Looking back at the articles I have written comparing the two Disneylands closest to my heart (California and Paris) I realize that the only Land in the Paris version of Disneyland Park which I haven't covered in any detail yet is Frontierland. [The only elements of this Land I have looked at, to date, are Tom Sawyer Island and the Railroad].
With regards to Anaheim, I also haven't covered Critter Country, New Orleans Square or Mickey's Toontown, but this is as they have no equivalents in Europe.
Several Imagineers I have spoken to about the creation of the Paris Frontierland have referred to it as "Westernland" (the name given to the version in Tokyo, due to "Frontier" being a term not thought to be as recognizable by its expected guests). Although this could on occasion have been them getting their resorts muddled, there was a period of time when this name was considered for the area of the France park, although the Land's Art Director, Jeff Burke, claims to have been adamant from day one that "Frontierland" was the only name which should or could be used.
Personally, I feel the theming of Frontierland in Paris to be one of the most thorough and in-depth, especially in terms of a coherent backstory linking all of its parts (including the toilets themed to local undertaker J. Nutterville), even though I suspect some sections of the storyline have been retrofitted. However, over time, I feel additions and changes to the Land have contradicted any semblance of storyline as has an over-reliance on cartoon characters.
One example of an element of the Paris Frontierland's backstory which is abided by less now than in the park's early years is the distinction between the "rich" half of the Land (Thunder Mesa) and the "poor" half (Cottonwood Creek, sometimes known as Critter Corral after a now-defunct petting zoo in the area). Likewise, although the Land is still the hub of the resort's Halloween activities, it is no longer split during that celebration into "Trickland" and "Treatland".
Although this year's Halloween celebrations in the Paris resort were more minimal than usual (and also more Main Street based, with the majority of the budget going to new ghosts for that Land) it was still the area with Pumpkin-Head mannequins, Scarecrow themed musicians and the meet-and-greet with Jack Skellington and his wife Sally Finkelstein-Skellington.
In previous years, for that time period, the Land has also featured face-painting, mummified ships, spooky dinner shows and occasionally an overall re-name/re-theme to "Halloweenland". More free sweets seemed to have been given out in the past too.
Although not to the same extent, Christmas is also celebrated in Frontierland more than in any of the other Lands in Paris, with seasonal stage shows, reindeer, Santa's workshop and a chance to meet the big guy himself.
Other than perhaps during the Halloween/Christmas celebrations, both Frontierlands are generally set in the mid to late 1800s. They both feature a generous smattering of props from the era, a smoking area and a shooting gallery.
Whereas "Frontierland Shootin' Exposition" in Anaheim has eighteen rifles; "Rustler Roundup Shootin' Gallery" in Paris has twenty. The theming of the two are completely different, with the former seeming quite carnival-like, with faux bullet-holes in the signage and comedic epitaphs on the tombstones; the latter is less dark in tone, humor and design, feeling more cartoony [in part influenced by the animation of Warner Bros] and featuring cameos from Peg-Leg Pete and Brer Fox. As probably doesn't need to be stated, there are charges for both shooting galleries.
Attractions currently existing solely in the Paris Frontierland include Legends of the Wild West (a self-guided walking tour of Fort Comstock) and two Native American camps: Pocahontas Indian Village (a play area for younger Guests) and a set of tepees near the Land's main entrance, which are less functional than in the park's early days.
Next month, I shall be looking at the restaurants, shops, theatres and shows of these two Frontierlands, and then I shall start looking at the three "main" attractions of the Paris Land (Rivers of America, Big Thunder Mountain and Phantom Manor) and comparing them to their California equivalents.
Hugh is a former Cast Member, who now lives in London. He is currently writing a Mouse Tales style book about Disneyland Paris for Bonaventure Press.
Hugh Allison Can Be Contacted at:
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