Yesterworld: Disney’s Thunder Mesa & The Western River Expedition – Yesterworld Unbuilt

[Intro sound effects]>>NARRATOR: The subject of unbuilt Disney
theme park lands and attraction concepts, can range from simple ideas that never made
it off the drawing board, to ones that came about as close to production as you can get.   [sound effects]
  Magic Kingdom’s unbuilt Expansion known
as Thunder Mesa and The Western River Expedition attraction, is one such case, which has not
only been the inspiration for many aspects of attractions you see today, but would have
forever changed the course of the parks future. [Intro theme]
  In 1967, construction began on Walt Disney
World’s Magic Kingdom. And while the park would include nearly identical
elements and attractions from its Anaheim relative, other aspects would be altered.  
Such as the building of underground tunnels for cast members, which due to florida’s
high water table, would require the park itself to be built 108 feet above ground level.  
But perhaps one of the biggest differences between the two parks would be the absence
of the incredibly popular Pirates of the Caribbean, with the mindset being that since Florida
was close to the real Caribbean and full of Pirate folklore, there would be little interest. [sounds effects]
  Instead, a large portion of land northwest
of Frontierland was set aside for the building of a sub land called Thunder Mesa named after
what was supposed to be one of the park’s icons Thunder Mesa mountain which would have included 3 primary attractions,
including a runaway mine train coaster and canoe-themed river rapids ride, along with
scenic hiking trails and explorable areas,  
But it was Thunder Mesa’s 3rd attraction that would be located in a show building hidden
by the facade inspired by Utah’s Monument Valley, that would be the lands signature
ride, and would take guests back in time to the days of the Wild West [Doc: “I apologize for the crudity of this
model, but I just…”] [Marty: “Yeah, I know, Doc, it’s not to
The ride was called The Western River Expedition, which was Designed by Walt Disney Imagineer
Marc Davis. And Like Pirates of the caribbean, which he
had also designed, it would be a boat ride attraction, only instead of pirates, it would
be full of western characters and animatronics. With the attraction being housed in not 1,
but 2 connected showbuildings, each comparable in size to Pirate’s of the Caribbean’s
main showroom, which would have resided in a massive third showbuilding underneath and
intertwined with the lands other attractions.  
And would borrow many aspects of Pirates of the Caribbean’s ride design and track layout. [ride scene: “Keep a weather eye open, mates,
and hold on tight.”]  
Upon entering the attraction, you would wind your way through an old mining shaft, which
lead to the first showbuilding featuring a scenic canyon sunset and the ride’s loading
dock. And after disembarking and drifting through
the western landscape, much like Pirates of the Carribbean, you would enter a rocky cave,
but instead of skeletons and old relics, the cave’s stalactites would appear to resemble
familiar Old West characters and animals.  
And Upon exiting the cave, you would witness a stagecoach being robbed by bandits, which
could also be seen by passerby’s riding The Walt Disney World Railroad, as it’s
here where the train would have bisected the show building, with the other side to feature
a diorama comparable to the one found on the Disneyland Railroad. From here you would travel through an open
prairie, which would feature characters singing variations of the Western River Expedition
theme, eventually leading to the town of Dry Gulch, in which you would drift through scenes
of typical Wild West characters and scenarios. [sound effects]
  From there you would come across a group performing
a Rain Dance, which would bring on rainfall accompanied by thunder and lightning.  
Shortly after you would begin to climb a waterfall, and find yourself in a forrest where trees
are set ablaze from the storm.  
And it’s here where the ride would reach it’s climax, as the bandits from earlier
have caught up with you. But luckily, you would escape as the boat
goes down a waterfall, and after going through another cave, would arrive back at the beginning.  
[Marty: “Great Scott.”] [Doc:“I know, this is heavy.”] Construction of the ride and Thunder Mesa
itself was set to begin shortly after Magic Kingdom’s opening in 1971, and was planned
to be finished by the parks 5th year anniversary in 1976.   
However, when the park opened, guests had one major complaint about Disney’s newest
theme park: Where was Pirates of the Caribbean?  
So while Thunder Mesa was nearing the end of it’s pre-production, Disney put the project
on hold in order to begin immediate construction of a Magic Kingdom Pirates of the Caribbean.  
And it’s interesting to note, many believe that the reason behind Magic Kingdom’s version
of Pirates lacking so many of the Disneyland counterpart’s ride elements, was to avoid
direction competition with Wilderness Expedition’s many borrowed elements.  
But Despite the delay, work on the ride continued, which included possible design changes and
the revisal of certain planned portrayals of certain groups, which going into the 1970’s,
began to feel outdated and offensive. [movie scene]
  But when approaching early 1974, due to the
energy crisis that had hit America, and the decline of general interest in Westerns in
both TV and film, combined with construction costs of Florida’s Pirates of the Caribbean
and the upcoming construction of Walt Disney World’s second theme park, Thunder Mesa
and it’s showcase attraction was becoming increasingly unrealistic.  
However, not wanting to lose the nearly 5 years of ideas and planning, up and coming
imagineer Tony Baxter, came up with an attraction which would use elements of Thunder Mesa and
it’s runaway mine car coaster, called Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road.  
And while Disney was pleased, seeing it as a cost cutting compromise, Marc Davis was
upset that The Western River Expedition had been excluded.  
And while Tony Baxter attempted to rework the ride into Thunder Mountains plans, Disney
would only green light the western roller coaster, and while some planned elements would
make it into Epcot’s world of motion, Thunder Mesa and the great river expedition as originally
conceptualized, never saw the light of day.  
Despite some delays, Thunder Mountain eventually debuted at Magic Kingdom in 1980, taking up
the vast majority of Thunder Mesa’s originally set aside land, with Splash Mountain taking
up the rest in 1992. And while it may be disappointing to think
about what could have been, one doesn’t have to look too hard to find Thunder Mesa
and The Western River Expedition’s influences scattered throughout Disney’s theme park
history, assuring that while unbuilt, it will never be forgotten. So what about you? If you could bring one unbuilt attraction
to life, which would it be? If you want to know more about Thunder Mesa
and it’s attractions, check out some links to some fantastic articles in the description. As always, thank you guys and gals so much
for watching, hit those like and subscribe buttons, and I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Yesterworld: Disney’s Thunder Mesa & The Western River Expedition – Yesterworld Unbuilt

