Shooting galleries have been a part of county fairs, carnivals, boardwalks, and amusement parks for over two hundred years, and Disneyland would be no exception to this tradition. The Happiest Place on Earth would eventually host four such attractions.
The first shooting Gallery opened on Main Street in July 1955. However, it only featured eight guns and demand quickly outpaced its capacity. In addition, the noise and theming of a shooting gallery really didn't fit the quaint city life depicted on this thoroughfare. It closed in 1962.
To increase capacity, the Frontierland Shooting Gallery opened in July, 1956. This arcade featured twice the shooting opportunities with 16 rifles. Guests were given 14 shots.
The Safari Shooting Gallery opened in Adventureland in June 1962 and featured 12 rifles. This arcade offered more variety of targets than any other shooting arcade in the United States. During its run, this venue was renamed Big Game Safari Shooting Gallery and Big Game Shoot.
The early Disneyland shooting galleries featured traditional chain-driven targets that moved back and forth in front of an appropriate backdrop. The rifles fired lead pellets and cast members would reload the rifles between rounds. Every night after park closing, the entire target area was repainted, requiring several gallons of paint and eight hours of labor. After all, this was Disneyland and Walt wanted his park to look brand new at opening the following day.
MacGlassine Guns had supplied Disney with their rifles from the park's opening, and in the 1970's, MacGlassine began tinkering with a new arcade rifle that shot infrared beams of light rather than bullets. When a marksman hit a target with one of these new electronic beauties, music, lights, and motion would ensue.
The advantages of this new system were obvious. First, the targets were much more interesting to hit and watch. Next, it would take fewer cast members to man the attraction. Then there was the matter of maintenance. The arcade would not need to be repainted nightly. But most important was safety. The lead pellets had a tendency to bounce off their targets and hit guests. (Do I hear lawsuit?)
By the time the electronic age came to firearms, the Adventureland gallery had already given way to a shop, leaving only the Frontierland Shooting Gallery to tempt marksmen. This pellet driven western arcade bit the dust in September 1984 for a major refurbishment. When it reopened the following year as Frontierland Shootin' Arcade (later, Frontierland Shooting Exposition) it featured these new-fangled infrared rifles.
The Davy Crockett Arcade in Frontierland was the fourth and last to join the Disneyland shooting arcade roster and was geared to young rifleman and riflewomen. It entertained guests from 1985 to 1987 and also used the new, infrared rifles.
On a related but different topic, Disneyland scaled back the number of fake guns seen and sold in the park after the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre. In 2001, the California legislature passed a law requiring all toy guns be manufactured in a way that there was no mistaking them for the real thing. This saw the end of the 1800s-style wooden rifles sold in Frontierland as they were pulled from all Disneyland stores. However, plastic space and pirate guns remained on the shelf as they were easily seen as fake. In 2010, Disney once again began selling western rifles due to the many guest requests and the availability of plastic firearms that could not be mistaken for the real thing. As Florida had no such law at the time, wooden rifles were never banned in the Magic Kingdom. However, those sold in the Magic Kingdom today are brightly colored and are obviously toys.
The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World has only ever had one shooting gallery, the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade. And like Disneyland, it too once used lead pellets to knock down targets (1971 to 1982). Once again, safety and the 2,000 gallons of paint used each year to repaint this attraction had a lot to do with its conversion to infrared rifles.
The shootout setting for the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade takes place in a surreal recreation of 1850 Tombstone, Arizona -- Boot Hill to be exact. The scenery includes a hotel, bank, cemetery, livery stable, and jail. When one of the 97 targets is hit, a vast array of activities ensue. Owls hoot, bank robbers emerge, vultures flap their wings, mine cars appear, tombstones rock, and much, much more.
Unlike most other attractions in the Magic Kingdom, this one is not included in your admission price. It costs $1 for 35 shots. The machines to activate the rifles take quarters (not tokens) and a change machine is located nearby.
It's interesting to note, the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade and the Tomorrowland Video Arcade are not listed on the current Magic Kingdom guide map. I suspect this is because these attractions require an extra charge.
Although the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade is a favorite of many children, countless adults also find the targets challenging and the ensuing animation entertaining.
Check out this one minute video of the Frontierland Shootin' Gallery.
And if target shooting isn't your thing, a rustic checker board can be found nearby.
Now if your kids aren't too particular about actually hitting real targets with a rifle, the Magic Kingdom also offers another opportunity for sharpshooting. Over at Fort Langhorn on Tom Sawyer Island, marksmen can take aim at the Liberty Belle Riverboat, Thunder Mountain, and the Haunted Mansion. The rifles do not fire pellets or laser beams, but they do make a “shooting” sound.
At Tokyo Disneyland you can test your skill at Westernland Shootin' Gallery. Here you fire one of 19 Winchester-type rifles at targets found within a saloon recreation. Just like at the Magic Kingdom, the targets react when hit. For example, shoes will dance, bottles jump, and the piano plays.
At the completion of the game, you receive a score card with a message from Goofy. The cards are printed in both English and Japanese. If you're fortunate enough to get a card that says “lucky,” you also receive a gold sheriff's badge. And if you can hit 10 out of 10 targets, you receive a silver sheriff's badge.
Like the Magic Kingdom, the Rustler Roundup Shootin' Gallery at Disneyland Paris offers targets within a recreation of Boot Hill. However, the two arcades look nothing alike. Once again, lasers are used to activate targets.
Hong Kong Disneyland opened without a Frontierland. In 2012, Grizzly Gulch was added and is this park's answer to the American West. However, no shootin' gallery was included with this expansion.
As details for Shanghai Disneyland are scarce, I have no idea if this newest Disney Park will include a shootin' gallery.
That's it for this time, partner.
The previous post in this blog was Hodgepodge 3.
The next post in this blog is “I’d Ate the Back Door Buttered Ma!”.