Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade Farewell

    Today, June 23rd, is the final day of operation for the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade – an opening day attraction at Magic Kingdom. Technically, the attraction was known as the Frontier Shooting Gallery when it opened in 1971 and was renamed the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade on September 24, 1984, according to Disney. In this article, we’ll take a look around the venue before it closes forever to make room for a new Disney Vacation Club Members Lounge.

    Located in Frontierland is a rustic log cabin where guests can pick up a replica .54 Cal Bridger Hawken Rifle and shoot at targets spread throughout a scene of the legendary Boot Hill in the famous frontier town of Tombstone, Arizona. The attraction originally used pellets, but in the early 1980s, it moved to a projectile-free invisible beam of safe infrared light technology.

    Up until September 30, 2021, the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade was an additional fee. Then, on September 30th, it went free-to-play and has been free ever since. The cost was previously $1 for 35 shots.

    Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade Exterior

    As we had mentioned earlier, the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade is set in a log cabin. As we can see in the photos below, the Shootin’ Arcade is nestled between a Disney Vacation Club kiosk to the left (ironically enough), and the Frontierland Trading Post to the right. The Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade is set back from the main walkway, making it something fun for guests to discover.

    Just like Gaston, the proprietor of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade uses antlers in all of their decorating. A large sign informs guests what they’ll find in the typically dimly lit, open-air shooting gallery.

    A ramp or stairs lead you up to the shooting arcade proper, but not before some curious guests can find nods to other Disney properties and stories in the form of posters to the left of the gallery. As an interesting aside, Disney World recently invested in some themed pavement in the area, which we assume will not be changed by the construction of the Disney Vacation Club Member Lounge.

    There are a number of references in these posters, including:

    • The Saga of Windwagon Smith (1961 animated Disney cartoon)
    • Westward Ho snack cart
    • Snowball Express (1972 Disney film)
    • The Castaway Cowboy (1974 Disney film)
    • Hoop Dee Doo Revue (dinner show at Disney’s Fort Wilderness)
    • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad flyer
    • Dr. Terminus from Pete’s Dragon (1977 Disney film)
    • Slue-Foot Sue from Pecos Bill segment of Melody Time (1948 animated Disney film)
    • The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975 Disney film)

    Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade “Interior”

    Stepping “inside” the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade doesn’t involve walking through any doors, but it still feels wonderfully separate from the rest of Magic Kingdom (unless a loud parade is rolling by some 50 feet away). With your back turned to The Most Magical Place on Earth, your focus narrows as you pick out one of dozens of targets scattered around the desert town.

    There’s space for 22 shooting bays, but only 15 rifles were in use when we visited, and a couple of those were not working. The rifles are replica .54 Cal Bridger Hawken rifles, and they are ready and waiting to be aimed at nearly 100 infrared targets.

    .54-caliber Hawkins buffalo rifle

    Here’s a closer look at the town of Tombstone, Arizona, including some of the props that are only visible when a nearby target is hit. Nearly every target has a special effect associated with a successful shot. Sometimes there is a physical prop reaction, and some effects are lighting effects.

    When activated, the sign is illuminated with “For Sale”

    Why Is the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade Closing?

    Frankly, it’s rather amazing that this attraction has lasted as long as it has. Putting realistic rifles in the hands of guests is probably not what The Walt Disney Company would call entertainment in 2024, and something that I imagine they’d want to phase out. Yes, fictional guns are found throughout Disney World attractions, but a realistic rifle in the hands of guests has to be different than a blaster in the hands of a Stormtrooper. That said, logic might say that the closure of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade actually has very little to do with the fact that there are replica guns.

    You’d have to look no further than the nearby Tom Sawyer Island to find realistic rifles for guests to “shoot” (again, sound effects only and no projectiles). I’d argue that the optics of the Tom Sawyer Island rifles is much worse than that of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, although much more secluded. We’re going to get a bit off track from the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade for a minute.

    After taking a boat ride to Tom Sawyer Island, guests can walk back to a place called Fort Langhorn. In Fort Langhorn, guests can walk up narrow, twisting steps putting them in the “Rifle Roost”. As seen in the photo immediately below, the Rifle Roost is directly across from Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

    Inside the Rifle Roost, you will not be surprised to find rifles. The rifles are fixed in place, allowing guests to move them side to side a bit, but the target out of the western windows of the Rifle Roost is unmistakable: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Occasionally, the Liberty Square Riverboat will pass by. Unlike the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, there are no targets to actually aim for besides Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the occasional runaway train filled with guests.

    With the knowledge of what is available to guests on Tom Sawyer Island, the theory of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade closing because it features guns simply doesn’t track. How can Disney be concerned about guns in the hands of guests in one attraction, but not another? Instead, it appears to be a situation where Disney Vacation Club simply wanted another Member Lounge and Disney had an underperforming spot for them to take over. As an aside, we understand that DVC wants a Member Lounge in every Walt Disney World theme park, but there are no announced plans for Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios at this time.

    If we had to guess, the closure of the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade was simply a matter of Disney World looking at their soft reset of Frontierland as a whole ahead of the Beyond Big Thunder Mountain project, and DVC sliding in to take over a space that wouldn’t otherwise see any investment.

    Walt Disney World has done quite a bit of work in Frontierland, retheming Splash Mountain to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and reimagining the Country Bear Jamboree into the Country Bear Musical Jamboree. Earlier this year, Disney World said that they were going to continue investing in Frontierland, teasing more projects in the future:

    We have a lot of growth and investment planned for our theme parks in the coming years and look forward to sharing more announcements about Frontierland
    Disney statement

    As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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