Frontierland Archives

September 11, 2010

Pecos Bill – Tall Tale Inn and Café

Hi all,

Before I discuss Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café, I need to let you know of a change in the way you will be posting comments. Because we have been getting a lot of junk email, we have had to implement a new procedure. After sharing your thoughts, there is one more box that needs to be completed before you press "Post." At the moment, you need to write the word "blog" (without quotes) in this field (this word could change periodically). This will let the computer know that a real person is writing us and not some automated program that generates spam. If you don't complete this field correctly, your comment will end up in a "junk" folder.

Thanks for your help and understanding.


Many fairytales have become so associated with Disney that it's hard to imagine that they ever existed before the animators brought them to life. Ask anyone the names of the seven dwarfs and they'll struggle to recall Grumpy, Dopey, Doc, Sleepy, and forget the other three. But as we know, it was the Grimm Brothers that first took this folktale and publicize the story of Snow White back in 1812. It's interesting to note, Walt was not the first to give the dwarfs names. This actually occurred in a 1912 Broadway play when author Jessie Graham White came up with his own set of monikers for this band of men. And Walt was not the first to make a movie about this sweet heroine and her protectors. This occurred in 1902 when a silent film was produced by Siegmund Lubin. And other Snow White films were made before and after Disney's 1937 masterpiece debuted. Yet it's Disney's version that we remember.

Pecos Bill has a similar history. Folktales circulated for years about the roughest, toughest cowboy that ever lived. It was Edward O'Reilly who first published an adventure of Bill's in a 1916 edition of "The Century Magazine." Later, a number of his exploits were collected and reprinted in a 1923 book titled "Saga of Pecos Bill." As time went by, other writers added new feats of daring-do to Bill's credit. Between 1929 and 1938, Edward "Tex" O'Reilly and Jack A Warren co-authored a cartoon strip about Bill that was published in "The Sun." But it was Walt who created the character of Pecos Bill that sticks in our brains.

On May 27, 1948, "Melody Time" opened in theaters. This collection of seven "shorts" contained a number of stories including the legend of Johnny Appleseed and the tale of Little Toot. The movie ended with a rip-snorting finale of Pecos Bill's adventures sung to us by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.

Melody Time Poster

It's interesting to note, when the DVD of "Melody Time" was released on June 6, 2000, the cigarette that Bill smoked throughout the segment, and an entire verse from the song which talks about smoking, had been electronically removed.

Pecos Bill with Cigarette

Pecos Bill without Cigareet

Pecos Bill is remembered at the Magic Kingdom with his own restaurant in Frontierland, Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café. Its main entrance is located at the far end of town and is housed within a saloon facade. However, this restaurant uses several styles of architecture as the building rounds the corner. Classic Western clapboard construction gives way to that of adobe used in the American Southwest. This was necessary so that the transition between Frontierland and Adventureland would be seamless to the guests as they pass from one land to the next.

Tall Tale Inn and Café Front Entrance

Tall Tale Inn and Café Side Entrance

Tall Tale Inn and Café Back Entrance

Tall Tale Inn and Café is a counter service establishment that serves burgers, wraps, salads, and BBQ sandwiches. This eatery opens at 10:30am and becomes very busy by 11:30am. If you want to avoid crowds, it's best to arrive early. This is also one of the few counter service restaurants that allows guests to place their order with a cast member or via a computer terminal.

Counter Area

Computer Ordering Station

I actually have a love-hate relationship with one of the features in this restaurant, the topping bar. My "love" is generated by the fact that I can garnish my burger, sandwich, and taco salad with all the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, cheese, and peppers that I like. And I especially like the freshly sautéed onions and mushrooms that are cooked right before my eyes. But I "hate" the crowds this station generates. It can become maddening, jockeying for position as I move from topping to topping - which is why I always arrive early if I'm planning on making Pecos Bill's my lunchtime destination. But in the end, it's worth the hassle.

Topping Bar



There are several seating areas in the restaurant. One section is themed like the old west while another is modeled after a Mexican patio. Outdoor tables are also available and a pleasant place to dine when the weather is good.

Western Seating

Western Seating

Mexican Seating

Outdoor Seating

If all of the indoor tables are occupied at Pecos Bill's, there is a hallway that leads to the dining rooms of El Pirata y el Perico located in Adventureland. You can usually find empty tables in this area.

