Season 4, Episode 8: “Nature’s Wonderland” 10/6/17
Starring: Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse
Cameo by: The Big Thunder Mountain Goat
Setting: Frontierland, Disneyland
Plot: Mickey’s attempt to take Minnie on a romantic ride through Nature’s Wonderland is thwarted when they find a big, thunderin’ mountain on top of their desired destination.
This short pays homage to the rich history of Disneyland’s Frontierland - in particular, the now defunct Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland (1960 – 1977) which was the crown jewel of the park’s 1960 northwest remodel/expansion. Nature’s Wonderland would replace the Painted Desert (1955 – 1959), Conestoga Wagons (1955 – 1959), and Stage Coach (1955 – 1960) attractions while incorporating the Pack Mules (1955 – 1973), Rainbow Caverns (1956 – 1977), and Rivers of America (1955 – present).
While Big Thunder Mountain (1979 – present) was essentially plopped down atop Nature’s Wonderland (just as Mickey grouses about), the new thrill ride would still retain some of its features such as the Rainbow Caverns, the Devil’s Paint Pots, and the Living Desert.
The short’s stylized title card is a reference to Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures (1948 – 1960) television series which was also the inspiration for the Nature’s Wonderland attraction itself.
The melody Mickey and Minnie are singing to is taken from Pinocchio’s (1940) “Little Wooden Head” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
The bear scratching its bum is taken from a now defunct scene from Disneyland's Bear Country while the view of the goats, antelope, hawk, and mountain lion is a recreation of the Grand Canyon Diorama (1958 – present) attraction poster.
The map Mickey holds up of Nature’s Wonderland is an exact replica of the large promotional poster Walt used to promote the new expansion from a television appearance. The only difference is that there was NOT an image of Walt’s face on the original poster.
The psychedelic Rainbow Caverns poster is also an exact rendering of the original attraction poster.
Of course, the train is the exact model and colour scheme as the N.W.R.R. (Nature Wonderland Railroad).
The rock formation Mickey and Minnie’s minecar lands on is from the Balancing Rocks which went away with Thunder Mountain’s arrival but have since returned with the recent (2017) re-routing of the Disneyland Railroad (1955 – present) through Frontierland to make way for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (2019 – forever).
The colourful geysers they land on are from the aforementioned Devil’s Paint Pots which was then re-imagined as a scene in one of Big Thunder’s caves.
The goat chewing on dynamite is in reference to the famed, unnamed goat from Big Thunder Mountain who precipitates the rides climactic explosion.
On the exploding map of the United States you can see the rock formations from Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park that inspired the orange buttes of Big Thunder Mountain.
The music accompanying Mickey and Minnie’s ride through the Rainbow Caverns is the same tune you’d hear while riding the original attraction. This song was aptly titled, “Rainbow Caverns.”
This is may be the best Disneyland inspired Mickey Mouse short but it’s not the first. Here’s the playlist:
- “Yodelburg” S1, E2 (Matterhorn Bobsleds)
- “Tokyo Go” S1, E5 (Casey Jr. Circus Train)
- "'O Sole Minnie" S1. E12 (it's a small world)
- “Potatoland” S1, E13 (Disneyland)
- “The Adorable Couple” S1, E16 (Main Street, USA)
- “Down the Hatch” S2, E11 (Adventures Through Inner Space)
- “Space Walkies” S2, E10 (Tomorrowland)
- “Wish Upon a Coin” S3, E3 (Snow White’s Grotto)
- “Ku’u Lei Melody” S3, E16 (The Enchanted Tiki Room)
Final Grade: A+
I absolutely LOVE everything about this short. It transcends a simple Mickey Mouse cartoon in paying tribute to a long-forgotten part of Disneyland history. Mickey and Minnie’s sweet love story is but a mere vehicle for introducing the true star of the short: Nature’s Wonderland. The artwork of the closing scene in the Rainbow Caverns is truly breathtaking and among the best imagery the series has to offer. Even the soundtrack is inspired in the anachronistic choice of sampling music from Pinocchio while the on-the-nose use of original music from the Rainbow Caverns is perfect. This episode is a masterclass in nostalgia and, even though I never experienced this part of the park myself, it makes me long for this bustling network of Frontierland transportation through wooded wilderness, desert plains, and majestic caverns.