  1. I saw the miniatures for this ride on display at Walt Disney World in 1979.

  2. This video is EXCELLENT!! Awesome production value, motion animation nice flow quality narration…. VERY IMPRESSED! Keep up the good work!

  3. Magic Kingdom is not 108ft above ground level, it is 108ft above sea level. Big difference.

  4. I've always kinda wished that the disney america park in virginia could of happened.

  5. Addicted to this channel and everything it's about!!! Thank you and more more more!!!! 😀

  6. This video was entertaining and informative. It would have been a nice land if they had built it. I'm not sure if a person narrates this video or if it's electronic, but the word "comparable" is pronounced com·pa·ra·ble ˈkämp(ə)rəb(ə)l/

    Also, they're called "passersby", not "passerbys".

  7. If i could bring one disney park to life it would be beastly Kingdom

  8. buffalo's that were going to be used for that attraction ended up being moved to living with the lands Prairie scene

  9. Would have been great to see that part of the park though. All well.

  10. I'm hoping if either Canada, UK, Australia or New Zealand ever wanted a Disney theme park they're put this ride into one of them

  11. I don't know that many scrapped Disney projects, but I LOVE the work of Marc Davis and think his contributions to Disney would make an interesting video in their own right.

  12. I really enjoy your content. Fabulous channel! So happy I found these informative and entertaining videos. Thank you for all the hard work you put into them and PLEASE keep making more!

