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Making a Splash in Frontierland

Making a Splash in Frontierland

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Making a Splash in Frontierland
As the weeks pass since the good news that Disneyland Resort Paris has been saved from immediate financial ruin, a more detailed plan for the resort's future has been emerging. Jeff Speed, Euro Disney's head of finance, recently announced that, should all go according to plan, we can expect to see one major new addition to the resort every year until 2008. That's exceptional news, especially for the Imagineers, who may finally have the opportunity to unveil an enormous project that they have been sitting on for years. I am talking, of course, about Splash Mountain.

Plans for Paris's third Mountain were drawn up as long ago as 1999, but were shelved when the decision to construct the Walt Disney Studios Park was taken. (Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing?) Now it appears as though the ride could be making a comeback; rumours have been flying backstage for several years, claiming that management was only waiting for sufficient funds to begin construction. André Lacroix - the resort's CEO - is known to be a fan of the project, and even went so far as to mention it during a television interview last Christmas.

It can't be denied that Splash Mountain would have a massive effect on the Disneyland Park. Apart from the obvious boost to morale that the Cast Members so desperately need, the park is without a real "wet" ride - a fact which many guests make a point of underlining during the oppressively humid summer months.

A few problems remain, however. Firstly, the construction of Splash Mountain would be an absolutely mammoth task - bigger even than the construction of Space Mountain - and would necessitate the relocation and demolition of several existing attractions. The site proposed for the ride is at the rear of Frontierland, where both the Critter Coral petting farm and the railroad depot currently stand. The coral would disappear altogether, along with the Pocahontas Village playground, while the depot would be moved several hundred yards up the track towards the border with Adventureland. This in itself presents quite a challenge; taking the whole station apart, brick by brick and beam by beam, then clearing the petting farm (including its backstage area) and reassembling everything on that site. And that's just to make enough room to begin building the Mountain in the first place.

In fact, very little of the ride would be situated within the park itself - only the queue lines, station and major drop, in fact. The real guts of the mountain would extend across the railroad into the backstage area behind Frontierland, necessitating yet more land clearance, as well as a lengthy period during which the railroad would be out of action.

Needless to say, there would have to be something very special about the finished article to justify such vast amounts of time and money. It comes as something of a surprise then that very little is known about the final form of the French ride, except for one thing - there would be no Song Of The South theme. In a break from tradition, Disneyland Paris would do away with Brer Rabbit, the briar patch, and the Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah musical accompaniment. This is simply because Song Of The South and its related characters are not very well known in Europe. Location would also play a part, however. Whereas in the other resorts Splash Mountain occupies its own mini-land in the form of Critter Country, in France it would sit firmly in Frontierland.

A Western theme of some kind seems assured then, although exact details remain something of a mystery. As usual though, there is a shortlist of likely candidates. Chief among them is the Western River Expedition - probably the most famous Disney ride never built. The original concept of a Wild West version of Pirates of the Caribbean would be heavily adapted to fit the different ride system, but the staple themes would remain in place. Neatly following Frontierland's existing mythology, guests would find themselves sailing through flooded mine workings in search of fresh veins of gold. However, the abandoned mine has been taken over by a gang of desperate, though comical banditos, who are intent on beating you to the treasure. Their attempts to thwart your passage become increasingly extreme, culminating in an enormous explosion as your boat rolls over the summit of the main drop. This version, though purely speculative, is already a firm favourite with Cast Members.

Another proposition (and one which, in my opinion, is far more likely to see the light of day) is to base the ride around existing Disney animated characters. Pocahontas is being touted as a likely custodian for the Mountain, with guests following her in dug-out canoes on a musical adventure to save a sacred woodland from destruction at the hands of British settlers. This rumour has fallen quiet in recent years, although similar ideas featuring both Brother Bear and Home On The Range have cropped up in conversation lately. This last candidate would be especially well suited to the task - after all, the ride would sit on the site formerly occupied by the farm.

As you'll no doubt agree, the possibility of seeing a project on this scale taking shape after so many hard years at the resort is very exciting indeed. Not only would it transform this neglected backwater of the park - the River Rogue keelboats and canoes that used to ply their trade from the jetty alongside the Pocahontas play area have been out of action for years, along with the Pueblo Trading Post shop that sits between the two - it would send a clear message to the world that good things are finally happening at DLRP. A ride of this size couldn't help but attract both attention and guests, and while it would constitute an enormous investment, the returns could prove to be more than worth it.

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