Monday, May 21, 2018

Frontierland, August 1979

Today's first photo is more interesting than it might appear to be at first glance. It shows the famous "Burning Settler's Cabin" on Tom Sawyer Island; but this is 1979, smack-dab in the middle of one of the energy crises that the U.S. experienced. The natural gas flames were turned off, and fire effects similar to those used inside "Pirates of the Caribbean" were used.

Here's a closer view; The poor settler is still there! Those flames really do look like some orange light bulbs (reflected on some fluttering plastic?). Some smoke effects help a little bit...

... but it sure looks wimpy when compared to this 1962 photo!

Here ya got yer typical photo of the Friendly Indian Village; those trees feel much more on top of everything, it's kind of odd!

Compare it to this 1958 photo.

I used to think that this scene from an Indian Burial Ground was on the western shore of the Rivers of America. But thanks to the amazing "Long Forgotten" blog (read all the posts, it's worth it!), I learned that this scene was on the eastern shore of Tom Sawyer Island. Check out HBG2's excellent and extensive post HERE.


Nanook said...


I suppose plastic is Mylar, or the other-way-round, but I think the 'phony' flame effect probably utilized Mylar to '+' the orange glow. And there's certainly no comparison, flame-wise, to the 1962-version-! Heck, even the settler is wearing a snappier shirt.

It would appear manicuring of the trees was something to be avoided as The Park matured - along with the trees, themselves-! But clearly, it was to the detriment of 'the show'. I get the idea of a backdrop being created out of the tree canopy, but a bit of judicial pruning would have helped the guest experience mightily.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I love the photo comparisons! I guess we don't have to worry about any of the trees in these photos anymore, since they have all been ripped out to make way for Wookies and Ewoks and Droids....oh my. :-(

JC Shannon said...

Great photos today! I have a love for Rivers of America going back to when I was 7. Walt created a little world where you could imagine you were on the mighty Mississippi. I loved Tom Sawyer's Island, I could climb and play and explore for hours. There were many ways to ply the river, but my favorite was the Mark Twain. Love the Village pics, and the Burning Settler Cabin. Much better before energy efficiency and political correctness. Thank you Major for the trip down memory river.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, they probably did use Mylar - or some other very thin plastic. Now it seems that they use some sort of silky fabric in “Pirates” - polyester or whatever - and it doesn’t give that bright crisp flame effect. It looks OK, just not as striking. I wonder why they made the switch? And I agree, the trees needed some work.

TokyoMagic!, what are you, some kind of tree hugger? Star Wars Land will be the greatest thing ever. We will finally get to drink blue milk, my greatest dream.

Jonathan, I think that when I was a kid I didn’t even question whether the river in Disneyland was real. It sure looked real. I never experienced the Keel Boats or the Canoes, but the Mark Twain is a great way to go - it was especially great when you could ride it at night.

The Magic Ears Dudebro said...

I haven't been to Disneyland, so I can't compare and contrast their Rivers of America with the one in WDW, but I can only assume that WDW's is much larger, especially with Disneyland shrinking the land to make way for Star Wars Land--excuse me, Galaxy's Edge.

Melissa said...

For my money, Long-Forgotten, Passport to Dreams Old and New, Daveland, and Gorillas Don't Blog are the Fab Four of Disney Parks history blogs.*

The young lad’s furry companion must be named Captain, because he's always out there seeing to his log.

And yeah, judicious pruning would work wonders in a lot of places, especially where the size of the mature trees interferes with forced perspective. They could have left the trees alone if they just concentrated their Star Wars plans on an Ewok village!

*Mesa Verde Times was up there, but it was so specific to one time and place, and had a story with such a definite ending, that I think of it as a different category.

Patrick Devlin said...

I think there might be or two panels of Mylar still existent in Pirates' town-burning, but I'd have to visit this week to be sure. Oh, OK, I'll go. Does anybody want anything? And yes, Mylar rules over the billowy cloth that has replaced it. My guess is that, since Mylar is stiff on the small scale it's liable to cracking eventually, and is thus a higher maintenance cost.

I like the coziness of the village in its woodsy milieu: more of that hacked-out-of-the-woods feel I mentioned re the settler's cabin some weeks ago.