  13. Though I wasn't a big fan of the movie, I wish that I could've seen Frontierland's 2013 Oz expansion in Disneyland come to fruition. It would've served as a perfect transition from Frontierland (Kansas) to Fantasyland (Oz itself), and considering the Oz property's history with Walt I think it would've been amazing. He loved the world of Oz and it's characters, but they always seemed to be just out of his reach whether it came to movies or theme parks, so I think having Oz in the park would've been a nice way to honor the dream that he could never reach when he was alive. It's a shame the only other appearance of anything Oz related in a major theme park is relegated to two scenes based on the 1939 film in The Great Movie Ride in Florida.

  14. i wonder if expedition everst is the eventual by product if this as well as the new snow white ride

  15. I'd love to see all of the unbuilt Epcot world showcase pavilions such as Spain, Israel, Russia, Venezuela, Switzerland, Equatorial Africa, and many more.

  16. I would've liked to see Thunder Mesa as I love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. But Everest will always be my favorite roller coaster. (Rockin' Roller Coaster is good too, though)

  17. This is Definitely one of those Theme Park Rides/Attractions I truly wish saw the light of day or never left us. I truly believe that, if it was built, it would have gone down as one of the Greatest Disneyland Rides ever to exist, right up there with all of the other Disney Classics…

  18. Maybe Disney will buy Blizzard and finally build it as Thunder Bluff.

  19. i would like to see beastly kingdom be built! although we have pandora now, and i do enjoy that a lot, i feel like i'm missing out because i've never seen avatar. i don't understand some of it. i think beastly kingdom would be more accessible for more guests.


  21. Probably for the best, because who would even go to work on a full-on replica of Pirates of the Caribbean in a different genre anyway?

  22. I'd say I'd want Beastly Kingdom, but it did basically get built at Universal. So I'm going to browse your channel and see what else I can find. I'm glad I found this. My Disney World nostalgia has been high lately, and this is a great hold over

  23. I would have really liked to see Beastly Kingdom. The concept sounded interesting

  24. Sounds WAY cooler than what the Floridians and Walt Disney World vacationers begged for! They end up getting a cut in half version of Disneyland's pirates of the Caribbean ride!

  25. Westcot would have been great. Thunder mesa wouldn't have been as great as Thunder mountain or splash mountain

  26. Why didn't they switch rides around. Put the cowboys in Disney land and the pirates stay in Disney world.

  27. I love how when Disney's ideas don't work, they put a bunch of Easter eggs around. I think it's mostly to remind them though

  28. I feel like we truly lost out on the Dark Kingdom and, upon hearing about it, the Beastly Kingdom as well. I mean, I know NSSHP was a take on making the entire park into a sort of "Dark Kingdom", but I feel like a year-round section would open the door to a lot of fun with Disney Villains (who have been on the rise in popularity for years. My niece is a villain lover and would DIE for a villain themed park), including some nods to the VERY popular Disney Descendants as time went on for the park.

  29. I am so impressed with this video and channel, it is so well written and flows so well! The graphics in your first 15 seconds alone is impressive! You have to be more than one person working on this! If not I'm even more impressed. Huge props to you, your channel really stands out.. I just did my own attempt on covering Thunder Mesa, which is how I stumbled onto yours.. I hope eventually to use as much animation as you do eventually, though I have a ways to go until I get the professional final product you have on yours. You def have a new fan in me, GREAT WORK, KEEP IT UP!!!!

  30. I'm glad some of Thunder Mesa elements were used in Disneyland Paris/Phantom Manor. Great video!

  31. I enjoyed the attraction and was disappointed with the Stitch replacement. It was a very different attraction for the Magic Kingdom but a good one full of that Disney Magic.

  32. This sounds awesome. I would have most liked to have seen this ride and Disney's America of course

  33. In Disneyland my favorite ride was Thunder Mountain. I would've liked to see the original though

  34. If this had resulted in a series of Pirates of the Caribbean spin-off movies taking place in the wild west (with further installments involving ninjas, I guess), then I could probably be okay with this

  35. I just wish They had home on the range characters at frontierland because to the best of my knowledge they don't which I find sad as That was (and still is) my favoriate disney movie

  36. You should do a video on a completely botched "Disney's America" idea because that has to be one of the most unique stories for Disney Theme parks. Just reading about the massive backlash that came from it and the public outcry against it is interesting in of itself.

