We spent most of our first day in Magic Kingdom yesterday around Main Street, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland (with a brief detour into the outskirts of Liberty Square for some funnel cake). But with a late afternoon case of the sore feet and aggravated from one more too-scary roller coaster (yes, my 5 year old son is officially Too Little for roller coasters if he can even be scared by the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train), we hopped on the train and rode it all the way to Frontierland.
It was like being dropped off in a different century. The whole aesthetic of Frontierland seems tied to the same decade that brought us the Berenstain Bears — a nuclear family where the mama wears a bonnet and dad wears overalls and they live in a wood paneled country cabin style tree house. Which is to say, I walked through and instantly felt as though I were back in 1981 during my first visit to the Magic Kingdom. I even had a powerful flash of déjà vu walking from Frontierland into Adventureland. I knew that stretch of Old West street. I had walked it. I had gone to the Country Bears Jamboree in it.
The fact that going around the corner brought you to Aladdin’s Magic Carpet (and a character meet and greet with Jasmine) didn’t dislodge my memories—these attractions sit cheek by jowl next to the Enchanted Tiki Room and still are around the corner from the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. If Tomorrowland has received a big grafting of 21st century product, Tomorrowland and Adventureland felt something like 90% pristine.
Which is interesting to me. I think the original theory of these two lands was that they would be the “boy” lands while Fantasyland and Main Street would be the “girl” lands. But today’s kids have never heard the theme song to “Davy Crockett” (which was, to my surprise, playing on the bus to the park yesterday morning). There are no free range outdoorsman or cowboy kids any more. So what explains the enduring power of these attractions?
I guess the difference between Tomorrowland and Frontierland is that, when it was built, we still thought that there was more Tomorrow to be discovered. But the frontier celebrated by Frontierland had been largely explored a hundred years before Disney got to it. Frontierland was nostalgia from the beginning, grown into archetype, and now all but into myth.