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A tour of Disneyland Paris: Frontierland

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Published: July 24, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Welcome to Frontierland at Disneyland Paris!

Frontierland

As you enter the land, you'll pass through a fort that looks a fair sight like the old Fort Sam Clemens that used to provide a play area on the north side of the Tom Sawyer's Islands in the United States.

Welcome to the Wild West

Disney built the fort here at the land's entrance due to the fact that there is no Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland Paris. But we'll get back to that in a minute. For now, let's just note that we've entered the town of Thunder Mesa.

Thunder Mesa

You can take a ride down the river on the Molly Brown.

Molly Brown riverboat

Or visit the spooky Phantom Manor.

Phantom Manor

Phantom Manor is Disneyland Paris' version of the Haunted Mansion. Unlike the other Mansions, which are kept in (more or less) immaculate condition on their outsides, Phantom Manor's a decrepit old wreck of a house. It seems that the mansion itself was abandoned years ago, save for a lonely bride, who eternally awaits the arrival of her groom, who's hanging dead in the rafters.

The bride

Phantom Manor plays much like the Disneyland version of the ride, until we leave the ballroom scene. From there, we enter the bride's dressing room before leaving the manor and entering the graveyard. But that's not the end of the ride. Not even close.

Paris' Phantom Manor is easily the most gruesome of all the Haunted Mansions, with a skeleton-filled Phantom Canyon following the graveyard. This is the ghoulish land that Thunder Mesa became after an earthquake wrecked the town and a Phantom descended upon the manor, killing the bride's groom and cursing the surroundings.

Phantom Canyon

It's said that the Phantom Canyon scenes represent some of the concept work for Marc Davis' never-built Western River Expedition dark ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. (That project was famously dumped when Disney decided to build an abbreviated version of Disneyland's hit Pirates of the Caribbean instead.)

The other major component of the Western River Expedition project that did get developed is the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster. In Paris, Thunder is not placed on the riverbank, as it is in the other Magic Kingdoms. Here, it's dropped smack in the middle of the river, replacing Tom Sawyer Island.

Big Thunder Mountain

You still board Paris' Thunder on the mainland, though, then ride your runaway train under the river through a tunnel before ascending the first lift. From there, this Big Thunder runs much like its siblings around the world, except for the addition of another trip back through the tunnel to return to the mainland station. The drop in elevation to get through the tunnel helps add speed to the ride, making this version of Thunder Mountain the longest and fastest in the world.

On board Thunder

As on Main Street, there's spectacular detail awaiting in Frontierland, for anyone taking the time to notice. As a former resident of Colorado, I loved the reference not just to Molly Brown (see the riverboat above), but also to Baby Doe Tabor:

Baby Doe Mine

There's plenty to look at in the stores, too, up there above the merchandise racks.

Frontierland store detail

Natalie appreciated Disneyland Paris remembering the French-set "Aristocats" with plenty of Marie and Duchess dolls for sale.

Aristocats plush

Curiously, although I saw plenty of Aristocats and Ratatouille-inspired merchandise, I saw nothing for Hunchback of Notre Dame. Does that tell us something about the French view of Disney movies set in their country?

All this shopping makes some folks hungry, so the ladies stopped for a handmade cotton candy:

Your more substantial food options in Frontierland include the table service Silver Spur Steakhouse:

Silver Spur Steakhouse

And if you're looking for a show with your meal, drop in The Lucky Nugget Saloon:

Outside the Lucky Nugget

On stage at the Lucky Mugget

There's also:

Previously: A tour of Main Street USA

Tomorrow: We visit Adventureland, and Paris' Jack Sparrow-free version of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on July 24, 2012 at 5:04 PM
Excellent! Just like I remember!
From Dominick D on July 24, 2012 at 5:15 PM
Frontierland looks great in DLP. As for no Hunchback of Notre Dame merchandise, I find it a little sad. Hunchback is an underrated Disney film that more people need to see. That, or the merchandise got sent into the Hellfire ;)
From Manny Barron on July 24, 2012 at 11:42 PM
I never knew the Big Thunder trains in Paris went through an underwater tunnel. That is so awesome. Phantom Manor kind of looks like the Psycho house.
From Carl Fox on July 25, 2012 at 4:11 AM
Loved the thunder mountain my little girl adored it and due to the baby pass (DLP version is one adult Qs and when finished sees a CM who gives a pass the other parent then returns through the exit barrier ) she got to ride it lots and on the last day we raced to it on the rope drop riding it 3 or 4 times through out the day

Also enjoyed the Phantom Mannor we treated it like a Scooby Doo mystery (now there's a theme park license !!!!!!) and again rode it several times a day.

We ate on the last day at the Golden Nugget which at the time was a character dining experiance I believe that's changed now food was good and the characters provided one last hurrah for the kids (after eating one last phantom and two thunder mountain rides then home)

All in all a great land

From Dominique Mol on July 25, 2012 at 5:58 AM
I love Frontierland at DLRP!
From all the big thunder mountain rides, in the world, this one stands out in theming and in the ride itself because of it's high speed return trip under the river.. also when it leaves the station, it starts with an immediate dive down in the dark wich gets the adrenaline pumping from the first second.

What a lot of people don't realize though is that Frontierland goes on beyond the first part of thunder mesa, to the back there is a little farm, a nicely themed Pocahantas play area, the frontierland train station and of course the huge Chapperal theatre where this summer the amazing Tarzan encounter plays, wich is easy one of my all time favourite park shows around!!

From Mike Gallagher on July 25, 2012 at 8:39 AM
I'm sure I'll never get to Paris, but the Manor looks way cool. And though I have no special feelings for Big Thunder here in the States, theirs looks pretty neat.

On the subject of Hunchback, it's one of my favorite "traditionally" animated Disney Movies. Many years ago, I rented a VHS movie from a video store. I've long forgotten the movie, but it was released by some division of Disney (maybe Touchstone?) The movie was obviously illegal to rent out, as there were messages in it to the effect of "if you have rented this tape, you have done so illegally. Please call ______ to report it" I called the toll-free # and spoke with a nice lady, who turned out to be at Disney, and gave her the name of the video store where I had rented it. I did this not to get the store in trouble, but because I felt it was the right thing to do. The lady took all the information, then said, " To thank you for reporting this, I'd like to offer you a copy of any current Disney movie on tape." I chose Hunchback of Notre Dame. Esmerelda is definitely Top Ten Disney chick material...but she's no Jessica Rabbit.

From Lauren Hayhurst on July 26, 2012 at 4:41 AM
Yes, I must stress how different Thunder is in Paris compared to Florida. I billed it to my less confident friends on a recent trip as a gentle train ride - perfect for coaster virgins - as this was my memory from WDW. However, after pursading them to ride, found that the Paris version is way faster, turnier, with a few heart-pounding moments and tummy-tickles. And it lasts for aaaages! the good thing was, one of my friends loved it so much, she re-rode and even did Space Mtn! Talk about jumping in at the deep end! I'm sure some thought I'd done it on purpose...

Not sure if been covered yet, but Space Mtn is one of the biggest differences between paris and WDW - including an accelerated hill-launch and lots of upside-downs! YES!

From Robert Niles on July 26, 2012 at 8:24 AM
Space Mountain will be a big part of the Tomorrowland write-up on Friday!
From Jason McLaughlin on July 28, 2012 at 6:29 AM
Thunder Mountain in DLP is another ride that is far superior to the one over in Magic Kingdom, WDW. I love the sections where you go under the river to get to the mountain.

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