Actually Melissa, the dog's name is "Dinner."

Melissa said...

I thought the fire in (WDW’s) Pirates looked a lot less convincing the last time I saw it. If they’ve replaced the mylar, that explains it. All the money they spend on additions, and they penny-pincher on maintaining existing effects. Blah.

Patrick, my old Anthropology professor had a cat named Soupy. She had shown up around the campfire on an archaeological dig, and they’d all joked about how she’d come in handy if they ran out of stuff for the soup pot.

JC Shannon said...

Major, I agree. As for me, I think all of Disneyland takes on a little bit more magic at night.

Chuck said...

The name of the Burning Settler's Cabin has always bothered me. I mean, come on - the guy's not even on fire.

Long Forgotten is an amazing resource, and the comments section always contains some great discussion. There's also a good chance you'll run into a friend or two.

Melissa, yes - those are my "Fab Four, too.

Patrick, as long as you're taking orders, can you pick up a churro for me?

Anonymous said...

Major, these are interesting comparison pictures.

Until you mentioned it, I had blocked the phony flames out of my memory. Of course, when you bring it up, it's all so familiar again. I'm glad the flames returned.
California's draconian energy code restricted the use of "decorative gas appliances and lighting" for some years, but I believe these are now somewhat softened since many hotels now have fire pits and even gas lamps and tiki torches again.

I guess I never minded that the POC fire effects were not very convincing, I saw them as part of the corny humor of the whole attraction, akin to the chubby girl chasing the pirate, giving us relief that the scenes were not really real.

I remember laughing at the red aluminum foil crimped around the fake beams to resemble charred embers. The mylar had a convincing crackle in the wind of the dozens of blowers used to create the updrafts. Now if there were some way to add radiant heat and a smoky smell to that sequence, it wouldn't matter if the fire looked fake, we would all be terrified for sure.

Shiny Boy and his dog, Captain remained stalwart on their lookout (logout?) as the years flowed past. I miss them, but the Park outgrew them I guess. Much as it is outgrowing me. I'm planning one more visit, just to see Wookie Heaven, but that might be my swan song.

Thanks Major, for the pics, and everyone else for the commentary.


Nancy said...

Much prefer the early incarnations before the woods were taking over!

Cool views today :)

Major Pepperidge said...

The Magic Ears Dudebro, I’m not sure if the WDW Rivers of America was a lot larger than the one in Disneyland, but it sure is NOW.

Melissa, aw, thanks! Mesa Verde Times, I’ve never even heard of that one, I’ll have to see if I can find it. I wonder if the folks who work at the park have a nickname for the Indian boy and his pup? I wouldn’t mind an Ewok village, as long as the Ewok’s were absent.

Patrick Devlin, I have always figured that the mylar might have been prone to wearing out, but it reflects the lights in such a sharp, crisp manner that it feels a lot more like fire than the soft “polyester” effect used now. Maybe it was too real?

Melissa, they probably switched out the mylar too. I’ve even seen that silky cloth used in Halloween stores for simulating flames. DON’T EAT SOUPY!

Jonathan, for me, Frontierland was so incredible. The soft music, the sound of crickets (or was it frogs), the lights reflecting on the water… that’s all gone now with Fantasmic.

Chuck, I want to see a version in which the settler himself is aflame. They could pipe in the smell of barbecue. Hard facts, baby!

JG, of course the flames eventually did return, but the scenario changed. A moonshiner’s still was the cause of the fire, and it endangered some eagles nesting 4 feet from the cabin (as they do). I thought that the foil-wrapped timbers was a pretty cool effect! So simple, but it worked. For me, anyway. I think I’ve read that fire marshals were worried about the flame effects being so real that, in the event of an actual fire, it would be difficult to tell the real fire from the fake.

Nancy, me too!

Anonymous said...

@Major, again, you jog my memory with the still story, always blaming the moonshiners, it's not fair, I say. Didn't hear that particular piece of calumny until my visit in the late '90's.

Re: Telling the real fire from the fake...

If the firemen can't figure that out, they need a new line of work.

Besides, if they turned off the electricity, all the effects would stop and that would surely help them distinguish what to extinguish.


HBG2 said...

Thanks for the shout out, Major!