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I Want To Go To There.

Artist’s rendering of Thunder Mesa, circa 1969

No, this isn’t a big article about Western River Expedition. I’m not yet ready to make that rite of passage that every Disney blog eventually must face. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do since day one, but I just haven’t had that breakthrough of research yet to make it any more than a rewrite of articles posted elsewhere.

Instead, I was going through some documents and cleaning up some artwork and just came across this rendering – an image very familiar to most retro Disney fans. Thunder Mesa and the Western River Expedition has become, over the years, something both legendary and symbolic for fans. It’s the one that got away – the magnum opus of several legendary imagineers that would pick up where Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion left off. And, as of about 1973, there was little to no chance that we’d ever see it become a reality.

But looking at this image filling my monitor, I forgot about the attraction as a bit of history or a mystery to be researched, and just thought of what it would really be like if it were real. Go ahead – click and open up the large image, let it fill your screen, and think… that could be real. Like, really real. Let it fill your field of view. It’s a vista just as if you were standing on the Rivers of America. It could be real, regardless of what later naysayers and revisionists (coughMartySklarcough) would tell you. Sure, it’s huge – but so is Mount Prometheus in Tokyo.

So forget all the baggage, and just look at that picture. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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11 comments to I Want To Go To There.

  • That is absolutely sexy. It is a complete travesty that they never followed through with this.

  • Adam S


    To be sitting across the way, with churro in hand, gazing at the monolith of orange & brown rock, while the sounds of the train rolling by mix with the western music playing softly in the background, wondering which adventure awaits you next….


  • Another Voice

    Just as Disney did with the Euro Disney “Little Mermaid” attraction and someone else did with ‘Adventure Thru Inner Space’, there needs to be a CGI animated “ride through” of the great unbuilt attractions.

  • It’s pretty great, isn’t it?

    Adam: That’s exactly what I had in mind. The sound of the rushing waterfall… the water smell! With this rendering you can almost feel what the panorama would really be.

    AV: Oh, I’ve thought that many MANY times! There’s just so little public information about the ride. If we had blueprints or something one could at least fashion the layout, even if all the show elements wouldn’t be perfectly accurate. Surely, someday, someone will emerge with more information about the ride. And yeah, if anyone reading this is at WDI and wants to help a fellow out…

  • Adam S

    I think at night it would be at its best, too.

    Just thinking about all those lanterns glowing along the street, working your way up to the entrance of the place. The lights reflecting off the waterfall and the Rivers of America. The steam whistle blowing on the train as it comes riding down the track, while the Liberty Belle makes a turn around Tom Sawyer’s Island. The low chanting of a Native American dance happening just outside of view, around group of tipi’s.

    Again, I say siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh………

  • Thanks..that was nice. Yes, that would be a beautiful sight to behold – btw…I grabbed the image and it’s now my new desktop background – Thanks!

  • philphoggs

    Imagine drifting away, fully immersed and isolated to enjoy all those sensations… this drawing implies the best of WDW and seemingly the most intangible.
    Ahh Hoot Gibson where have you gone? Don’t tell me, I already heard.

  • Thanks for posting the artwork, and thanks also for the spot-on jab about the Thunder Mesa write-ups that every Disney site goes through. Hilarious and true!

  • […] River Expedition Photoshop Fun A few days ago, ProgressCityUSA posted a piece of concept art to their website, depicting the facade of the never-built (and infamous) Western River Expedition. […]

  • Adam

    A little late to the party, perhaps, but your post inspired me to take a little project of my own I thought you might like to see. I took your incredibly high-res image into Photoshop and tried to make elements of it more realistic, to create an even more lifelike image. It’s at if you’d like to see it.

    Wonderful blog – I’m a new fan. :-)

  • I love everyone’s little bits of descriptive atmosphere haha… it makes you realize that Thunder Mesa could have been more than an idea – it could have been down there on the Rivers of America for real.

    Everyone should check out the picture that Adam links to – that’s awesome! Very, very cool!

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