Over the past year, Disney has set about releasing back stories in comic format for some of their most famous theme park attractions. They began with the MUSEUM OF THE WEIRD featured in the Haunted Mansion, and followed it up with a far better selling and more recognizable, FIGMENT. Figment is basically the mascot of Disney’s EPCOT park, and one of their most endearing mascots to boot. So how does one follow up easily the most recognized character in the series thus far? With one of the most exciting rides in all of Magic Kingdom!
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is definitely a prime choice to continue the Disney Kingdoms tradition of expanding upon the stories behind famous park attractions. While some rides like Pirates of the Caribbean already have an entire film franchise built around them, the choices made so far are of far lesser known aspects of the Disney parks. And, with the upcoming release of Tomorrowland as a FEATURE FILM, I don’t see any particular rides from THAT side of Magic Kingdom receiving the comic book treatment anytime soon.
So what are we treated to in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? Well, the Disney ride is your standard “runaway” mine-cart style roller coaster with a Western frontier/Gold Rush theme slapped on top. With such a basic, yet classic story setting the only place one can go from there is up!
Our story begins as we follow the young Miss Abigail Bullion, a young woman traveling out to live with her father in the western frontier in the year 1878. Her father is the owner of a gold mining operation which keeps the entire town afloat. She is moving out to live with him after the recent passing of her mother. Abigail quickly shows herself off to be the standard Disney Princess stereotype of being the sheltered princess who starves for a life of adventure and “something more.” But she is more than just a doe-eyed princess, as she shows herself capable of riding a horse with enough skill to outrun a moving train and jump back onto its caboose.
The book makes quick work of setting up our primary struggle, when miners go to meet with Mr. Bullion about the mines, one recommends backing away from the deeper trenches of the mines, while another claims the best gold veins are deepest within the mountain. One of these miners is also quickly set up as our insert Disney Prince for Abigail. After her father takes a leave for business, Abigail goes against his wishes and explores the mining town of Rainbow Ridge.
Abigail quickly makes a name for herself as she flaunts her family name as well as her father’s money in the local saloon. However, a bar brawl is quickly avoided thanks to the quick thinking of Rose, the bar maiden. She explains the lay of the land to Abigail, that the townsfolk may not take kindly to her. With the mines constantly taking the lives of its workers, some animosity has grown towards Mr. Bullion. Interested by the prospect of miners work, Abigail steals the clothes of a bathing miner and sneaks aboard a mine-shaft to see the mines of BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN firsthand.
Her trip into the mines is interrupted however, as the miner’s explosives begin to cause cave-ins, which nearly trap Abigail underneath the rubble. It is only by the arrival of a masked cowboy that Abigail is saved.
Overall, this is a great start to a classic western tale. It SCREAMS Disney Princess movie, and definitely has a hint of the classic Disney charm to its story (thus far). Whether intentional or not, the art seems to depict a certain magical nature within the mines, which may be the reason for the recent cave-ins. As a fan of classic John Wayne films, as well as your standard Disney fanboy, I can definitely say this book has what it takes to appeal to both audiences. I have high hopes for this title. While Seekers of the Weird was an interesting experiment, I feel that sticking with a basic Disney formula will never hurt a story. However, if you’re looking for something completely fresh and new, this may read stale for Disney veterans.
-A fun Western story with a strong lady lead
-Western comics are in short supply
-Artwork supplying detail and character to environments and characters alike
-stale Disney formula
-Not the biggest name attraction in Disney