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  1. #1

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    Question Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    I recently viewed a video on YouTube. It was about a guy giving a tour of Disneyland. This particular video happened to be about Frontierland.

    He spoke of some of the animals' fate. He said that some were used in WDW and Disneyland. The rest got buried in "Big Thunder Ranch". I never heard that before and wondered if that guy really knew his stuff, or if he was just trying to start a legend.

    Even if the animals were broken, why would they do that? I would think it would be better to fix them up and just re-fit them for the Rivers. That's just sad. How would the animals get that broken anyway?

    I do remember reading (can't remember where) that the bear that used to inhabit the bank of the Rivers that was where the eagle's nest now is was from "Nature's Wonderland". He looked like he was always in bad shape and stopped working a few years ago, so I gues that is somewhat believable. Was it even there before they refurbed the Rivers this past spring?

    Anyway, it's something I've always been curious about. I thought that some of you guys would be able to shed some light on this issue. Maybe we can make "Monster Quest: The Lost Animals of Nature's Wonderland".

    Here's the video link in case you guys are interested:

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suBRQUZtNUU&feature=related"]YouTube - Disneyland Update - Lost Secrets of Disneyland[/ame]

    He doesn't start talking about that until 6:22.
    Last edited by SorcererHero5571; 09-05-2010 at 04:06 PM. Reason: gramatical errors
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  2. #2

    • Minion
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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    Information about this is sketchy and vague. There were over 200 animatronic animals created for Nature's Wonderland, which opened in 1960. The Mine Train thru Nature's Wonderland's last day of operation was January 2, 1977, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad opened September 2, 1979, while Big Thunder Ranch did not open until 1986. During that period is when the animals met their fate, whatever it was. I have read various postings on blogs and forums, some claiming that some of the animatronics were used in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, though I don't know which ones. Someone else stated that the Living Desert area of Nature's Wonderland was bulldozed with 5 feet of dirt, and that many of the animatronic animals are buried underneath that. (The replacement of the Matterhorn's bobsleds happened during that same period, and there is a rumor that some of the old-style bobsleds are buried in the same area, though I choose not to believe that one). Another post I read said that the animatronics that were left exposed simply deteriorated and were discarded. There is no clear-cut answer to this and the answer you get will depend on who you believe. It wouldn't surprise me if people who worked at Disneyland at that time took some as souvenirs, but I've never heard anyone say that. There was recently in this forum a good thread about the remnants of Nature's Wonderland and which ones are still visible today, though it is mainly about landscape features and not really about the animatronics: Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland leftovers

  3. #3

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    That would be a bit scary to have an animatronic from "Nature's Wonderland" in my house! To me, it's similar to a taxadermic animal.
    YouTube page: The Sorcerer's Lair

    "And so you see the magic isn't just in the animated characters, it's also in all of us"
    -Drawn to the Magic

    "Remember...dreams come true"
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    "Some imagination, huh?"
    -Mickey Mouse

    "Dreams are make believe, till they all come true"
    -Fantasmic!

    "Believe me: this is one of the most exciting and challenging things that we've ever tackled at Walt Disney Enterprises"
    -Walt Disney.

    "Disney has helped bring out the magic in us. Now let's work together and help bring out the magic in others."
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  4. #4

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    Aren't some of them in Big Thunder??

    Hidden Mickey - Historical fiction about Walt that mixes action and mystery with time travel and fantasy! Tweens to adults will enjoy these novels. And now, three gamebooks to play in Disneyland, DCA and WDW Magic Kingdom!


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  5. #5

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    The animals never fooled me into thinking they were real, we realized they were all fake, but some of them were fairly sophisticated, for example the bear swam in a figure-8 pattern rather than a simple circle. I can't imagine them just throwing away the ones that were still in good shape, regardless of whether they still operated or not. It seems likely to me that employees would have kept some as souvenirs, though I have no proof. I can just imagine conversations around the Thanksgiving table today:

    Junior: "We're going to go to Disneyland tomorrow!"
    Mom: "Junior, did you know your Uncle Earl once worked at Disneyland?"
    Junior: "Really?"
    Uncle Earl: "Finish your plate, Junior, then I'll show you something."
    (after dinner, Uncle Earl goes to the garage, comes back with a large box, and lifts out the bobcat).
    Junior: (gasps) "Cool!" (admires it)
    Mom: "Where did you get it, Earl?"
    Uncle Earl: "Well they were tearin' down an old ride, and they just left a bunch of the scenery layin' there for a few days, finally I sez to the foreman, 'What's gonna happen with these?' and he sez, 'Beats me. Nuthin' I guess.' As he's walkin' away, he says, 'Take some if ya want. I think they're throwing them away.' So sure, I took a couple of them. Don't think anyone noticed they were gone."
    Junior: "Awesome! A real Disneyland animal."
    Mom: "Now Junior, thank your Uncle Earl and let's get you to bed. You've got a big day tomorrow."

  6. #6

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    I too am questioning the information. It seems to me that Disney has always been really good about the upkeep of their AA's and if they are broken repairing them or recycling them. Burying them to me seems wasteful and they wont decompose! I wonder if there is a way to get to the bottom of this.


