Legends Never Die – The Unappreciated Importance of LEGENDS OF FRONTIERLAND

4 thoughts on “Legends Never Die – The Unappreciated Importance of LEGENDS OF FRONTIERLAND”

  1. Great article Dave! I hope they bring it back too. Your analysis on the barriers to entry is spot on, but I’d also put on the other side of the ledger costs. Disney has gotten expensive. While the marginal cost for an APer to put aside an E ticket experience (which they’ve probably already had several times) is small, it’s a lot harder for the tourist to make that investment if they only have a few days in the park. And not everyone is comfortable with that level of activity or possibly foolish. Take, for example, Renaissance Faires…at the highest level you have people that join the guilds to become essentially the cast members, then you have others who develop characters and participate, you have others who just come in costume but are otherwise there to drink and watch passively, and then you have the civilians that come in day clothes (and some of them laugh at the participants).

    But I still say the biggest obstacle is the lawyers. When you allow the visitors creativity, lots of people will push the envelope. Whether it was bringing in instruments and game through gate security for the carnival, or people mounting expeditions to take the islands, racial sensitivities for the portrayal of native americans, copyright concerns, or blocking the gate during frontierland v. rainbow ridge shouting matches, management had its hands full managing complaints or possible legal issues. To overcome this inertia, the thing has to be both really popular and revenue generating.

    Read Doc your article. He hopes it comes back too and wanted me to shout out to you hi. Says he’s mad you left time traveler off your list of occupations for the town.

    1. All excellent points. The issue of the rapidly rising cost for a day at Disneyland is certainly something worth discussing, and I think it’s unfortunately making the notion of a trip to Disneyland out of reach for more and more people each year. And your absolutely right that there will always be people who are less comfortable with this kind of activity, though, to be fair, there are also people who are made uncomfortable by spinners or rollercoasters or 3D.

      The biggest issue is obviously the complicated legal situation. You are 100% right that this is uncharted territory and it creates a whole new set of problems they don’t have 60 years of experience addressing. That said, the team who led the game did an astounding job keeping up with these complications and addressing problems as they arose. The important question, though, is whether Disney management feels it’s worth the headache. The game as it existed previously had very little means of direct monetization (though I’d still wager that food sales in Frontierland spiked during those 11 weeks), and that makes it more difficult to justify the weirdness of the whole thing.

      But in terms of evolving these places to embrace new types of experiences, this is an incredible experiment, and I’d love to see it continued.

  2. This article is spot-on! I think most people get bogged down thinking about Disneyland in terms of its rides, but the backdrops to those rides – the worlds suggested by the area theming – are just as important to making it feel like Disneyland. I’ve always been more interested in what *I* could get out of the park – the stories it inspired me to imagine – than in the established stories it was trying to tell me. “Legends of Frontierland” is one of the few times I felt like my take on the matter was being not only acknowledged but catered to.

    I only played twice. The first time was a brief foray as part of a regular Disneyland trip, just to see what it was all about, but even so, it sucked me in to where I kept finding myself trying to tug on the brim of a hat I wasn’t wearing. So before I went back to make an all-day game of it…I bought a cowboy hat to wear. I faked an Old West accent all day and decided I was going to be the crazy town inventor. The story ran away with me and I wound up achieving Legend status in just the one day. They were being generous with the certificates because it was the planned last day of the event, but I still felt like a million bits standing up there in the Golden Horseshoe.

    Sadly, I’m just cynical enough to think that the extraordinary power of “Legends” to fuel guests’ own stories is a mark against it from the perspective of the bean counters. Disneyland’s uniqueness comes from its ability to inspire the imagination…but it makes money on selling prepackaged “stories” and bits of “imagination” to people who have had their own creativity hobbled by the relentless march of branded media. No one who has become a Hero or Legend of Frontierland on the strength of the story they created and the work they put into telling it will ever be content to play Disney Princess or Marvel superheroes with mass-produced costumes and toys again. And that’s dangerous, as far as the money people are concerned.

    So while I strongly hope they bring back “Legends” in the future, I’m very wary of what it may end up looking like.

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