Frontierland Shooting Gallery

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Yeeeehaaaa, pardners!

Iago here, and the Pony Express just stopped by my nest on the way to Dodge City, and dropped off the following letter from Quick Draw Zazu. Today is the 41st anniversary of the Frontierland Shooting Arcade, which opened at DL on July 12, 1957. Looks like Quick Draw has been taking careful aim at Disney's prime targets....

and Other Shooting Galleries

Dear Iago,

I hear tell you been hankerin' for some news about where to send shooters at the park. Wall, I been a-lookin', and here's what I've a-found:

There have been four "shooting galleries" at Disneyland: The Frontierland Shooting Gallery, the Main Street Shooting Gallery, the Davy Crockett Arcade, and the Safari Shooting Gallery. The only survivor -- and the only one duplicated at the other Disney Parks -- is the first of these. (Note: Teddi Bara's Swingin' Arcade was a game arcade, not a shooting gallery.)

The Main Street Shooting Gallery opened in July 1955. This site proved inadequate to the demand, plus the gunfire seemed a bit out of place in this sophisticated urban setting, and the guns were gradually replaced with less lethal attractions, and it evolved into the Penny Arcade until that succumbed to the great Plush Invasion of recent years.

The Frontierland Shooting Gallery was the response to guests' demands for greater firepower, and opened in July 1957. It occupied the space formerly known as the Miniature Horse Corral -- it was the horses that were miniatures, the corral was full-sized. September 1984 saw the closure of this, the last of the "real bullet" galleries. It was replaced the following March with an all new Frontierland Shooting Gallery -- today known as the Frontierland Shootin' Exposition -- using the new infrared weapons, synthesized digital sound effects, and amusing animation, thus eliminating not only the hazardous lead shot and lead dust, but the nightly repainting.

Nightly repainting? Of course, how else could the attraction be "neat 'n pretty" every morning for the horde of fresh guests? Bet you never thought about that before, did you Iago?

The Davy Crockett Arcade was also in Frontierland, across the street from the big shoot-em-up in the part of the stockade that previously housed the Davy Crockett Museum. It featured new-fangled electric six-guns, and was popular with younger kids who couldn't see to aim the big guns even with a box to stand on. For some reason, the name was changed to Davy Crockett Frontier Arcade in 1985, but by 1987 it had been pacified and renamed Davy Crockett's Pioneer Mercantile.

The Safari Shooting Gallery in Adventureland was the largest of its kind, and shots were heard for a decade starting in June 1962. During that time, it was variously known as the Big Game Safari Shooting Gallery and the Big Game Shooting Gallery. Interesting changes, as they did not reflect any change in the targets or the means of bringing them down.

Meanwhile, out on the east coast, the Magic Kingdom got its own Frontierland Shooting Gallery. Electronic, like the latest version at DL, it's tucked into a recess just west of Frontierland Creek and is often overlooked. The knobby burlwood posts on it's porch were imagineered from non-wood products, but they were done that way to imitate the real-wood knobby posts on it's Disneyland namesake that Walt had been so proud to buy up before ground was even broken in Anaheim, certain that they would have a prominent use some day.

Disneyland Paris also has a shooting gallery in Frontierland, it's called the Rustler Roundup Shootin' Gallery, and uses the same electronic technology as the others, but for some reason it costs about twice what its stateside counterparts do. Apparently there's a negative bounty on rustlers.

I remember each of the Disneyland galleries, and the MK gallery of course. I well recall the weight of those early rifles, they way the cast members would carefully put a tube of ammunition in the gun once I convinced my father to surrender the grand sum of a quarter -- most particularly I recall that the pneumatic tubing and the "aiming frame" so restricted my ability to point the weapon that it proved sadly impossible to shoot my little brother. I also recall that I once loudly discounted the "penny pistols" at the Davy Crockett Arcade as juvenile toys (I was seven at the time) while my father persisted in pointing out just as loudly that my brother had obtained a better score (hence my desire to dispatch him).

The animated humor in the new electronic arcades is surely superior to the "plink" of the old guns, but there seems little challenge to them. It was not until my second visit that I discovered the old guns were not bolted to the counter, but had merely been too heavy for me to lift at the younger age. Even as an adult, I feel somewhat cheated that there is none of that satisfying kick when you pull the trigger. However, my now superior understanding of the health risks of lead dust -- both that small amount inhaled by the guests and the larger amounts that the cast members and maintenance team were subjected to makes me glad of the change.

My present resources don't indicate if the MK gallery began with lead bullets and changed to electronic, or if it was built that way to begin with, though the dates suggest the others must have been electronic from the start. I also lack any data on Tokyo Disneyland.

Iago, I don't know if that's what you needed to know, but that's what I've got. Good luck come parrot season!

Yours, Zazu

The music selected to accompany this page is "I Shot the Sheriff" by Willie Frank Phillips.

This page last updated 8 July 2000.
Copyright © 1998-2000 by Bruce A Metcalf and Ronnie O'Rourke (JIROMI). The characters, attractions, and guns all belong to the Walt Disney Company, which is why we're real careful to put these notices at the end of each and every page.