El Pirata y el Perico Seating

The restaurant's namesake is prominently displayed above a rock fireplace and the legend of this establishment can be found written on a nearby piece of rawhide.

Fireplace with Bill's Picture

Rawhide Legend

Since I'm pretty sure none of you have ever taken the time to read it, I'll present it for you here. And if you're not in the mood to read the entire tale, then just read the second paragraph.

Considered by many as the meanest, toughest, roughest cowboy of them all, Pecos Bill has been credited for inventing all things western, from rodeos to cowboy dancing, to spurs, hats and lassos. He can draw faster, shoot straighter and ride a horse harder than any man alive. Unfortunately, we don't know when and where he was born, just that he was raised by coyotes and that his name comes from the river in Texas. Over the years, Pecos Bill along with his trusty horse, Widowmaker, have made quite a name for themselves forging new trails and taming others. Legend tells us several tall tales, like the time Pecos Bill jumped on a powerful twister and road it like a bucking bronco. Then there was the time when Pecos Bill dug out a path to create the Rio Grande river during a severe drought that hit his beloved Texas. And then there was the day Pecos Bill was so bored he took his handy six-shooter and shot out all of the stars in the sky except for one. That's why they call Texas the "Lone Star State."

In 1878, with the encouragement of his friends, Pecos Bill decided to open his own watering hole, a restaurant whose motto very much reflects its one-of-a-kind owner. "The tastiest eats and treats this side of the Rio Grande." Pecos Bill called it the Tall Tale Inn and Café and it quickly became a popular hangout for some of his legendary friends. As time went by, it became a tradition when each friend paid a visit they would leave something behind for Pecos Bill to remember them by. As you can see from the articles and artifacts that don the walls, many of which carry inscriptions, Pecos Bill had some mighty impressive friends. Seems that every trail eventually led to the Tall Tale Inn and Café.

If you pay attention, you'll notice the building is dated 1878, the year Bill opened Tall Tale Inn and Café.

Building Date

Also, if you check the restaurant walls, you discover the objects left behind by Bill's many friends. Each artifact has been carefully displayed and is accompanied with the donor's name engraved on a nameplate. Pictured here are Johnny Appleseed's pot-hat, Kit Carson's scouting tools, and Davy Crocket's satchel and powder horn.

Johnny Appleseed's Pot-Hat

Kit Carson's Scouting Tools

Davy Crocket's Satchel and Powder Keg

I especially like the artifacts displayed in the next picture. If you notice, the nameplate is intentionally left blank. If you don't get the joke, think about it.

Mystery Friend

While you're in the neighborhood, be sure to check out some of the signs that are posted on the outside walls of the Frontierland buildings. Some are quite clever. I especially like this one.

Frontierland Sign

So there you have the story of Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café. Like everything at Disney, it's teeming with details if you take the time to look.

July 15, 2009

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Hang on to them hats and glasses cuz this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness.

Thunder Mountain Poster

In reality, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad isn't the most thrilling coaster in the world. In fact, it only reaches a top speed of somewhere between 24-30 miles per hour. By today's standards, that's pretty tame. Yet this ride is still a perennial favorite and hour-long waits are not uncommon during the busier times of the year. Why is this? Theming. The true love of this attraction comes from the overall experience, not just the thrills you encounter while racing over buttes and bluffs.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMR) was not around on opening day. In the beginning, this area was just a grassy pasture you passed by while riding the Walt Disney World Railroad.

These next three photos were taken in January 1972. The first picture was shot from the Skyway in Fantasyland looking back toward the southern half of Tom Sawyer Island. The suspension bridge connecting the north and south islands will someday be anchored at this point. The majority of the empty land beyond the island is where Splash Mountain will reside, but to the right side of the picture you can see where the entrance to BTMR will someday stand.

Before Big Thunder Mountain

This next picture was taken from the Walt Disney World Railroad looking over the future BTMR. You can see the Haunted Mansion in the background.

Before Big Thunder Mountain

The final picture was taken from the of the Adm. Joe Fowler (now the Liberty Belle) looking back at this vacant land.

Before Big Thunder Mountain

If you'd like to learn more about how the BTMR came into existence, check out Anita Answer's article about the Western River Expedition.