  37. When one of your best ride in Disney is based off a racially embarrassing movie that's trying to be swept under the rug

  38. Quickly becoming one of my favorite Youtubers. Great content. Loved this episode.

  39. Out of all the lands they were going to build at Disney World, I'd want Beastly Kingdom and/or the Muppet Studios :'(

  40. Thats the thing about Disney. I wouldnt care it they were similar to pirates. Its just the magic of walking through the gates on to Main Street. I dont think of Pirates…the Mansion…Splash….Space…etc etc…..i think DISNEYLAND.

    I HATE Jack Sparrow and Davey Jones etc being included in the pirates ride.

    Some times nostalgia means more then things needing to feel modern. But i do understand the need to switch to digital lighting etc like the Indiana Jones ride did. But to overhaul everything like they do really sucks.

    For example i LOVE Marvel!! But to not have the Tower of Terror is so beyond disappointing to know i will never be able to experience the little movie as you start the ride and that first drop that plays in to it was so freaking awesome!!

    And now i have a 4 year old daughter and it sucks that she cant share the same experiences that made IMHO Disneyland so awesome.

    Disneyland used to feel magical. Even when i went with friends and no kids in my mid 20s. We were just grown up kids at Disneyland with no adult supervision. It still felt magical. Now it just feels like that magic is using terrible illusions to reach in to my wallet

  41. If I could bring one unbuilt attraction to life, it would either be the Atlantis Fire Mountain, or something from Beastly Kingdom.

  42. It was also considered too expensive to build a Pirates in Florida for the Magic Kingdom (not the only reason for excluding it from the park at first) and yet they ended up building it in 1972-1973. Also, there were several weeks of debate in 1967 over the possibility of a Pirates ride in Florida and then we know the rest. However, Marc Davis altered the WRE concept to complement the Pirates after they built the WDW PotC.

  43. Probably in the minority for this, but I would have loved to see the Dick Tracy-themed area at Disney MGM Studios come to life. Although I wasn't around when the live-action Dick Tracy film was released (was born a year later), I ended up enjoying the film years later, and felt that it would have fit in really well with the park.

  44. Ok seriously, I need to seriously consider proposing project dumpster diver to these guys.

  45. Um, it could still happen. It's likely that it will still get built.

  46. You and Justin Scarred need to do a video together… And yes with cameos… I love it… Espectacular!

  47. I know it can’t happen but I wish Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean was redone so it’s as good or better than the Disneyland one

  48. I'm still stuck on the idea that Disney didn't think a pirates ride would be popular in Florida. Florida is incredibly pirate crazy, and has been for as long as I can remember.

  49. I think it would have been awesome to have the thunder mesa instead, with a different water dark ride. It leaves the opportunity for a different experience, depending on which park you visit. I much prefer the idea of each park having its own theming and unique rides to just simply clones in every park.

  50. Not a single mention of Euro Disney's Big Thunder Mountain with its area being called (pretty sure) Thunder Mesa?

  51. Well I know the question but I would gather every book by Jules Verne and make them all into rides


  53. I really liked the concept for Muppet studios I would bring it back

  54. At the exit of Big Thunder Mountain across the pathway and a small lagoon. There is a hole in the side of a hill with railroad tracks. Is that part of the original Thunder Mesa?

  55. Thunder Mesa should without a doubt be built without delay. It's a part of our country's history. The "Wild Wild West" will rise again!…..

  56. I would've loved Western River Expedition if it was built. Although I wish it was in Frontierland, I wouldnt want it to replace Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain or Country Bears.

  57. Not trying to nitpick, but I’m sure you would appreciate the detail of the Stalagtites. I think you mean stalagMites as they are coming up from the ground. ‘Tites hang tight to the ceiling.

  58. We got the mine and log flume rides, but I would have been okay with those not existing if we had gotten the expedition ride and a town that actually felt like you were in a Western.

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