Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: The Music of Frontierland
If you’ve been to a Wild West town before – whether it was an old authentic ghost town or right out of a theme park (like, say, Walt Disney World?) – you probably know the keys to a good western locale. First, there should be lots of wooden buildings. Second, there should be a saloon, or two, or four. Third, there should be some rollickin’ good music to put you in a square-dancin’ mood.
The Frontierland area of Magic Kindgom park has all three of these keys. The music in the area really transports you back in time to the good ol’ days and gets everyone excited to be in that area of the park. Whether you are eating at the Pecos Bill Cafe or heading to the queue for Big Thunder Mountain, you are successfully inundated through the atmosphere and AtMousePhere.
Let’s take a closer look!
Listen to some Frontierland music! (courtesy of Disney Dreaming on YouTube)
There are some songs that have not only withstood the test of time around campfires under the stars, but also live on in our music books as being classic American folk songs. A couple of those can be heard in Frontierland, like “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Home on the Range,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” and more.
As much as we like to assume that “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” has been around since the 1800s, it was only composed in 1954 for the Disney miniseries Davy Crockett. However, with the gigantic following that the song (and the coonskin cap), it would be silly not to include it in the Frontierland loop. After all, the Frontierland we know and love probably wouldn’t exist had the Davy Crockett craze not taken place!
Another song in the loop that wasn’t popularized until the 20th century is “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” originally composed by Stan Jones but popularized by Johnny Cash and others. I find this to be a neat addition to the loop, because while many of the other songs have a very upbeat, nostalgic vibe, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” is a tale of warning and woe, and that minor key can still be felt in the loop, despite the peppy arrangement.
As I researched, I noticed that I recognized many of the songs without even realizing it. I’ve heard the tunes in the background of movies or television shows without knowing the title or words. I didn’t want to call this group “unfamiliar” because many people might be just like me: they’ve heard it before but never knew what it was called. But there still might be others who know these songs very well!
A few well-known tunes include “Git Along, Little Dogies,” “Back in the Saddle Again,” “I’ve Got Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle,” and “The Old Chisholm Trail.”
A relatively complete list of Frontierland songs can be found here. Unfortunately, most of the songs aren’t available to purchase, which probably means they were arranged and recorded specifically for Disney.
One of the most important parts of Frontierland music is the instruments that go with the songs. If you were to hear “A Lonely Cowboy” with a full orchestra, you might get a little confused. However, play the song using instruments common to people in the western frontier 150 years ago, and the songs begin to feel more comfortable and familiar.
Common instruments included banjo, guitar, mouth organ (harmonica), and fiddle (violin). Note the absence of percussion – something we heard quite a bit in Liberty Square and Adventureland.
If ever there was an area’s music that could successfully transport you out of this time and into the past, Frontierland would be it. Not only do the songs fit the theme, but the instruments lend a hand to give you that “down-home” feeling.
As Roy Rogers and Dale Evans liked to sing, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again!”
Did I miss your favorite Frontierland tune? Have you ever recognized “Ghost Riders in the Sky” while walking in the park? I’m almost done with the Magic Kingdom – which park should I cover next? Please comment below!
6 thoughts on “Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: The Music of Frontierland”
Great article! Whenever we go out west to Wyoming I always download the entire background music mp3. Nothing better than playing I to the drive from Yellowstone to Grand Teton
Thanks! If you can find the background music for the Wilderness Lodge, that would fit right in your playlist too!
Wow, this article is so cool! I always loved hearing the different types of music when I move through the different lands. Would you possibly be able to do an article like this about New Orleans Square in Disneyland, or are you asking for park suggestions in Florida?
I would love to expand out to Disneyland, but at the moment I don’t have any trips planned out there. I am heading to WDW next month and am hoping to research the music at those parks first. If I keep going, I’d love to do Disneyland after that – New Orleans Square will be first on my list!
I really love this series! When you’re done with Magic Kingdom, please consider doing Epcot next. The last time I was in The Land pavilion, I’m sure that I heard some non-Disney music. I believe what I heard was a track from the movie Big Fish. Actually, correct me if I’m wrong, but I almost want to say I heard some music from An American Tail (not a Disney movie) on my way out of Soarin’.
That is totally possible – Disney does use some music outside of its own studio at times. (I’m thinking the “Harry Potter” theme on Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood Studios).
I’m excited to get into Epcot – I might have to do all of World Showcase in one post!