Friday, May 4, 2012

Frontierland Hoedown

Many people look at the entertainment offered at Walt Disney World today as relatively dull, but there is one offering that has proven to be an everlasting piece of the Magic Kingdom. That offering is the Frontierland Hoedown, which has been a part of the park for many years in a variety of forms (check out Disney Parks' video on the Frontierland Hoedown).

In the latest variation, which debuted in 2010, entertainment Cast Members dressed in costumes from Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pecos Bills, and Frontierland Merchandise wander their way towards Country Bear Jamboree. When the music begins to play, a couple of Cast Members jump into the middle of the walkway and begin to dance. As the song continues, more and more Cast Members join in the hoedown. Even rare Disney characters such as Brer Bear, Brer Rabbit, Horace Horsecollar, Clarabell Cow, Big Al, Wendell, and other Country Bears will join in the fun. The fantastic cast and character interaction is one of the many reasons why it's become a guest favorite.

Today I want to focus specifically on the songs featured in the Frontierland Hoedown. The performance is made up of four unique songs, most which play a previous or current role at Walt Disney World. It all begins with the song Devil's Dream, then onto the classic Rocky Top, followed by Hokey Pokey, and the final song is Come Again. Before jumping right into these songs, here is a video of the current Frontierland Hoedown from my friend Jeff Lange:


Devil's Dream is what begins begins the entire hoedown. The song is a classic fiddle tune from the 1800s, but doesn't have any credited creator. It's very possible that the music was originally from England, but made much more popular in America over the years. The actual variation used in the Frontierland Hoedown is a bit tricky to track down, but let's see whats out there.

The track used in the park sounds very similar to the version by Felix Slatkin (1915-1963), which is embedded below. There is a slight difference in the instruments after the first sequence when comparing the two. If you listen between :10 and :13 in the park video, it sounds like a flute or similar instrument. That same part in Slatkin's version (:27 - :32) features a banjo. Perhaps there is a different variation that Slatkin created? Or maybe the in-park version was recorded specially for the Frontierland Hoedown? Take a listen  to Slatkin's version and judge for yourself (song ends at 1:45):

This is not the first time that Devil's Dream has appeared in Walt Disney World. In 1975, there was a televised special called Welcome to the "World". This special was to help promote Walt Disney World and the grand opening of Space Mountain in Tomorrowland. Among the hosts were Lucie Arnaz, Lyle Waggoner, and Tommy Tune. The later of the bunch, Tommy Tune, is where Devil's Dream comes into play. A special dance sequence in the show has Tommy Tune tapping his feet all over Walt Disney World, even on top of the Southern Seas  excursion steamer (which is featured in this blogs' logo)! The song playing in the background is none other than Devil's Dream. You can watch this sequence, which showcases the fantastic Vacation Kingdom in the 70s, right here (starts at 13:13):


The next song in the performance is Rocky Top. It was written in 1967 by husband and wife songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and first performed by the Osborne Brothers later that same year. Since then it has been recorded hundreds of times and is even one of Tennessee's official state songs. The song itself is about the loss of a simpler life, perfect for the setting of Frontierland. Below is a video of the Osborne Brothers performing Rocky Top.

The Frontierland Hoedown isn't the only place where you can currently hear Rocky Top at Walt Disney World. Over at EPCOT you will find the amazingly talented a cappella group, Voices of Liberty. They also ocasionally perform their own variation of this classic song during their show. Who knows, perhaps they will also sing Rocky Top when Voices of Liberty debuts at Disneyland later this year.

If you visited the Magic Kingdom between 1986 and 1992, chances are you may have heard Rocky Top before. The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown, which ran between those years, featured a variety of country songs, and among them was Rocky Top. The song in the show was sang by The 5 Bear Rugs which consists of Zeke, Zeb, Ted, Fred, and Tennessee. Tokyo Disneyland still features a variation of this show for the summer months called Vacation Jamboree. Their show includes several differences, such as the removal of Rocky Top and other song changes. Here is an audio clip of The 5 Bear Rugs performing Rocky Top (begins at 8:20):

Zeb: Wish that I was on ole Rocky Top.

Tennessee: Down in the Tennessee hills.

Zeke: Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top.

Tennessee: Ain't no telephone bills.

Five Bear Rugs:
Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top,
dirt's too rocky by far.
That's why all them folks on Rocky Top,
get their corn from a jar.
Rocky Top, you'll always be,
home sweet home to me.
Good ole Rocky Top.
Rocky Top Tennessee.
Rocky Top Tennessee.


