Disney History: Frontierland Then & Now

Frontierland is rooted in history and as such, rarely sees the sort of reimagining that happens elsewhere at Walt Disney World; however, even on the frontier, a little bit of "sprucing up" is in order now and then. A few fan favorites would fall victim to budgetary constraints along the way, but an uncharted expanse of frontier territory would eventually give rise to two of the Magic Kingdom's most beloved attractions.

Frontierland Then and NowFrontierland Then and Now

In 1971, Frontierland consisted of the Shooting Arcade, the Frontierland Railroad Station, Country Bear Jamboree, Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes, and the Diamond Horseshoe Revue. Of those original attractions, the Shooting Arcade, Railroad Station, and Country Bear Jamboree are still operational in Frontierland today.

The Country Bears at Splash MountainThe Country Bears at Splash Mountain

The Davy Crockett Explorer canoes were the only attraction that was actually powered by park visitors. Guests could paddle their canoe along the Rivers of America. The attraction was closed in 1994 as part of an initiative by Michael Eisner to cut rising theme park operational costs. The canoes required two cast members to operate and only served 20 guests at a time. Curiously these boats that were deemed too expensive for Walt Disney World not only continue to operate at Disneyland in both Anaheim and Tokyo, but are also slated to be part of the opening day roster at Shanghai Disneyland.

Explorer Canoes Paddled The Rivers of AmericaExplorer Canoes Paddled The Rivers of America

The Diamond Horseshoe Revue was a spin off of the beloved Golden Horseshoe Revue in Disneyland and the new version proved to be just as popular with guests. The show was free, but a ticket was required for admission and for those unwilling to arrive early to get their ticket, a long stand-by line was their only chance to catch the performance. It was the "Be Our Guest" of its time. After a series of show and name changes, this budget-buster was shuttered for good in 2003. Today this location serves sandwiches during busier times and serves as a meet & greet or dance party location for special occasions.

The Diamond HorseshoeThe Diamond Horseshoe

Originally, an attraction called Western River Expedition was designed to be the "Pirates of the Caribbean of Walt Disney World", but the public outcry at the lack of a Pirate themed attraction forced the hand of Disney Parks management. The Western River Expedition was scrapped and a shortened version of Pirates of the Caribbean soon appeared in Adventureland.

Big Thunder Mountain RailroadBig Thunder Mountain Railroad

Western River Expedition was never abandoned entirely. In fact, it is directly responsible for the existence of our newest Frontierland classics. Tom Sawyer Island in 1973, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in 1980, and Splash Mountain in 1992 can all trace their inspiration back to the plans for Western River Expedition.

See you out on the Frontier!

A big thanks goes out to regular Guest Author Holly L. for sharing a little bit of Disney World history with us. If you'd like to read more about Holly's Disney adventure, you can find her sharing in our forums.

Elizabeth T. wrote on Thu, 05/07/2015 - 02:01:

Elizabeth T.'s picture

I miss the dancing girls at The Diamond Horseshoe. I have such find memories of watching the show! Every time I go to the park now, I stand there for a minute for a moment of silence.

alicemouse wrote on Wed, 05/13/2015 - 20:12:

alicemouse's picture

Me, too, Elizabeth! We went there once when I was a kid and one of the dancers sat on my dad's lap! My dad is SUPER shy, so it was hilarious!

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