The 626: Interactive Golden Horseshoe Play Test

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Features, Fun, The 626

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Published on September 01, 2013 at 3:01 am with 10 Comments


It was almost high noon when the group of MiceChat roughians sauntered up to the saloon. With the sun glaring down over head, they walked up to the door, paying it no mind. Just before crossing over the saloon’s threshold, a man stopped them.

“There’s something going on in there today,” he told them. “There are some people that may need your help.”

With a wink of his eye, the leader of the group said to the man “Well, I do believe we’re in the right place.”

And thus began our adventure at the Golden Horseshoe.

Last weekend, Imagineers were conducting a play test for a new interactive game at Disneyland involving the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland. We had heard rumors about it about a week or so beforehand, but it wasn’t until Sunday that I could check it out.


That group of roughians I mentioned earlier consisted of a bunch of MiceChat readers. To protect our identities (because the Sheriff may still be watching), I’ll refer to them as the names given to us that day. There was Yoda, the wise sage, so named for the strange creature hanging on his back. Choking Hazard, with his trusty lens, and named for a certain Dark Side personality on his shirt. Egbert, also with camera in hand, to witness the entire ordeal. Cryptic, who earned his name through his actions. Pickles, the youngest of the group, and the most wily. The Boss, because everybody knew that she was the one in charge. And then finally, there was me; Jolly.

But those names came later. First, we have to explain the set up.
After walking into the Golden Horseshoe, we were assaulted on all fronts by all manner of people. There was a woman in a newly constructed stand right by the door, trying to hawk her wares. There was a man running around, yelling about recently put out bounties. A piano player was belting a tune near by, drowning out some of the ambient noise. A sheriff stood near by, trying to solicit people for help. There was also a bunch of people just trying to get food, having no idea just what in the heck was going on around them.


The group of us didn’t know where to begin, so we headed toward the Sheriff. He explained to us, along with some other people, that a bounty was put out recently on a criminal. He showed us the slip of paper, and read off that they had a yellow bandana, a green shirt, and were wanted for telling bad jokes. Of course, no bounty would be complete without a WANTED poster, so he enlisted my help in making one.
With bounty and poster in hand, he said we would each receive a reward of 50 coins if we caught this criminal. And like any good deputies, off we went.
Soon, we spotted a man up front by the stage, engaged in a game of cards, that fit the description. As our large group approached him, he seemed a bit nervous. We asked him to tell us a joke, and while he did, I held the WANTED poster next to his head. Sure enough, it was a match on booth accounts. He was our man. Without much of a fight, we got him back to the Sheriff to claim our reward. And here is where things got interesting: This man that we “captured” was NOT a Cast Member, working this game along with us. In fact, it was a Guest, just like us! As the sheriff put his now prisoner to work, giving us our reward, I thought to myself “They just may be on to something…”
After we all collected (and pooled!) our reward of Golden Horseshoe chips and golden nuggets, we thought of what to do next. Eventually, we came upon the piano player, LB, who called us over. He noticed our GREEN bandana, where I was holding our stash of loot, and wondered if we were on the side of the law…or if we would be more interested in making some cash another way. Never ones to pass up a money-making opportunity, we all agreed to hear what he had to say.
Not wanting to get mixed up with real names, LB helped us each come up with names for each other, so we wouldn’t have to point fingers at any one if things went south. LB was probably the best part of our entire experience, as he played his role of a piano player with connections to the seedy side of Frontierland to a perfect T. In fact, at one point during our business dealings, the sheriff walked over to see what all the fuss was about. Without skipping a beat, LB assured the sheriff that everything here was on the level, and we were just his choir, practicing for a big engagement. From that, he lead us in a rousing round of “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” in which we all joined in signing. Once the sheriff grew disinterested and walked away in the middle of the song, LB quickly stopped and said “That’s enough of those shenanigans, let’s get back to it.”
There even came a point where an “argument” broke out within our ranks, with a claim as to who should lead us, myself or The Boss. LB decided we should settle it like men (and women), and had has partake in a good, ol’ fashioned river water drinkin’ contest. The Boss and I had to down a cup of “river water” while having a staring contest, with the first to move or blink losing. Fortunately, I was deemed the winner (although could anyone be considered a winner after drinking that stuff?).
The rest of our adventures consisted of interacting with other criminal elements, playing cards to earn more cash, trying to help a criminal out of jail, and ultimately, earning enough coin between all of us to purchase a piece of land in Frontierland: The Dawson Mines! That’s right, MiceChat now owns a prime piece of Frontierland property, with a deed to prove it. Yee-haw!
Up until this point, this has all been a pretty straight forward narrative of what the play test was like for us, but I’m sure you’re all wondering “Was it fun?”
And to sum it up plainly, why, yes, it was a lot of fun.
That isn’t to say that there weren’t a few problems here and there. There wasn’t a lot of direction provided to us as to what the ultimate goal of the game was. It could have been to buy property, or it could have been just to take part of the town’s comings and goings. We’re not really sure.
On top of that, it was kind of a free for all. You kind of stumbled onto how to get started in the game (which we did), but after each “mission,” we weren’t sure what to do next. There wasn’t any rhyme or reason for where to go and what to do. Everything was just there, and you just happened to wander to something if you were looking. I could see people just walking out after doing one thing, because they don’t realize there was more. In fact, Andy Castro touched upon this a bit in his update on Monday, where to him, it looked like just a glorified improv show. Which, in a lot of ways, it was, if you weren’t pro-active about joining in.
But overall, the experience itself was a lot of fun. Most of us in the group got really into it, taking on these roles of townsfolk in Frontierland, and helping either the heroes or the villains take over the town. The Cast Members playing the characters, while sometimes not entirely sure what to do, were fantastic. Each one really got into their role, and really helped moved the story along (whatever part of the story it may have been). Again, the stand out of the bunch was LB, the piano player, who made us laugh more times than I can remember. He was so perfect in his role, I hope they let him continue to do it if they make this an every day thing.
Moving the story along was great, though. While playing cards, the “house dealer” was asking a woman what her crime was. When she eventually owned up to it, he repeated it back loudly so we all could hear, and get a good chuckle. Don’t worry, it wasn’t too serious; she cut some lines when she was a kid. But a few minutes later, another towns person ran by exclaiming to the house dealer “Hey Curly, didya hear there is a new bounty out on a line cutter! The sheriff is out to get her!” And thus, this poor woman became a bounty for another group to collect. And collect they did. Despite a mishap with her wanted poster, she was eventually caught, and was forced to apologize, on stage in front of everyone, for her crimes.
To me, these were the parts of the game that really worked the best: they were making people work together, and interact with other guests. And provided the Guest is willing to participate (if they are already playing the game, they should be!), it makes for a lot of fun. Heck, even the card tables were being run by dealers that the house dealer recruited from other guests. It was a great way to meet new friends, and have a great time in a wild west saloon.
I also played the play test from the D23 expo, where you had to go on “missions” to collect jujus around the convention center. While that was OK, this one really blew that one out of the water. While it is understandably harder to immerse someone into an environment while at a busy convention, the Golden Horseshoe was the perfect setting for this kind of thing. It definitely got us into the mindset of “we are in the wild west” and made it all the more fun. Confining the entire thing to just the Golden Horseshoe was a slight issue, though. Everyone was cramped together in the smaller setting, making it hard to get around sometimes. However, I do understand this was a play test, and they wanted to control the environment, which makes perfect sense.
Having also played Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World provided me with a little more insight as well. I had watched Pickles play Sorcerers before, and he got bored after some time just holding a card up and watching some video play, after waiting in line for his turn to do so. He was considerably more engaged and into this game, as it required him to think and become part of the action. Again, he was immersed into this environment they created, and to me, it made it that much better.

