in the middle of the Rivers of the Far West, where Tom Sawyer’s Island would normally sit. Sometime in the late 1800s, gold was discovered on Big Thunder Mountain in the American Southwest. Overnight, a small mining town became a thriving one. Mining was prosperous, and an extensive line of mine trains was set up to transport the ore. Unknown to the settlers, the mountain was a sacred spot to local Native Americans and was cursed.
Before long, the settlers’ desecration of the mountain caused a great tragedy, an earthquake befell the mines and town, and the town was abandoned. Some time later, the locomotives were found to be racing around the mountain on their own, without engineers or a crew. The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was founded in the old mining camp to allow wanderers to take rides on the possessed trains.
Guests board the trains at a station on the mainland. The trains on this version are painted to look weathered and aged. Immediately upon leaving the station, trains dive into a tunnel that transports them under the Rivers of the Far West to the island where the ride is located. The train makes a right hand turn, and makes a quick steep rise before starting up the first lift hill. As trains climb out of the darkness of the underwater tunnel, stalactites and stalagmites can be seen growing next to the track, along with several rainbow colored pools of water. The sounds of bats swooping up above can also be heard.
During warmer months, a waterfall parts around the track at the top of the hill. Trains pop out of the tunnel, leave the lift hill, and drop around a left hand turn, pass through a small cave, then make a swooping right turn. If the trains are being dispatched timely, when the train goes through this curve, it will appear to make a near miss with a train in the 540 degree helix.
After this turn, the trains pass under the second lift hill and its drop, making a slight hop, before making a left hand turn onto a trestle. The train runs along the Rivers of the Far West, across the water from Phantom Manor, then makes a slight right hand turn, and suddenly falls through a washed out section of the trestle, hitting a magnetic trim brake. The trestle drop also contains an on-ride camera. After dropping down to the water level (with water jets on the sides of the track simulating a splashdown), the trains go around a left turn and hit the base of the second lift hill.
As trains start up the lift hill, two tied down donkeys can be seen to the right side of the track, braying at passing trains, with an empty watering pail in front of them. A goat can be seen pulling on a shirt hanging on a clothesline to the riders’ left, as the trains pass a parked steamroller and mine elevator, and travel under a water tower.
At the top of the lift, it is possible for guests to catch a glimpse of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Walt Disney Studios Paris on the horizon before the trains drop around a left turn and cross back under the lift hill. Coming out of the drop, the track goes over another rise, hitting a magnetic trim brake, and passes a sign warning of a broken trestle mounted to the water tower post. Cresting the hill, trains cross over the broken trestle and spiral down through a 540-degree counter-clockwise helix.
Exiting the helix, the trains pass through a short cave and go over a quick airtime hill as they shoot down a canyon. As the trains drop through the tunnel and pass over a trim brake, a loud gust of wind is heard. Trains then make a right hand turn on another trestle, enter a tunnel with signs warning of blasting over the portal, and climb the third lift hill.
As the train starts up the third hill, the tunnel is dynamited, and artificial smoke is blasted in guests’ faces as the train crests the lift and exits the tunnel. The train crests a small hill, then drops to the left onto a straightaway alongside the river, speeding up as it enters the return tunnel. The train encounters a swarm of bats in the tunnel as it makes another sharp counter-clockwise turnaround and goes down a steep drop to cross under the water.
The trains continue to accelerate through the dark until it pops out of the exit portal on the mainland. An additional chain lift is located here to assist the train in leaving the tunnel. The train then coasts past the station, through the loading dock, and then makes a left turn to reenter the station.
Phantom Manor is a dark ride attraction in Frontierland at Disneyland Park in Disneyland Paris. The attraction combines a walk-through portion with Omnimover vehicles and features special effects and Audio-Animatronics. This version of the ride has a distinct plot, designed to be darker in tone than the other Haunted Mansion rides. The ride also features a unique orchestral soundtrack.
