Frontierland is one of the "themed lands" at the many Disneyland-style parks run by Disney around the world. Themed to the American Old West of the 19th century, Frontierlands are home to cowboys and pioneers, saloons, red rock buttes and gold rushes. To build an accurate depiction of an old-West town, Walt Disney sent a camera crew to Frontier Town, in North Hudson, NY, to film a movie that was used as the inspiration for Frontierland, as revealed in the book, “Frontier Town Then And Now.”
Frontierland. It is here that we experience the story of our country's past. The color, romance and drama of frontier America as it developed from wilderness trails to roads, riverboats, railroads and civilization. A tribute to the faith, courage and ingenuity of our hearty pioneers who blaze the trails and made this progress possible.— Walter E. Disney, July 17, 1955
Frontierland first appeared in Disneyland as one of five original themed lands. Conceived by Walt Disney, the land did not initially contain many attractions, but centered on open expanses of wilderness which could be traversed by guests via stagecoach, pack mules, Conestoga wagon, and walking trails. The Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland opened in 1960, consisting of a sedate train ride around various western landscape dioramas. The Mine Train closed in 1977 to make way for a new attraction; the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which opened in 1979.
Disneyland's Frontierland gateway is constructed of ponderosa pine logs. The land's long shoreline along the Rivers of America is considered a prime viewing location for the nighttime Fantasmic! show. The docks to both the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia, (a replica of American explorer Robert Gray's 18th century ship that circumnavigated the globe) are located here, and Tom Sawyer Island in the river's center is also considered a property of Frontierland
On the roof of the Westward Ho Trading Co., there are elk or deer antlers. Elk antlers were commonly placed on general stores in the old west so cowboys coming into town immediately knew where to get supplies. Also in Frontierland is a building that has a large sign that says "Laod Bhang Co. Fireworks Factory". Plus, at the storefront marked "Crockett and Russel Hat Co.", you'll find a window honoring Fess Parker, who played Davy Crockett in Walt Disney's Davy Crockett. Frontierland borders Fantasyland (via the Big Thunder Trail), New Orleans Square and Adventureland, and connects to the Central Plaza through an iconic set of fort-style gates.
Walt Disney World opened its Magic Kingdom in 1971, complete with Frontierland. This instance began with only three attractions: the Walt Disney World Railroad station, Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes (which operated until 1994) and the world debut of the Country Bear Jamboree. Tom Sawyer Island opened in 1973. The northwestern end of the park was supposed to receive a massive, pavilion-style "E ticket" attraction, which was never built. (See also Western River Expedition) The area sat empty until Big Thunder Mountain Railroad premiered in 1980.
Few changes would be made over the next decade. Construction began on Splash Mountain in 1991, and the western end of the land with the exception of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was demolished and rebuilt from scratch, including the existing Walt Disney World Railroad station and parade access road. Splash Mountain and a new two-story railroad station opened in October 2, 1992. Frontierland borders Adventureland on the south, Liberty Square on the east, and the Rivers of America on the north.
Tokyo Disneyland's instance is known as Westernland, as "frontier" does not adequately translate into the Japanese language. The Mark Twain sails this park's Rivers of America. Other than differences in placement, and minor variations in color, theming and name, the land is very similar to the Frontierland and Liberty Square areas of the Magic Kingdom.
Located in the area that is traditionally occupied by Adventureland, Frontierland at Disneyland Park opened with Euro Disneyland in 1992. Unlike all of the other instances, this instance has an elaborate backstory concerning the town of Thunder Mesa, founded by Henry Ravenswood to support the mining of Big Thunder Mountain. This backstory also serves as the foundation for several of the attractions, such as the Phantom Manor. The land is the largest of all of the Frontierlands thus far, containing the entire Rivers of the Far West within its borders.
Two riverboats circle the river here, the Molly Brown and the Mark Twain. Critter Corral was an old area of the land converted into Woody Roundup, a meet and greet area with Woody from Toy Story and Jessie from Toy Story 2. The land is converted into 'Halloweenland' in October, with many pumpkins and other scary characters lurking around every corner. Frontierland borders Adventureland and the Central Plaza of Main Street USA via Fort Comstock.
In October 2008, for the first time in Disney history Jack Skellington and Sally from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas made appearances as meet and greet characters in Halloween and Christmas overlay. They were situated outside Phantom Manor.
In 2012, Grizzly Gulch (Traditional Chinese: 灰熊山谷) opened as the park's equivalent to Frontierland. Grizzly Gulch is much smaller compared to the "Frontierlands" of other Disney Parks, featuring only one ride, Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. This roller coaster attraction is a variation of the "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" attractions found at other Disney Parks, featuring special ride elements unique to this attraction, including backwards portions, and a high speed launch section.
Grizzly Gulch is themed as a Northern California mining town established on August 8, 1888, a founding date chosen as "the luckiest day of the luckiest month of the luckiest year". Though geyser fields disrupted the initial settlements, the town eventually found success when a family of bears lead one of the prospectors to a bountiful gold find, resulting in the establishment of the Big Grizzly Mountain Mining Company. The bears were declared as being a lucky charm for the town and were given protected status, despite their activity occasionally disrupting work in the mines.