Who knew train chases could be so fun. I had the pleasure of seeing The Lone Ranger this weekend, and while I realize it’s not getting the best reviews from critics, I had a roaring good time. It’s great fun, with lots of subtle touches of Walt.
For one, the movie is not simply another summer blockbuster, but an ode to a generation who grew up with these characters in the same way today’s kids adore Phineas and Ferb. For such a beloved franchise, though, The Lone Ranger hasn’t been kept alive as much as the likes of, say, Batman or Superman. I’ll be honest—I had heard of The Lone Ranger before this film, but beyond it involving cowboys, I really couldn’t tell you anything more about it. My grandfather, on the other hand, was beside himself.
He’d been looking forward to this movie for over two years. The Lone Ranger was his favorite radio program as a child, and when his family bought their first television, The Lone Ranger was the first TV show they all watched together. His all-time favorite actor is Johnny Depp, so he was over the moon when he found out who would be playing Tonto. He made a special trip to see the movie with my family, and it was great to share that soon-to-be special memory with him.
Taking place in the wild-west Texas, the construction of the transcontinental railroad is a large part of The Lone Ranger’s story, and it’s here that we find Disney all over the place. Walt Disney was very enthusiastic about trains, and much Disney mythology is centered around locomotives. Mickey Mouse himself was born on a train as Walt had an idea for a new character in the late 1920s. Walt’s passion for trains was more than just a passing fascination, too. He and some of his studio colleagues took a hobby to making and repairing model trains, and Walt even had a small train ride and track in his own backyard, dubbed the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. References to the Carolwood Pacific can be found in several Disney entities, such as throughout Storybook Circus in the Magic Kingdom and even as recent as in one of the new Mickey Mouse cartoons airing on Disney Channel.
Trains have always been an integral aspect of Disney history, from Casey Junior to Big Thunder, and The Lone Ranger continues that tradition. You can feel Walt’s influence all over the aesthetic of the film. It really feels like an old-fashioned, live-action Disney film, something that feels comfortable in the same era as Swiss Family Robinson or The Love Bug. Of course, it has all the special effects, pacing, and storytelling that make contemporary movies so compelling, but the tone of the whole thing is portrayed as a heartfelt throwback to a genre of movies we don’t see too often anymore. It makes me wonder if Disney would consider a Davy Crockett remake.
Since The Lone Ranger hasn’t fared too well at the box office or with critics, it’s questionable as to whether we’ll see more out of the story in terms of sequels or theme park presence, but I hope the franchise is given another chance. I feel that a big part of the lack of attention the film is getting surrounds the saturated calendar of summer movies. There are a lot of great ones this year, and it’s nearly impossible to catch everything that looks interesting. Had The Lone Ranger been released during a slower time of the year when it could be given an undivided spotlight (like Oz the Great and Powerful last March), I feel that it probably would have succeeded more.
However, I would still love to see The Lone Ranger in the parks somewhere. Frontierland is the obvious choice, but just what kind of attraction is tricky. A runaway train adventure would be fun, but I think there might already be something that fits that description!
What about you? Have you seen The Lone Ranger? Do you think it’s an underappreciated Disney classic in the making, or did the critics get it right? What would you do to bring its story to the parks?
Blake is a college student focusing on Creative Writing and Media Studies. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade on Main Street and then sprint to Frontierland in time to see it again. You can follow Blake’s random Disney ramblings on Twitter at @blakeonline, or at BlakeOnline.com.