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Frontierland’s Hidden Messages in Plain Sight

By: Kendall Foreman

A photo of the left side of the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade showing an old frontier message board

Throughout its 52-year history, Frontierland in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World has seen a number of additions that have drastically altered its original footprint. A land that once terminated in a small, single-story train station has since added two horizon-altering thrill rides, one of which is now undergoing its own massive transformation. Amidst these high profile goings-on, it can be easy to miss the small things, but Frontierland is undeniably filled with fantastic Easter eggs and references.

In fact, there is a motherlode (pun intended) of them tucked in just beyond the official “Frontierland” entry sign. Observant guests may have their eye caught by a large poster advertising The Hoop Dee Doo Revue on a wall just to the left of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade. While this is a fun callout to the long running Fort Wilderness Campground dinner show, what surrounds it is a treasure trove of Disney attraction and film references.

Pete’s Dragon

A photo of a flyer advertising Doctor Terminus and his World Renowned Remedies for Instant Relief and Miracle Cures

Just below the Hoop Dee Doo playbill there is a sign promoting Doctor Terminus and his “Remedies for Instant Relief and Miracle Cures.” This is a reference to the villain of Disney’s 1977 film Pete’s Dragon. Doctor Terminus is known for *spoiler* selling phony cure-alls and potions, but he is sure that if he captures Elliot the dragon, he can make use of his magical body parts to create new potions and get rich quick. Hopefully the residents of Frontierland can see Doctor Terminus coming!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

A photo of a notice posted by the Big Thunder Mining Company looking for Gold Miners

Immediately left of the poster for miracle cures is a want ad for miners posted by “The Big Thunder Mining Company” which also displays the signature of the company president, Barnabas T. Bullion. There is a portrait of Barnabas over in the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as well as correspondence between him and Jason Chandler of the Society of Explorers and Adventures. For more on this extensive backstory be sure to listen to WDW Radio Show #698.

Melody Time

A photo of a poster advertising a rodeo starring Slue-Foot Sue.  The poster has an illustration of Sue riding and roping an enormous catfish.

On the upper-right side of the wall is a poster advertising a rodeo which will feature Slue-Foot Sue, “The One and Only Catfish Riding Cowgirl.” Anyone who has watched Disney’s animated feature Melody Time knows that Slue-Foot Sue is the cowgirl who steals Pecos Bill’s heart. However, this rodeo must have taken place before the events of that short cartoon since, due to the actions of Pecos Bill’s jealous horse, Sue ends up living out her days on the moon.

The Apple Dumpling Gang

A photo showing a poster for the Hard Times Cafe.  It says, " When in Quake City, shake things up at the Hard Times Cafe.  Staple & Fancy Victuals Since 1849.  When Times are hard head for Hard Times 'Try the apple dumpling a specialty of the house.'"

Below the rodeo poster there is a flyer for the Hard Times Café in Quake City. It makes note of the house specialty – apple dumplings. The 1975 Disney live-action film The Apple Dumpling Gang takes place in fictional town of Quake City, CA, which just happens to be home to an establishment known as the Hard Times Café.

The Saga of Windwagon Smith

A photo of a poster for the Wind Wagon Co. It says, "Sail Westward Ho, Wind and Horse Power," with an illustration of a covered wagon with a sail covering the back opening.

At the upper-left of the wall is a poster for the Wind Wagon Co. which says, “Sail Westward Ho – Wind and Horse Power.” This is a reference to the 1961 animated short The Saga of Windwagon Smith. This twelve-minute cartoon tells the story of Windwagon Smith who sails into a small Kansas town on his Conestoga wagon that he has outfitted with a sail so as not to need horses or oxen. Apparently, the Wind Wagon Co. is open to offering either the sail or the traditional method.

Snowball Express

A photo of a listing of a land sale in Silver Hill, Colorado.  It says, "Hundreds of acres, land, for sale on 10 years credit at 6 percent interest with low prices."

Below the Wind Wagon Co. flyer is a listing for “Hundreds of Acres of Land.” While the lower portion of the text is covered, it can be inferred that it says Silver Hill, Colorado. This is the name of the small town in 1972’s Snowball Express where Dean Jones’ character inherits the rundown Grand Imperial Hotel that he eventually turns into a ski lodge.

The Castaway Cowboy

A photo of a poster for The Great South Seas Cattle Drive.  It says, "Experience required, tropical setting, big island adventure.  Contact Lincoln Costain.

Finally, in the lower-left corner of the wall is a call for those wanting to enter “The Great South Seas Cattle Drive.” It tells interested parties to contact Lincoln Costain. Costain is the lead character in the 1974 live-action film The Castaway Cowboy. James Garner plays a cowboy who, through unfortunate circumstances, ends up jumping from a boat and washing up on the shore on the island of Kauai. He is aided by a widow and her son, and then helps them convert their potato farm into a cattle ranch – hence the South Seas location of the cattle drive.

The thundering mountain and singing bears may be Frontierland’s main attractions, but be sure to stop and take a look in all the nooks and crannies on the dusty journey west. You never know what nuggets you may unearth!

All photos from the author’s personal collection.

Kendall has been a member of the WDW Radio Team since 2013. Today, you can read her work on the WDW Radio Blog or hear her join Lou for a number of WDW Radio podcast episodes. Kendall’s affection for Walt Disney World began with her very first family visit in the 1990s and has continued with each magical vacation since. Follow her on Twitter @kl_foreman.