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“What-If” The Lone Ranger Was A Hit – A DVC Duo Series

Hi Ho Silver! We’re off on another adventure this time with the Lone Ranger. With Disney+ launching the Marvel “What If” series, it inspired us to create our what-if series. In the first of many new articles to come we’re looking at The Lone Ranger, and what if the movie was a success. All right Silver is waiting, let’s mount up and ride off into the sunset.

Entrance to Blue Sky Cellar at Disney's California Adventure
Blue Sky Attraction at Disney’s California Adventure

The Concept

We need some type of structure for these articles, right? Who are we kidding rules are made to be broken. Well, to at least say we created a baseline let’s put some rules out there.

Many times Walt Disney Imagineering creates concepts and ideas that stem from the success of a movie, TV show, or some type of Disney related Intellectual Property (IP). From time to time, the ideas are filed away due to many reasons and it makes us think, “what if” this idea came to fruition? For our “What If” the baseline rule is the IP would have to be used in a Walt Disney related park or resort.

Passholder Insights: One IP that Disney Imagineering has floated around for years, Moana, is finally receiving an attraction in the new Epcot neighborhood, World Nature.

The Lone Ranger was portrayed by Armie Hammer
Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger

Why Lone Ranger?

Going into the summer of 2013 Disney Studios projected Lone Ranger would be the summer blockbuster. After the success of Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Disney believed it had another runaway success with Johnny Depp leading the charge as Tonto. The concept was simple, use the same formula from Pirates of the Caribbean and move it to the western frontier.

With the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, came the renewed love for one of Disney’s most historic Adventureland attractions. Pending the success of the Lone Ranger movie, Johnny Depp would be taking two steps over in the Magic Kingdom to the Frontierland and Big Thunder Mountain. Everything hinged on the fans love for Johnny Depp.

Passholder Insights: The time to ride Big Thunder Mountain is either at rope drop or at night just before park closing.

Big Thunder could have been rethemed to the lone ranger
Big Thunder Mountain

Ride Transformation  

What if the Lone Ranger had been a runaway success and the beginning of a new Disney movie franchise? We’re glad you asked, as we know what Disney was thinking. Disney Imagineering planned to pair one of the park’s most iconic attractions, Big Thunder Mountain, with one of its most recognizable stars, Johnny Depp.

The story goes that Walt Disney World planned for a major refurbishment of Big Thunder Mountain lasting six months following the release of Lone Ranger. According to Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media, during the refurbishment Disney Imagineering would go to work to add the Lone Ranger and Tonto animatronics throughout the attraction, as well as show scenes that were nods to movie. This would be a similar transformation that we saw with the addition of the Jack Sparrow animatronics to the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Passholder Insights: When exiting Big Thunder Mountain if you head left you’ll find a geyser that goes off throughout the day.

Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as the lone ranger
Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer

What Happened?

Ultimately the Lone Ranger movie missed the mark with audiences. It came up well short of Disney Studio expectations and all associated projects (Big Thunder Mountain update and movie sequels) were scrapped. The one shining light from the movie were the two Oscar nominations the movies received for Makeup and hairstyling and Visual Effects.

Our Thoughts

What could have been? Big Thunder Mountain is one of our all-time favorite attractions and we’re torn on whether or not we would have enjoyed the Lone Ranger updated. Part of us are very interested to see what Disney Imagineering would have done with the update, but the majority of our feelings are excited that we have the original. For now, we’re left wondering what if?

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