When we ultimately left the Golden Horseshoe, after about an hour and a half playing, we were stopped by a Cast Member who wanted to ask us about our experience with the game. One of his questions pertained to whether or not we would play this type of experience in other areas of the park, such as Tomorrowland or Adventureland. That was met with a resounding “yes” from the group. I think it went without saying that we all had a good time.

To me, these types of games are what should be in the Park. While Walt Disney World visitors have Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and A Pirate’s Adventure to keep them busy while in the Park, those types of things just won’t swing over in Anaheim. The lack of space at Disneyland would create bottlenecks (especially for areas of the Park that already have a problem with this), and the number of repeat visitors on the West Coast is much higher than the East.


I definitely see these types of immersive and interactive games being a strong factor for Guests and Annual Passholders to come to the Park. They provide a lot of interaction with Cast Members and other Guests, and allow you to break up your day for a few hours to try something different.

I, for one, will definitely be checking out the other areas of the Park that they put this in, should they decide to do so. Fingers cross that they do, because I’d love to be able to “own” some other areas of Disneyland!


Did you do the play test? What did you think of it? Would you like to see more of these types of things in the Park? Let us know in the comments below!




We have announced our very special, Cadet-only trip: The CommuniTour! It will take place April 27th-May 2nd 2014!

That’s right, you have the opportunity to spend a week with your favorite Communicore Overlords by going on this special Adventures By Disney: Backstage Magic! See the wonderful sights of Southern California, including Disneyland, California Adventure, Imagineering, The Jim Henson Company, and much, much, more!

Here us talk about it in this special announcement episode on our iTunes feed!

Space is very limited, so be sure sign up today! For more information and the full itinerary, head over to

by Jeff Heimbuch

If you have a tip, questions, comments, or gripes, please feel free email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

You can read past columns of The 626 by clicking here!

Jeff can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation with Fairy Godmother Travel! Call him at 732-278-7404 or email him at [email protected] for a free, no-obligation quote for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani or Adventures By Disney.

