Perhaps one of the most popular and frequently suggested ideas of armchair Imagineers and real-life Imagineers alike is a proper revival of Marc Davis's infamous Western River Expedition, a Pirates of the Caribbean-style attraction set in the Old West with a Splash Mountain-like drop for the finale. Although originally pitched to take up the space occupied by Splash and Thunder in Florida, it was also eventually pitched by Davis for Disneyland's dying Frontierland and may have possibly been put into consideration due to a sneaky public announcement talking about it. But alas it's horrifying budget got the best of it and took it off the ever-growing Disneyland map. In my own personal opinion Frontierland is slowly but surely aging and fading away from Walt's original vision of a land themed to cowboys, Indians, North American wildlife, and the great American expansion which is why I say it's time to look at Western River with new eyes and breathe fresh life into the wild frontier.
Naturally Western River would take up the space once planned for Discovery Bay, held in place of Big Thunder Ranch, the Festival of Fools Arena, and a portion of land beyond the berm. As not to be too similar to nearby Pirates and Splash across the way, the new attraction would no longer be a water ride and no longer be a ride primarily centered around a wild western town. Instead guests board mine cars in an abandoned mine which run along a railroad track for a great portion of the ride, exiting the mine and entering an Indian village. Here the village elder tells several young natives about the legendary Thunderbird and its impact over the desert and nearby mountains. The golden silhouette of such a beast flutters across the distant skies, leaving behind a trail of gold dust. From the mysterious village, the cars enter a small desert area past some desert wildlife and a cowboy camp before entering the western town (still on the railroad track) on a Saturday night where wild and woolly cowboys return from a successful cattle drive, creating general havoc, mischief, and mayhem. Afterwards guests find themselves encountering a thunderstorm which revives the dead of Boot Hill, the town's rotting graveyard. The railroad tracks disappear and the mine cars launch off of the track, turning into EMV vehicles. The mine cars buck and sharply turn around the graves as their skeletal inhabitants awaken, clawing at the cars and even creating a brief bit of humor in a parody scene of "The Skeleton Dance." The cars dip down into a dark cavern where they encounter ominous rock shaped like Native American monsters and myths, pools and waterfalls of lava creating an impending doom. Suddenly a humongous screech rocks the cavern. The Thunderbird itself, realized in a massive audio animatronic emerges from the darkness, creating thunder and lightning within the cave. The great beast flaps its wings and sends the cars backwards with a mighty gust of wind, sending them backwards and DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. Basically the mine cars would launch backwards out of the mountain and down a very steep hill before flipping around and zooming in and out of dark caverns and canyons at the mountain's base. The cars reenter the mountain and back into the abandoned mines where the ride begun. The new ride would appropriately be held in Thunderbird Mesa, the ride's title being Thunderbird Mesa Expedition.
This would be a next generation Pirates and Haunted Mansion, utilizing a brand-new combo ride system and highly elaborate sets and animatronics. The new ride system is a combination between Indy's EMV's and Radiator Springs Racers's Test Track system. The Test Track system would be the portion of the ride held on the railroad tracks while the EMV's come into play in Boot Hill and the Thunderbird's lair. The backwards drop down the mesa would be the Test Track system which utilizes a turntable to quickly turn the vehicles face-first and back on the railroad track.
To coincide with this new addition (to rival Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey), the rest of Frontierland would undergo a big scale remodel (my plans also call for a refurbishment or remodel for every other land) to perfectly capture the spirit of the brave pioneers. Big Thunder is given a decent refurbishment, Tom Sawyer's Island loses the Pirate-theming and features the reopening of a newly-constructed Fort Wilderness, the Rivers of America is once again given a big refurbishment to include new scenes which showcase more wilderness (although the cabin is once again ablaze via new special effects and the bandito stagecoach robbery planned for the original WRE is featured complete with masked banditos and their masked horses), and a small addition to the mining town held before Thunderbird Mesa.
What do y'all think? Do you want to see more of my ideas? Questions? Comments? Concerns?