The mansion was designed to look clean and aesthetically pleasing. Phantom Manor, however, is designed to look clearly derelict and stands at the top of a small hill, looking out onto the southern side of Big Thunder Mountain, with a commanding view of the washed out trestle, the mine elevator, and the second lift hill. The Manor’s grounds are untended, overgrown with weeds and scattered with dead vegetation.
During this journey, you have to be attentive to all the decorative details adding to the haunted character of the mansion. Visitors enter a new room by turning around a moving table on which a crystal ball is placed. Inside, we distinguish the head of the clairvoyant Madame Leota (face of the imagineer Leota Toombs) predicting the curse striking these places.
This first part ends in the ballroom. Several ghosts enter the room through the hearse spotted next to the fireplace. Other richly dressed ghosts, in 19th century fashion, are seated in the center of the room. At the top of the stairs, Melanie is next to her father, the Phantom. To the far left of the ballroom are several ghostly dancing couples dancing to the music played on the organ from which ghosts escape through the pipes. Above hangs a painting of Phantom Manor when it was in its heyday. Next, visitors enter Melanie’s room where the latter, overwhelmed with grief, is in front of the dressing table. In the reflection of the mirror, you see the ghost of her father over her shoulder.
The second part of the attraction continues with the (fictional) exit from the mansion. The carriages pass the Phantom standing, shovel in hand, in the cemetery near a freshly dug grave. A ghost dog stands among the graves and then we can take a last look at Mélanie in her room before going a little deeper into the bowels of the city. The carriage turns to four busts singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts” composed by Buddy Baker and featured in the other Haunted Mansion attractions at Disneyland parks.
Finally, we enter the ghost town of Thunder Mesa where the mayor himself welcomes. Several buildings are represented: the bank, the apothecary, the saloon, the hotel, each with its own scene. The Phantom makes a final appearance next to a new, open coffin and a rope ready to hang someone… but who will be its next victim?
Leaving the city, visitors pass in front of the vault containing the coffin of Melanie’s four suitors, one of whom holds an engagement ring in his hand. The end of the attraction ends with the passage in front of a series of mirrors where the ghost of Mélanie appears inside the carriage, between the visitors. She notably asks them in marriage.
Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing
The Disney riverboats are paddle steamer watercraft attraction ride vehicles, on which passengers embark on a scenic, 12-minute journey around the Rivers of America. The stately, 5/8-scale stern-wheeler was the first functional riverboat to be built in the United States for 50 years.
The Frontierland area of Disneyland Park has the unique distinction of featuring two riverboats, Mark Twain and Molly Brown. Each riverboat features a recorded conversation between the Captain and Mark Twain or Molly Brown. Since the storyline takes place in the fictional town of Thunder Mesa, most of the spiel deals with the sights of Big Thunder Mountain, Phantom Manor, Wilderness Island, Smuggler’s Cove, an old snoring fisherman, Yellowstone National Park geysers, dinosaur remains, and more.
The Disneyland Railroad (DRR), originally the Euro Disneyland Railroad (EDRR), is a 3-foot (914 mm) narrow gauge heritage railroad, which was inaugurated on April 12, 1992, the park’s opening day. Its route is 7,150 feet (2,180 m) in length and is used by park guests for transportation to other areas of the park, or simply for the experience of The Grand Circle Tour.
Trains first cross a diorama recreation of the Grand Canyon, complete with wild animals and storm effects, and also hides the show building for Phantom Manor. As they arrive in Frontierland, travelling behind the Rivers of the Far West, they first stop in Frontierland Depot.
Disneyland Paris is an entertainment resort in Chessy, France, 32 km (20 mi) east of Paris. It encompasses two theme parks, resort hotels, Disney Nature Resorts, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex, and a golf course.
Disneyland Park is the original theme park of the complex, opening in 1992. Be transported to a world that inspires the imagination, where wonder and enchantment fill the air all year round. With Sleeping Beauty Castle at the heart of this fairy-tale setting, the attractions, shows, parades and restaurants will immerse you in the Disney magic you know and love.