Disneyland sets the stage for a new Frontierland tale

June 25, 2014, 10:18 PM · Disneyland is giving its fans an expanded backstory for Frontierland as part of the set-up for a new interactive entertainment experience in the park, starting next month.

Entering Rainbow Ridge

"Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush!" will debut on July 9. In the press release announcing the new experience, Disney said:

“Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush!” will be a whole new way to experience a land in a Disney theme park. Instead of watching the story unfold, guests will be part of the story themselves – naming, creating and developing their own characters and influencing the direction and action of the story’s first chapter. The story will involve entertainment, merchandise, food and more – throughout Frontierland.

Here's the new backstory: The people of Rainbow Ridge, the town at the end of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, are trying to move into the adjacent Frontierland now that their town's been dried up, and there's that darned roller coaster riding through it every few seconds. (Okay, I added that last part.) But the people of Frontierland, being good Orange County NIMBYs, are having none of that, and want to keep those Rainbow Ridge outsiders out. (Wow, this could get uncomfortably dark really quickly.)

We've written in the past about the potential for theme parks as entertainment platforms, beyond being collections of distinct rides and attractions. Like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter inspires interactive play, especially with its new wands, Disneyland's new Frontierland experience could help bring a new sense of imaginative play into the land. Unlike with Potter, fans won't come into the park with any knowledge of this new Frontierland story, so Disney will have to construct a way to inform guests as it inspires them to want to take part. Then, Disney will have to hope that the whole thing won't be hijacked by a small handful of annual passholders who decide that they're going to be in charge and try to run it.

Perhaps starting this in July, when Southern California and SoCal Select annual passholders are blocked out of the park, might help minimize that risk. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to execution, and Disney's ability to inspire people to play well together. Are you interested? Might you join in if you'll be at Disneyland this summer?

Replies (6)

June 25, 2014 at 11:29 PM · So it's a Hatfields-McCoys experience, eh? Not sure how interactive this will be for guests, unless the Shootin' Exposition is involved. ; )
June 26, 2014 at 4:13 AM · I can't help but question how much the average day-or-few-day-tripper will really care about the back theme. They're coming to ride the rides, experience the physical attractions, and- yes- spend money, but will most people really care about the theme, the story line, when they still have to hit Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan and still not miss their reservation time at Blue Bayou and still have time to get a prime spot to watch the parade? Yes, some people will probably decide to try it, but they might just be the very "small handful of annual passholders who decide that they're going to be in charge and try to run it."

We go to a renaissance festival several times a year, and few of the patrons even know that there is a story line to the festival....and they don't care. We rarely even bother with the story line, but spend our time exploring the faire, its entertainment, shopping and food choices, and if we do stumble across a storyline activity going on we might stick around to watch it, but if we haven't seen what leads up to it we might not bother to follow it any further.

Is a story line or backstory interesting? Yes, but possibly more so to serious "theme park insiders" than most guests. It will be interesting to see how successful Disney is at getting more than the above mentioned handful of annual passholders involved.

June 26, 2014 at 6:20 AM · I think a lot of people are entertained by knowing that the deeper text is there, even without personally participating, like the Ren Faire example. The "interactive wands" are clever but come on, isn't the response to the guest's action pre-programmed? Aside from the story being cooler, they're not really any more interactive than Kim Possible / Phineas and Ferb, are they?
June 26, 2014 at 8:00 AM · Really weird to have an illegal resident backstory. Like they can prevent the migration if they tried. Chuckles.

Lame backstory. It won't make up for the Harry Potter Diagon Alley, which is just amazing.

If any place should have the backstory, they missed out with Main Street. Main Street used to have an authentic experience, but they turned it into a generic mall. They missed the boat with the New Fantasyland. I don't see how they can exploit the immersive land experience without starting from scratch and build it from the ground up.

June 26, 2014 at 8:22 AM · This expanded back story should easily steal the spotlight from Universal in the coming months.
June 26, 2014 at 1:54 PM · Sounds pretty lame to me. Frontierland could use another ride, instead. When Big Thunder was being endlessly refurbished, that land must've been a ghost town (so to speak).

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