The topography of Disney World's Big Thunder Mountain was inspired by Monument Valley in Arizona. (The topography of Disneyland's Thunder Mountain is based on Utah's Bryce Canyon.)

Monument Valley, Arizona

There's no missing Big Thunder Mountain. It can be seen from many vantage points within Frontierland. Its towering butte beckons.

Big Thunder Mountain from a distance

The story of BTMR goes something like this. During the late 1800's, gold was discovered deep within Big Thunder Mountain. Overnight, prospectors started mining the ore and soon the town of Tumbleweed sprang up on the mountain's slope. Additionally, The Big Thunder Mining Company was formed and trains were built to haul the gold.

Big Thunder Mining Company building

Everything was going well until a flash flood ravaged the mountain and town, ruining any future mining operations. Now it's not certain if the flood was caused by Mother Nature, or brought on by Professor Cumulus Isobar, a rainmaker hired by the settlers a few days earlier.

Professor Cumulus Isobar

The townsfolk took the flood in stride and headed over to the Gold Dust Saloon for one last belt before leaving Tumbleweed for good. A good ear can hear the shindig still going on as you pass by. By the way, the proprietors of the Dry Goods store next to the saloon are, D. Hydrate and U. Wither.

Tumbleweed Sign

Gold Dust Saloon

Dry Goods Store Sign

But one gentleman, Cousin Elrod, decided a cool bath is better than a cool drink.

Cousin Elrod

To reach the BTMR you pass beneath an abandoned ore processing plant and proceed up a hill. Along the way you encounter a number of discarded pieces of mining equipment.

Entrance and Gold Processing Plant

Abandoned Mining Equipment

Abandoned Mining Equipment

Lytum and Hyde

Abandoned Mining Equipment

Abandoned Mining Equipment

Supply Wagon

Eventually you enter the long vacant offices of the Big Thunder Mining Company.

Big Thunder Mining Co. Offices

Big Thunder Mining Co. Offices

After wandering around on the upper level, for what can seem like an eternity, you eventually descend below where the trains arrive and depart. It's here that you board one of the following six trains.

U.B. Bold
U.R. Daring
U.R. Courageous
I.M. Brave
I.B. Hearty
I.M. Fearless

Train Loading and Unloading Area

U.B. Bold Engine

Your journey begins as you travel through a bat filled cave then alongside a cavern packed with stalactites and stalagmites. Up ahead you see a massive waterfall cascading to each side of the tracks.

Cavern Waterfall

Averting a wet encounter, the train bursts outside and starts its mad dash through the wilderness.

Train emerges from mine

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

Racing around Big Thunder Mountain

While your train is making hairpin turns and sudden drops, a number of sights can be seen along the way.

Mountain Goat


Desert animal

Roadrunner and Rattlesnake

Mining Equipment

Big Thunder Mountain Butte

Dinosaur Bones and Jaw

Hot Springs and Mud Pots

Mining Equipment

Cow Skull

Eventually, you return to the Big Thunder Mining Company offices, shaken, but fine.

Returning to Big Thunder Mining Company

Guests exit the attraction along Nugget Way. This is the perfect spot for less adventurous souls to wait for their party. This area also offers great photo opportunities and you might even be able to snag a shot of your friends and family as they whisk by.

Nugget Way Sign

Nugget Way

Friends and Family on Train

Here are some interesting facts about BTMR:

BTMR opened on September 23, 1980. The "official" Grand Opening was on November 15, 1980.

It cost $17M to build - the same amount it cost to construct Disneyland as of opening day.

The attraction area is approximately 2.5 acres.

The top of the butte is roughly 100 feet high from ground level. If you calculate from sea level, the way a real mountain would be measured, the pinnacle stands 197'6".

The ride duration is about 3 minutes 25 seconds.

Each of the engines pulls five cars and can hold a total of 30 guests.

The track length is 2,780 feet.

There are about 20 Audio-Animatroncic figures scatters around the ride.

The mining equipment found around the attraction is genuine. Some of it was purchased at auctions throughout the Southwest while other material came from existing mines that date back to Big Thunders era of 1880.

Over 100 tons of actual mine tailings were shipped to Big Thunder for use in it's retaining walls and runoffs from the mining.

Construction materials included the following: 6,500 tons of steel beams, rods, and mesh, 4,675 tons of concrete, 90,000 gallons of water, and 4,000 gallons of paint.