We all know Hokey Pokey, so let's skip over it and jump right to the final song, Come Again. This song was written by Tom Adair & George Bruns for Walt Disney World's Country Bear Jamboree which debuted with the park on October 1, 1971. George Burns, who was named a Disney Legend in 2001 (18 years after his death), worked on iconic Disney music and songs such as the score for Herbie The Love Bug and the song Yo Ho A Pirate's Life For Me, which he co-wrote with X Antencio. Tom Adair previously worked with George Bruns in 1959 on a couple of songs for Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Both came together again to write this farewell song, which plays while guests exit Grizzly Hall. You can listen to it beginning at 4:40 in the video below.

Henry: Well, folks, this concludes our show. So thanks for "bear"ing with us to the "bear" end, and "bear"-el around to see us again. What do you say, Sammy?

Sammy: I say you all come back, ya hear?

Henry, Sammy, Melvin, Buff, & Max: We hope that you'll be coming back again.
That you'll drop in and see us now and then.
We've done our very best to please.
With just the "bear" necessities.
We hope that you'll be coming back again.

Come again.
Come again.

Melvin: The welcome mat is always out,
'Cause seeing you is fun.

All: We hope that you'll be coming back again.
That you'll drop in to see us now and then.

Max: We've had such fun, we're going to cry.

Buff: We just can't "bear" to say goodbye.

All: We hope that you'll be coming back again.

Buff: Y'all come back, ya hear?

Max: Don't forget to gather your belongings.

Melvin: And you husbands, too.
It's been good to have you.

Buff: So long, folks.


As you can tell, the Frontierland Hoedown combines some historically classic songs with today's popularity of "flash mobs", but in a way that is not obtrusive to the area. It has taken many different forms throughout the years and chances are, it will continue to evolve into many variations for years to come. Everyone loves to see what appears to be ordinary everyday Cast Members out dancing with rare Disney characters. It's an amazing opportunity for everyone to have a great time, whether you're dancing along or watching from the sidelines. Next time you see the Frontierland Hoedown, make sure to remember Tommy Tune tappin' his feet through 70's Walt Disney World. It may not be the wildest ride in the wilderness, but it's certainly the wildest hoedown in Frontierland.

This ain't all for Frontierland! Keep an eye out in the comin' weeks for a new series "Textures of the Magic Kingdom", with Frontierland being the first in the installment!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Restoring The Magic Kingdom - Part 1: 2007-2009

If you have been to the Magic Kingdom within the past four years the above graphic should be an extremely familiar sight. Since at least 2008 the Magic Kingdom has been home to an exhaustive amount of construction walls. In a time when most people feel the need to pick out all the little issues wrong with the Magic Kingdom, it's also a perfect time to point out all the work that is currently being done to help restore this beautiful park.

Below is a comprehensive timeline of all the various refurbishments that have been completed, or are still being worked on. It includes attraction refurbishments, facade repaints, bridge replacements, and pathway repaving. Many people see these construction walls during a visit, or see photos of them online, but never acknowledge the work that's been done or is being done. Hopefully this detailed list will help you appreciate the park even more on your next visit.

2007-2008 Refurbishments & Additions

The Magic Kingdom restoration project really took off in 2007 and is still ongoing today. Liberty Square is where it all began, with the Haunted Mansion refurbishment bringing new "life" into the most iconic Magic Kingdom attraction.

June - September 2007: Haunted Mansion
In 2007, the Haunted Mansion went down for an expansive refurbishment. In addition to general maintenance, such as fixing the Doombuggy's audio problems, new scenes and props were added. Among the additions was a brand new Magic Kingdom exclusive scene, the Endless Staircase. This new scene was based after original artwork and features a series of staircases, heading in every direction. Along the staircases are candelabras which get blown out by ghosts (you can see their footprints as they walk along the staircases).

Photo of the closed Mansion from Sorcerer Radio

The Mansion also received some exterior work, such as a brand new extended red canopy and a fresh coat of paint. Inside, even more changes were made. The portrait above the fireplace was digitally enhanced to make it even clearer. The gallery had a major audio upgrade and the addition of some new sound effects. The moving-eyed portraits that previously watched you after getting in your Doombuggy were moved to the loading area. New portraits with a "ghost" effect that occurs when the lightning flashes were added to previous moving-eyed portraits. After the Endless Staircase scene, new blinking eyes were added and fade into the spooky wallpaper.

Other changes to the Mansion came from Disneyland, such as making Leota float. The attic scene was also redone with new portraits and props playing on the storyline of the new bride, Constance. The bride audio-animatronic was also updated. Many other figures and scenes throughout the Mansion were touched up with new paint, giving the attraction a nice refresh.

