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Entries in Animatronics (20)


The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 1 ]

[ PART 2 Now available ]

A trip earlier this year to Yellowstone National Park inspired me to post about one of Disneyland's greatest retired pieces, Nature's Wonderland. Beware. You may just love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad a little less after enjoying the following.

Listen to this fantastic narration. But watch out! It may get a little sexist along the way:

"We have ‘stocked’ our preserve with over 200 amazingly realistic animated animals and birds - including almost every specie still roaming the North American continent."



Timeline 1955-PRESENT

1956 Rendering of Rainbow Caverns Mine, Rainbow Ridge Mule Pack, and Rainbow Mountain Stage Coaches

"Here, in a primitive setting that duplicates the remote wilderness country, you may watch beavers, busy as always, on home-building and tree-cutting chores; coyotes and mountain lions; clown-like bears, romping without a care in the world; Olympic Elk engaged in battle for survival, just as it is enacted daily in the natural wilderness."




Rendering by Marc Davis
Photo courtesy of Pete

Rendering by unknown artist


Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland overlaid on today's Big Thunder site.


Detail of 1962 souvenir mapFull-size map here.

Then and Now

Cascade Peak was removed in 1998 due to structural damage. The broken down Mine Train was removed in a recent Rivers of America rehab.

Photo (left) courtesy of Pete

The front of the rock tunnel is easily visible today as you walk on the trail that connects to Fantasyland just west of Big Thunder Mountain. The back opening of the same tunnel is visible along the east side of Rivers of America. If you pay attention you may see a jumping fish on the north side of this pond, thought sadly it's not often operational these days.

The "Assay Office" building (right) can be seen on the far left of the left photo.

The "Panhandle Hotel" and "Big Thunder Epitaph" buildings (right) can be seen behind the center tree in the left photo.

Live, wild cats hanging at the abandoned tracks! (Several, if not dozens, of wild cats live in Disneyland bushes.) They can occasionally be spotted during the day but more often they come out after hours). I took this photo from the Mark Twain in 2004 and thought to myself, 'if I were to be a mangy wild cat, I'd like to live on the site of an extinct Disneyland attraction too". Static mountain lion figures now sit between the old tracks facing Rivers of America.

The Must-see "Frontierland in Color"... though not all of this video is "in color"

Continue with [ PART 2 ]

Photos, scans, and graphics by Fritz. Additional photos submitted by friend and fan of the blog, Pete. Other photos provided by Daveland, Calisphere, and Tim's Disney News Archive. Videos originally posted on YouTube by our friend, Rustin.




Don't ask me why but I love looking at the inside of animatronics as much as I enjoy looking at the outside.  I'm a fan of Country Bear Jamboree and it's Marc Davis style.  More than anything I like watching a room full of entertaining animatronics do their thing.

The photo?  This photo of the broken down "Max" head was taken a few years back in none other than Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion itself.  It was collecting dust under the elevated Doom Buggy track in the Séance (Madame Leota) Room.  Before declaring it completely "abandoned", I must make an educated guess that it is/was used for parts.  Duplicate animatronics exist for many, but not all, figures in the parks so one can be fixed while the other stays in the attraction.  Could this have come from Disneyland? Don't know.  I'd love to know how much was sent to Florida in the weeks that followed that sad day in 2001 when the Playhouse closed to make way for Pooh.

Marc Davis Concept Art

Did you know?...

· Disneyland had two identical theaters to handle high capacity. One long lobby with two theater entrances.  Ever notice?  I was in there one night back in the 90's and went in the wrong door, noticing a mirrored image of the theater I had just seen.  Remember the cool coin-operated machines in that lobby?  Foot massagers and stuff.

· Magic Kingdom was the first to get Country Bear Jamboree, not Disneyland.    

· The show was originally intended for Disney's Mineral King Resort

· California Adventure's Grizzly Peak area will never get a rebuilt version of Country Bear Jamboree (like rumors have said) because cool things like that never get built anymore, especially in DCA.

· Marc Davis hated the idea of Christmas and summer versions of Country Bear. (Confirmed by his wife, Alice Davis when I asked her about things that ticked off the late genius.  She said, "he never understood why they didn't just leave these things alone.  They just make them worse when they mess with them".  Well said, Alice.


Jungle Cruise Commercials

Fun.  I'm kinda surprised they went with an old-school attraction for this spot.  Not gonna complain.  At first I thought Donald Duck would jump out of the river water and Snow White would be skippering the boat, but it turns out to be pretty tasteful.  Check out the superimposed castle behind the elephant pool.