Other MiceChat columns by Jeff:

From The Mouth Of The Mouse

Dueling Disney

The Disney Review

Jeff co-hosts the weekly podcast Communicore Weekly as well!



About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at

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  • DisneylandTraveler

    I’ll be the crusty old curmudgeon here. The Golden Horseshoe should be reserved for continuing performances of Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. That’s it. Nothing else. These attempts at interactive games and entertainment strike me as cheap alternatives to what Disneyland should be doing and that is developing immersive imaginative high quality attractions and rides. These “games” seem to cater (pander) to the annual passholder who shows up to the park every week and may be getting bored. It’s a quick attempt to fix a bigger problem. Interactive role playing games are not the answer to Frontierland’s problems. There are bigger and better things to do. Why think small?

    • Jeff Heimbuch

      I have to respectfully disagree, Crusty Old Curmudgeon! ;)
      While this play test was cheap, in a way, I have no doubt that their actual interactive adventure, when they eventually roll it out, will not be cheap. It will be well thought out and actually carry some meat to it.
      Golden Horseshoe, while an amazing venue with some great history, is not what it once was, unfortunately. This show infuses some life into it. Laughing Stock is a great show, and Bill Hill is wonderful, but this definitely adds a new layer to Disney’s theory of immersing yourself in these Fantasy worlds.

      • DisneylandTraveler

        We can agree to disagree here. From Disneyland’s point of view, interactive games have little up front development cost, almost nothing in the way of construction cost, no upkeep or maintenance cost, no breakdowns, no liability issues. And when people get tired of it, you crumble it up and dispose of it like a piece of paper. It’s a step up from giving kids paper and color crayons at around a hundred bucks a head. It’s disposable diversion and entertainment rather than getting to the heart of the matter. Disneyland has some big holes that need serious thought and reconstruction, not just a pothole patch.

    • Rick Wright

      Are interactive games and immersive attractions mutually exclusive? To the contrary, I believe that the Golden Horseshoe experiment demonstrates that Disney is committed to creating the next generation of theme park entertainment.

      Furthermore, I’m glad that Disney doesn’t show the contempt that you do for annual passholders. Could it be that Disney knows the annual revenue that comes from the passholder program and wants to maintain that revenue stream? My family of two spent $1800 this year for Disney theme park admission – how much did you spend?

      • DisneylandTraveler

        I am an annual passholder

  • Wendygirl

    I did participate in this test twice and had a great time both times. I have a friend who goes a lot and did it a number of times even switching sides. She has some photos that show they did move outside for a few things including a “wedding”. I do agree with the points you made above about its being hard to understand at first. My understanding is this is only a test. I do not see us “losing” the GH to something like this permanently. I enjoy Laughing Stock (and by the way, piano player LB is one of the regular piano players for them and also plays up at the BarBQue) and of course the Billys (my favorite group). But do not expect The Billys to go back to the GH anytime soon unfortunately. Some manager somewhere is heck bent on keeping them out of there because they “don’t fit the theme of Frontierland”. We will have to continue to trudge up the pathway, and pray we don’t have to go around through Fantasyland to get there, in order to see them. They are not even playing much right now except occasionally on the trail until their Halloween show starts on Sept. 13.

  • Bill

    If this is too successful, they’ll gut the interior of the Golden Horseshoe. I like the idea of the interactive game… but I don’t think the Golden Horseshoe is the right place for the final game.

  • Hastin Zylstra

    Aspects of this game remind me of certain aspects of The Optimist as well. Interaction with guests, and characters. However, instead of being spread over weeks – we were thrown into the situation today.

    I quickly aligned myself with the ‘bad guys’ (for once stealing a soda from Rancho Del Zocalo), and wore my bandana with pride. They had us doing fun things like ratting out the local sheriff (who we ended up ‘running out of town’ by telling the mayor). We played some poker, shared a few laughs, and rounded up our nuggets. We ended up buying the Golden Horseshoe and Lucky’s Mine at the end of the game.

    It’s fun, and it’s at least changeable. The CMs were all in character, and having a ton of fun. Guests were enjoying it – and it was a nice take on a game.

    WDI R&D has been working on these living worlds projects, and I would be this was one of them:

  • whamo

    Interactive games at the Golden Horshoe? I say, nay, nay, nay. Give us the comical musical acts, the can can girls (add more of them), and the comical sheriff and bad guys skits. If they served beer and had pretty girls do the can-can it would become the most popular hangout for men in the park.

  • DobbysCloset

    I think it sounds like fun even if ruffians can’t spell.

    I wish I were an AP who lived locally; at least I got to be a local for a great many years. Maybe I’ll retire to Southern California? Should ask Mara…

    People who spend multiple days at the park might relish a fun activity. Activities aimed at kids would also be fun. And it keeps folks off Indy…

    Based on how folks felt about losing their swing dancing, I don’t want to see something beloved lost. Repurpose Star-Cade for modern games!