    Also........ I didn't know you could hold private tours that were not done by Disney. Seems like a good way to scam some people out of their money. Not that every person has poor intentions but it just seems a bit iffy to me.

  7. #7

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    Don't know what happened to all the animals but only a few. I believe that the jaguar ended up on the adventureland rock on the railroad for a short time, then disapppeared. I went to a Disney display a few years ago at an art gallery in LA and they had the coyote and prarie dogs on display.So there are a few still around, probably stored in the archives in Burbank. Sort of related subject, I think some of the cactus got shipped to Florida and are in use in Big Thunder there, not at Disneyland.

  8. #8

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    That panther always scared me when I was a kid. I don't know why, it just did.

    I am just totally curious, I would hope they wouldn't dispose of the bury the animals as if they were garbage in a landfill. Especially knowing how Imagineering values thier work of the past.

    Now I wouldn't want to keep them, that's just something that would creep me out. It's wierd I know, but I don't know why...
    YouTube page: The Sorcerer's Lair

    "And so you see the magic isn't just in the animated characters, it's also in all of us"
    -Drawn to the Magic

    "Remember...dreams come true"
    -Julie Andrews

    "Some imagination, huh?"
    -Mickey Mouse

    "Dreams are make believe, till they all come true"
    -Fantasmic!

    "Believe me: this is one of the most exciting and challenging things that we've ever tackled at Walt Disney Enterprises"
    -Walt Disney.

    "Disney has helped bring out the magic in us. Now let's work together and help bring out the magic in others."
    -SorcererHero5571

  9. #9

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tigger_Twin89 View Post
    I wonder if there is a way to get to the bottom of this.

    I would say ask Tony Baxter. He imagineered the replacement for it. I think he would know what happened to them.
    YouTube page: The Sorcerer's Lair

    "And so you see the magic isn't just in the animated characters, it's also in all of us"
    -Drawn to the Magic

    "Remember...dreams come true"
    -Julie Andrews

    "Some imagination, huh?"
    -Mickey Mouse

    "Dreams are make believe, till they all come true"
    -Fantasmic!

    "Believe me: this is one of the most exciting and challenging things that we've ever tackled at Walt Disney Enterprises"
    -Walt Disney.

    "Disney has helped bring out the magic in us. Now let's work together and help bring out the magic in others."
    -SorcererHero5571

  10. #10

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    I always heard that only a few animals were buried under Big Thunder Ranch but the rest of them went to Big Thunder Mountain RR at Disneyland AND at Disney World. I guess the only people who would know this for sure would be the Disney Company and the workers who were involved in the construction of BTMRR and "demolition" ,I guess you could say, of Nature's Wonderland.

    (300th post!)



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  11. #11

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    What about the tortise and the rattlesnakes on Big Thunder? I thought those came from the Nature's Wonderdland...and the howling coyote.

    Hidden Mickey - Historical fiction about Walt that mixes action and mystery with time travel and fantasy! Tweens to adults will enjoy these novels. And now, three gamebooks to play in Disneyland, DCA and WDW Magic Kingdom!


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  12. #12

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    I for one would love to see a bit of archaeology done in Big Thunder Ranch to find anything from the past buried underneath. It could be easily done without digging up anything with the technology we have today.


  13. #13

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    I happen to be working at Disneyland in the late 1970's and remember walking around the Nature's Wonderland area after most of the ride had been torn down and work was getting started on Big Thunder. The area looked a lot like the area around the construction zone for Cars Land does now. There were huge piles of dirt and trenches being dug for water lines. Interesting the show building for Rainbow Caverns was only partially torn down and you could see inside. Lots of stalagtites hanging down and stalagmites pointing up. I recall a lot of painted aluminum foil and fluorescent paint and black walls.

    Anyway, I'm sure everything show-related, including any AA animals were removed to make way for the new attraction.

    By the way, I do remember hearing Tony Baxter comment about this attraction a long time ago. He said that he felt that it was Rainbow Caverns that kept the ride going as long as it did. The rest of the attraction had fallen into disrepair. He said he rode through it once and saw two artificial bird's feet and legs hanging upside down on a tree limb... minus the bird! That's when he knew it was time for a change.

    I've also heard that some of the AA animals were moved to Big Thunder, but I don't know which ones.

    Some of the large boulders along the Big Thunder Trail are original from the area that was once Geyser Country and Balancing Rock Canyon.

    The Mine Train was a great attraction for the time, but Big Thunder, in my opinion, was a great improvement.

  14. #14

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    I know about old rotty. The bear which scratched his back ended up along the rivers of america and slowly rotted away before my eyes. Each visit I would see more and more holes in his fur and his left eye slowly moved down his face until it ended up at the same level as his mouth. They removed him years ago.

  15. #15

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    Re: Whatever Happened to the "Nature's Wonderland" Animals?

    This past May 28th was the 50th anniversary of the opening of Nature's Wonderland, and here is a thread with many photos and a few video clips.
    Happy 50th Anniversary Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland!

    This thread has a nice map created by Chris Merritt years after Nature's Wonderland closed.
    Before big thunder mountain

    Somewhere there is a photo of the Living Desert area being bulldozed in preparation for Big Thunder Ranch. I can't find it right now.

    Having been on both multiple times, I would choose to have the Mine Train instead of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but it's all a matter of opinion of course.

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