by Teresa Whitmore
For the past week, Disney has been play-testing a new interactive guest experience at the Golden Horseshoe in Disneyland's Frontierland, On Sunday, August 25, I had a chance to experence this new offering first-hand.
The guest experience involves in-depth interaction with various characters, low-cost souvenir "disguises" to help blend in with the show, a secret dining menu with all new deliciously themed items, and the chance for children and adults to take on the roles as lawmen or outlaws to earn wooden nickels and "gold" nuggets which can be traded in for property deeds to various parts of Frontierland.
Guests can also just sit down and watch the action unfold around them while they enjoy food from the regular menu or from the new secret menu (available upon request).
Welcome to the Golden Horseshoe
The Mayor of Frontierland stood at the entrance to welcome everyone and give a bit of direction on what guests could experience. We could take on the role of a lawman representing Frontierland, or an outlaw representing Rainbow Ridge. He also suggested that we ask for the secret menu at the food counter.
There were three signs posted just inside the entrance: a general consent to filming, a brief overview of the experience, and a list of various activities that guests might encounter while visiting the Golden Horseshoe.
Gettin' Gussied Up
Near the entrance was a new souvenir stall where guests could purchase various disguises. Priced from $2 to $10, disguises included clip-on mustaches, harmonicas, bandanas, eye patches, garters, fake beards, and three different types of hats. The stall accepted cash and credit cards for payment, but did not offer discounts for annual passholders. Visitors could also sign a guest book at the counter.
Staking a Claim
On the stage, a large map of Frontierland displayed various properties available for purchase. Participants could buy these properties with wooden nickels and "gold" nuggets (worth 25 nickels) they earned from the various characters and activities throughout the saloon.
The Secret Menu of Tasty Vittles
To order from the secret menu, one just simply had to ask at the counter. The items were all themed to match the characters of this interactive show.
The two items I tried (Sam's Drink, and Duke's Special) were really amazing, and I hope they keep these items around or add them to the current menu should this play test not become a permanent fixture.
A spicy take on Disneyland's famous corn dogs, Duke's Special (aka "Duke's Lunch") from the secret menu is a battered and fried Polish hotlink topped with nacho cheese sauce, jalapeno, onion, and bacon bits, that is served with a side of fries. Photo by Teresa Whitmore.
The Good, The Bad, and the Pretty
There were several different characters with whom to interact. Besides the Mayor, I personally encountered LB (the piano player), Duke (the Sheriff), Kaleb (an outlaw) and Abby (the ranch hand). I first spoke with LB, who asked me for a bit of "background" on what I was "doing in these parts." After I mentioned that I robbed a stagecoach, he nicknamed me "Shifty," and gave me a name tag so the townsfolk could call me by my Western name.
Duke recruited "deputies" to help make arrests and collect bounties paid in nickels and nuggets. Those working on the side of the law could also draw "wanted" posters, which were then placed throughout the saloon.
On the other side of the saloon in front of the stage were the "outlaws," who could earn nickels and nuggets by playing some rounds of cards.
I sat down at one of the outlaw tables and played cards with a couple of guests. Since the cheapest piece of Frontierland property was 100 nickels (or four "gold" nuggets), it became apparent that we would be there for a very long time before we could afford one of the property deeds as individuals. So the adults at our table decided to pool all of our winnings together and help a younger outlaw purchase a piece of property.
Belly-up to the Worst Drink in the Wilderness
A bit later, outlaw Kaleb announced that there would be a duel between two guests, with a bag of nuggets as the prize. The "River Water Challenge" was a duel in which a small glass of bright pink liquid was given to each guest. When signaled, the guests had to drink the sour drink and then stare at each other without blinking or swallowing.
Two outlaws were presented with the "River Water Challenge." The players had to drink a shot of extremely sour "river water" and then stare at each other without moving their faces. Photo by Teresa Whitmore.
I was very curious about the "river water," so I asked Kaleb what it was. He wouldn't tell me, but instead asked if I'd like some. When I said I would, he was impressed with my bravery and offered to challenge me to the duel himself. He said that if I lost, I would owe him a favor. If I won, he'd give me 25 nickels or one nugget.
So, I sat down and handled the drink well enough until Kaleb puckered and had to look away. It was actually a real challenge, because it was the most sour stuff I'd ever had. But, of course, I really wanted the loot. When he conceded, he asked if I'd like the nickels or nugget. When I said that I just wanted one nickel to take home, he insisted that I take the nugget—then also handed me a nickel for being such a good sport.
Prospectin' for Feedback
A few cast members were stationed just outside the Golden Horseshoe to survey guests about their experience. I offered the best review I could, with one caveat—the experience was not very well-explained or described, leaving most guests confused as to what was happening around them or what they needed to do to play along. According to the surveyor I spoke with, that was the most common complaint received. In general, however, feedback has been very positive.
Y'all Get a Load of This!
While I do love watching a show, this made me feel like a real part of the action, and also let me take home some great stories and a couple small souvenirs as a reminder of my time spent in the Old West.
Overall, the experience is very immersive, and one could easily spend an hour or two here. Although some may consider this time-consuming, it's a fun way to spend some time in Frontierland, and also have some lunch at the same time. If Disneyland continues to offer this entertainment, I highly recommend stopping in, even if it's just to observe.