The spiel, "Hang on to them hats and glasses cuz this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness" was recorded by Dallas McKennon. This is the same gentleman who voices Ben Franklin in the American Adventure. Mr. McKennon passed away on July 14, 2009.

Here's a little trick I use when visiting the Magic Kingdom. First, ARRIVE AT OPENING. Be at the Adventureland "rope drop" at 9am. Once the welcoming announcement finishes, hightail it (safely) to the Jungle Cruise and secure Fast Passes for everyone in your party.

Jungle Cruise Sign

As soon as you have these gems in hand, make haste (safely) to BTMR. The line shouldn't be any more than 5 minutes in length. After riding, get in line and ride Splash Mountain, whose wait shouldn't be anymore than 10 minutes.

Splash Mountain Sign

I choose to ride BTRM first because its ride duration is shorter than Splash Mountain, allowing you to queue up for the second attraction sooner.

After you've completed these two adventures, mosey back toward Pirates of the Caribbean for some high seas high jinx with the buccaneers. If you survive their assault it will almost be time to ride the Jungle Cruise. This touring plan should allow you to complete four major attractions in just a little over an hour.

Pirates of the Caribbean

If arriving at the Magic Kingdom at opening just isn't your cup of tea, but you can still be at the park by 10 or 11, then I would suggest getting a Fast Pass for either Splash Mountain or BTMR then wait in line and ride the other one. Hopefully, your Fast Pass return time will be nearing when you exit the first attraction.

Thunder Mountain Fast Pass Machines

If you arrive after noon on a busy day, I have no suggestions for you.

After 12 Clock

That's all I have on BTMR. As I said at the beginning of this article, it's a pretty tame coaster as coasters go. But it's Disney's meticulous attention to detail that makes this attraction so compelling.

Mind these warnings before you ride:

Safety Rules

BTMR can also be found in:

Disneyland California's Frontierland

Tokyo Disneyland's Westernland

Disneyland Paris' Frontierland

Hang on to your hats!

January 29, 2009

Golden Oak Outpost and Button Cart

It pays to read the AllEars Newsletter. I was unaware that the Golden Oak Outpost, which replaced the McDonald's Fry Cart in Frontierland, had opened until I read Kitty Smith's blurb. I figured that I'd better get some pictures to share with you all so I headed to the Magic Kingdom today.


This new location serves Chicken Nuggets, a Fried Chicken Breast Sandwich, and a Vegetarian Flatbread Wrap. Fries (not McDonald's) and Coke products are also available. A much needed seating area has also been added.


While leaving the park, I noticed a nice young lady standing next to a cart outside of City Hall on Main Street.


In the past, if guests wanted to get a "Happy Birthday" or "1st Time Visitor" button, they had to request them inside City Hall. Now, a good selection of buttons are easily available to anyone passing by.





April 17, 2008

Harper's Mill, Old Time Telephone, and Kingdom Tower - Walt Disney World

I recently wrote a blog about the bird's nest hidden in Harper's Mill on Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom. One of my readers, Chris, wrote to tell me that if you listen carefully, the creaking gears inside the mill play "Down By The Old Mill Stream." I checked it out today and sure enough, if you know what you're listening for, there's no mistaking this tune. Thanks Chris.

Harpers Mill Tom Sawyer Island

In another blog I wrote that when Arribas Brothers took over the Market House on Main Street, the old-time telephone was removed. Another reader, Shorty, wrote to tell me that the old telephone now has a new home in the Chapeau Shop on Town Square. Yea! Thanks Shorty.

Chapeau Shop Main Street USA

Telephone in Chapeau Shop

Telephone in Chapeau Shop

As I keep saying, it's these little details that make Disney special. Now, if I could just convince Disney to bring back Jennifer, the ticket seller that used to sit in the entrance area of the Main Street Cinema"

While riding the monorail to the Magic Kingdom today, I snapped a couple of pictures of the "Kingdom Tower" (the yet to be announced DVC) under construction. As you can see by the pictures, the structure is coming right along and it appears they're currently working on the twelfth floor. Also, new construction has commenced on the walkway that will connect the new resort with the fourth floor of the Contemporary.

Kingdom Tower

Kingdom Tower

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About Frontierland

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Frontierland category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Fantasyland is the previous category.

Liberty Square is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.