March 2008: Liberty Square Facades
Heritage House, the shop next to Hall of Presidents went behind themed scrims while the facade received a fresh coat of paint. This was among the first facade to be refurbished. Check out photos here.

March 2008: City Hall Facade
Also in March, City Hall in Main Street, U.S.A. went behind themed scrims while it too received a fresh coat of paint. Photos can be seen here.

August 2008: Liberty Square Bridge
In summer of 2008, the Liberty Square bridge was completely replaced. The previous bridge received tremendous wear and tear from park guests and parade floats. The new bridge was built stronger to handle all the traffic.

Liberty Square bridge construction

August 2008: Liberty Bell
General maintenance was done to the Liberty Bell in Liberty Square.

Walls around the iconic Liberty Bell

August 2008: Liberty Square Repaving
The red pathway along the parade route in Liberty Square was repaved.

Before & after photos of the Liberty Square paving

2009 Refurbishments & Additions

This year saw a variety of refurbishments and additions, most notably the Space Mountain refurbishment. Various Fantasyland facades were repainted and changed in preparation of the Fantasyland Expansion, which officially began construction in Spring 2010.

January 2009: Golden Oak Outpost Replaces Frontierland Fry Cart  
The smoking area adjacent to the Frontierland Fry Cart went behind walls in March 2008 in preparations for what would eventually become the Golden Oak Outpost. The Frontierland Fry Cart, which did not officially close until September 2008, served McDonald's fries and soft drinks. While just a little fry cart, it had a really big storyline, attached to other parts of Frontierland.

Photo from
With the rush of prospectors passing through Frontierland in search of gold, lots of folks in town started looking for ways to cash in on all the excitement. Back in 1853, ol' McDonald (who had a farm, ei-ei-o), a potato farmer, decided to set up his cook wagon on the hill under the big oak tree, just off the main trail. To drum up interest in his French fried delicacies, McDonald even came up with a catch phrase and posted it on the front of the wagon: "There's gold in them thar fries!" (with a symbol of a golden arch to emphasize the fact).

Business was booming for a couple of good years, right up until the great flood of 1855. Legend has it that white men disturbed the spirits of the mountain by removing gold from Big Thunder, causing all sorts of havoc from earthquakes and avalanches to storms and floods. In fact, the nearby river rose so much, the water reached right up to McDonald's wagon on the hill. The wagon survived, but when the water receded, the wagon started to go with it. It slid down the hill, crashed through a fence (and sharp-eyed guests could see the poorly repaired fence), and got lodged in the mud down below.

This didn't stop ol' man McDonald, though. He just laid down some planks so folks wouldn't get their boots muddy, and he has kept right on selling his delicious French fried potatoes to this day.

There was also a sign placed nearby that proclaimed, "Same location since '53." The "53" was scratched out and painted over with a "55." Not only did this help support the story, it was also a reference to McDonald's history. Brothers Dick and Mac McDonald opened their original restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1953. Kroc, who pitched the idea to the brothers of expanding their restaurant into a franchise, opened his first location in Des Plaines, Ill., in 1955.
-Storyline from Wade Sampson's Disney and McDonald's on MousePlanet 
After the Disney and McDonald's contract ended, Disney decided to expand the cart and menu. The Golden Oak Outpost officially opened in January 2009 to a much larger menu, serving chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets. The more chicken-based menu served as an alternative to the burgers offered at Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn & Cafe, located just across the path. This new stand was named after the Golden Oak Ranch, a Disney movie studio in California.

July 2009: Hall of Presidents Refurbishment
In November 2008, Hall of Presidents closed for refurbishment. Another presidential election meant that it was time to add the new president into the show. However, Walt Disney Imagineering took the opportunity to enhance the entire production of this Magic Kingdom exclusive show. In addition to President Barack Obama's audio-animatronic, the show received a new narrator, Morgan Freeman, along with all new digital projectors. In this new production, President Abraham Lincoln recites the Gettysburg Address and President George Washington has a speaking role. Here are a few videos regarding the refurbishment.

July 2009: it's a small world Facade
The facade for it's a small world receives a new coat of paint.

July 2009: Pinocchio's Village Haus Facade
The facade and roof of Pinocchio's Village Haus receives a new coat of paint and repairs. Photos of this can be found here.

