Pecos Bill Cafe had been part of the Magic Kingdom landscape since 1971. A much-needed expansion effort in 1998 incorporated the adjacent Mile Long Bar (once located behind the blue facade) and added indoor seating, bringing the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe to Frontierland.
Pecos Bill made his Disney debut in the 1948 package feature Melody Time, in which Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers told the story of the King of Tall Tales. Legend has it that Bill was raised by coyotes, once rode a twister like a bucking bronco and dug a path to create the Rio Grande.
Pecos Bill could draw faster, shoot straighter and ride a horse harder than any man alive. There's a picture of Bill and his trusty pal Widowmaker just above the fireplace inside.
According to the Imagineering story line, Pecos Bill was encouraged to settle down and open his own watering hole right here in Frontierland. The Tall Tale Inn & Cafe quickly became a popular hangout for Bill's legendary friends, each of whom would leave a little something behind once they paid him a visit.
In the main room, you can find a pair of Buffalo Bill's boots and one of Paul Bunyan's giant axes. Buffalo Bill was best known for his Wild West Show, which toured the US and Europe and has been recreated in Disney Village at Disneyland Resort Paris. The tale of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox was told in a 1958 Disney cartoon featurette.
The various dining rooms of the Cafe showcase some of the other artifacts Pecos Bill has collected from his friends over the years. Also from Melody Time comes the tale of Johnny Appleseed, who left Bill the pot he wore as a hat as he wandered this great land planting apple trees.
John Henry was a legendary African-American folk hero, whose man versus machine tale demonstrated the power of perseverance. John Henry (in the form of actor Roger Aaron Brown) was seen with Pecos Bill (Patrick Swayze) and Paul Bunyan (Oliver Platt) in Disney's 1995 live action feature Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill. He also appeared in animated form in the short film "John Henry," created by the animators at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2000.
Jim Bowie, known for his prowess with a knife (later popularized as the Bowie Knife), was one of the heroes who fought at the Alamo. He was portrayed by actor Ken Tobey in Disney's "Davy Crockett" TV serial and the movie Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.
Naturally, there are several items here from Davy Crockett himself, including a satchel and a detailed drawing of Ol' Betsy, his favorite rifle. Like many of the individuals represented at the Tall Tale Inn & Cafe, Crockett was a real person whose legend seemed to grow with each retelling of his story. Many of those exaggerated accounts were crafted by his buddy George Russell, who left behind for Bill this hand-written version of Davy's encounter with Big Foot Mason:
Tucked away in one of the back dining rooms is this mysterious mask and silver bullet, presumably left by the Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger, a fictional western character popularized in radio and TV serials, has yet to star in a Disney production, although a film is currently in development with some of the team behind the Pirates of the Caribbean series. So just who is that masked man? Perhaps Pecos Bill knows, but he's not telling. The identification plaque has been left blank.
Apart from the artifacts left by Pecos Bill's legendary friends, there are plenty of other details to appreciate inside the Tall Tale Inn & Cafe. One of my favorites is the plaque on this fire box. Of course, it houses modern fire extinguishing equipment, but the sign on the outside gets its message across by depicting a period fire wagon.
One of the largest dining rooms is actually designed to look like an outdoor courtyard beside a Spanish hacienda. Take a few moments to admire the wrought iron, beautiful tile work and punched tin lanterns.
Back to the real outside, the exterior of this building presents several facades that further flesh out the town of Frontierland and make it look and feel like a real place. Details like serapes, flower pots and bird cages help tell the story of the people who might live here. The Town Hall has a bell tower for calling folks in for important meetings.
There's even a Chinese Laundry. Chinese immigrants played an important role in the American west, particularly in the California Gold Rush and in the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad.
The western end of Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn & Cafe brings Frontierland out of fantasy and into the more realistic settings of Texas and the Southwestern United States. Here, desert-influenced architecture and landscaping create a smooth transition north toward Big Thunder Mountain and south into Adventureland's Caribbean Plaza, with its adobe walls and Spanish tile roofs.