September 2009: Tomorrowland Transit Authority Refurbishment
The Tomorrowland Transit Authority closed in April 2009 for a several month refurbishment. In August, guests saw new multi-colored LED lights being tested along the track, but they ultimately were not used when the attraction reopened in September 2009. A month later, in October 2009, the attraction received a new narration spiel, similar to the original "tour" style.

October 2009: Seven Dwarfs Mining Co. & Friar's Nook  Facade
The facades for both Seven Dwarfs Mining Co. Shop and Friar's Nook receive a new coat of paint ahead of the Fantasyland Expansion. Photos of Seven Dwarfs Mining Co. can be found here.

November 2009: Space Mountain & Tomorrowland Skyway Demolition
Space Mountain closed in April 2009 for a several month refurbishment. The Tomorrowland Skyway Station right next to it was demolished and the restrooms were refurbished beginning in November 2008.

New green Space Mountain sign

When Space Mountain reopened, it featured an all new blue and green theme, presumably to move away from the FedEx orange. Graphics throughout the attraction updated the storyline, giving Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain the "Starport Seven-Five" name. The Starport Seven-Five station is just one of the many across the galaxies. A new interactive "NextGen" queue was installed where guests are instructed to collect items using three light-up touch-sensitive buttons on the railing. The loading platforms were completely enclosed to make the attraction darker. Above the loading platform, outlined with a bright blue neon strip, are skylights looking into outerspace where you can see spaces stations floating around. The actual rockets were repainted to remove the glow in the dark strip, making the attraction completely dark.

New Starport Seven-Five loading area

On-ride photos were also added to the attraction, which guests can view when they get off. The post-show was updated with new graphics and designs based around space travel. The entire attraction has many hidden "easter eggs" that honor Imagineers and other Disney locations around the world. Other Space Mountain updates have occurred since the attraction re-opened, but they will be included in Part 2 of this article.

Coming Soon - Part 2: 2010 - 2012
Well, that about wraps it up for 2007-2009. As you can see, this is only the beginning. These years saw the big attraction refurbishments with Haunted Mansion, Hall of Presidents, and Space Mountain receiving large renovations. Their focus will soon turn towards general facade painting, interactive queues, and prepping Fantasyland for the forest-themed expansion.

I hope you enjoyed this post! This is only the beginning of what I have planned for 7 Seas Lagoon.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Welcome aboard the World Cruise, a round-trip voyage through the Vacation Kingdom. For your safety, we kindly ask that you keep all hands, arms, feet and legs inside the Excursion Steamer at all times. We will be departing for our trip around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake momentarily.
I'm very pleased to announce my latest project: 7 Seas Lagoon. This new blog will be the home for my future articles regarding Walt Disney World and other various Disney-related topics. Recently I've become intensely interested in the history of Walt Disney's Florida property, which came about due to D23's Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th, the entire 40th Anniversary on October 1, as well as the return of Little Orange Bird.

I'm relatively young and new the to the entire realm of Walt Disney World blogging, so hopefully this will serve as a learning curve for myself as well as others. My first trip to Walt Disney World was in December 1998, long after the 70's & 80's Walt Disney World "vibe". I never had the opportunity to experience fan-favorite attractions such as Delta Dreamflight, Journey into Imagination, and Horizons. While I may not have personally experienced much of Walt Disney World's history, I am still very much a fan of it. Hopefully those of you have experienced Walt Disney World's past and those of you who will be learning about it for the first time both enjoy my research and articles.

This blog will not be solely about Walt Disney World's historic past. In fact, most of the articles will be discussing the current Walt Disney World. I have a few articles already in the works regarding small overlooked details in the Magic Kingdom. The first entry, Restoring The Magic Kingdom, will be an in-depth look at the many attraction and facade refurbishments in recent years. Look for this one in the coming weeks, then more every month or so after that.

Before finishing up, I would like to take a moment to explain the theme of the blog. As you can already tell, it's based around the Seven Seas Lagoon. Even more specific, it's based around the World Cruises that were offered at the cost of 1 "E-Ticket" or 90 cents. These 50 minute narrated tours around the Seven Seas Lagoon & Bay Lake were given aboard an Excursion Steamer, the predecessor to the current Magic Kingdom Ferry boats. Walt Disney World has seen three of these Excursion Steamers, Ports-O-Call and the Southern Seas (the original Southern Seas was retired in 1975, and a new Southern Seas introduced in 1977). I could go into great detail about these magnificent boats and the cruises offered, but FoxxFur has said everything better than I could have ever imagined on Passport to Dreams Old & New.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy your cruise along the 7 Seas Lagoon into the past, present, and future of the Vacation Kingdom.