Located at the shores of the Rivers of the Far West on the grounds of the Cottonwood Creek Ranch the Chaparral Theater is home to grand show productions in natural settings...
Enjoying a pleasant walk through Thunder Mesa along the Rivers of the Far West past the building of the Big Thunder Mining Company and the Fuente del'Oro guests leave the bustling streets of this wild west town behind them and enter the shadows of the trees in front of the Country Cookout Barbecue. From there it is only a few more steps to the Cottonwood Creek Ranch with its duck pont and Woody's Round-Up - a wonderful area to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. But there are more reasons to take the walk down here or step off the railroad at the Frontierland Depot which is located at the Cottonwood Creek Ranch as well.
One of the main reasons certainly is the Chaparral Theater: a huge western style theater with a covered stage and auditorium. What looks from the outside like nothing but an oversized barn the ranch owner cut out of local wood turns out to be a sophisticated modern theater once guests have passed its huge gates that would be fitting even for a fort. The rustic, western style is continued in the interior seamlessly. So guests take place not on cushioned, soft seats but wood benchs without a back rest that are placed on steep stands offering a good view of the very wide and deep stage from each and every seat. Even so everything seems to be made out of wood and it looks as if the locals ages ago bought some wild west drawings painted on animal skin to decorate the back wall, there ist state of the art technology hidden beneath those rustical themeing - a modern sound- and light system guarantee a perfect show.
However, what really sets the theater apart is the stage. While equipped with impressive technology it is not a normal theater stage as it makes use of the unique fact that the theater is not really indoors but just covered by a roof above the stage (and the auditorium). So instead of an artifical landscape the back of the stage has a real hill with life trees and plants on it with some sculpted rocks to it's right. This natural, living set adds a special touch to each and every production - especially as the productions are conceived incorporating this unique design from the first step, therefore making the best possible use of the natural scene. The whole character is cleverly changed for the different shows with different elements being added or taken out, including some of the plant life as not every show staged here necessarily has a connection to a wild west theme. So guests may just as well encounter a snow covered Rocky Mountain lakeside as well as an African jungle...
Combined with the impressive size of the stage (wider, deeper and higher than usual - important amongst others for acrobatic elements incorporated in the shows) this allows for outstanding productions with a large cast and detail rich, breathtaking sets. The productions here cross frontiers for theme park entertainment setting new standards and are not to be missed!
Even so it is not unusual for the waiting line to stretch all through the Cottonwood Creek Ranch to the Country Cookout Barbecue this does not mean, that guests will be turned away. The Chaparral Theater has one of the largest capacities of any theater in the Disneyland Parc, so even guests arriving just in time will be seated frequently making this a great attraction for those happening to walk buy just seconds before a show starts or for those who do not want to stand in line for a show. In any case, it is recommed to arrive about 20 minutes prior to show time to get one of the best seats in the two middle sections of the auditorium. However, the view from the two sections to the left and right is very good too, as long as you make sure that the huge coloumns in front of the stage are not blocking a central part of your view.
While the regular main entrance is at the side of the theater facing Woody's Round-Up, between the stage and the auditorium, guests arriving only shortly before showtime may find the main entrance closed. In this case doors at the back of the auditorium will be used to admit guests as long as seats are available. Very often cast members will close the main entrance about 5 minutes prior to showtime and direct all guests to the rear entrances next to the Frontierland Depot.
While waiting in line for a show at the Chaparral Theater the closest snacks and drinks sales point is located inside the area of Woody's Round-Up (just opposite the theater's main entrance). If the this one is closed, drinks and snacks are available from Country Cookout Barbecue, just outside the Cottonwood Creek Ranch, or one of the mobile sales points set up at varying locations throughout Frontierland. Before getting in line for the Chaparral Theater guests should keep in mind that the line is not covered, so there is only limited shade and no protection against wind or rain.
Strollers are allowed in the line, but not in the theater and must be parked near the main entrance in a designated area before entering the theater. Stroller parking is located outdoors, therefore strollers should be closed / covered as a precaution.
The first rows in the front (all on ground level) are reserved for guests with disabilities and the youngest guests who can enjoy a great, unobstructed view from there and are really close to the action. Parents should note that they are not allowed to sit next to their child in these rows, so all children must be able / willing to watch the show separated from their parents. But: their chances to be choosen for some interaction in the show (if any is taking place) are much higher here too!
The Chaparral Theater is the theater with the most interesting history in the Disneyland Parc as it was not in place when the park opened in 1992. Instead its inaugural season came in 1995 back then still as a real open air theater with no cover against the forces of nature neither for the guests nor for the actors limiting its use to the summer months. In its first year it was used for a small western style song and dance show called "Hill Billy Hoedown" featuring Mickey Mouse and his friends in the wild west on a large but pretty simple stage with only a few sets. However, this was all set to change in time for the summer of 1996 when "Pocahontas le Spectacle" took over - a major production with a large cast, live singing and elaborate sets - sets that are still a part of the theater as the Imagineers decided to create a whole natural landscape complete with hills, a river and a waterfall hiding the entrance to a cave in the rocks... complete with real plants!
With the major effort going into this production it was sure that the theater (back then sometimes called Chaparral Stage) was not only a temporary attraction. Therefore the make shift stands in the auditorium got some extra attention too. As "Pocahontas" proofed to be a real hit production guest demand was so high that it not only returned every year till 1999 but the park also looked into expanding its run, which was originally limited to the summer months, into spring and fall. In a first step the stands got a large roof (and some interesting wild west style paintings next to the director's room at the top of the stands) in 1997 before in time for early summer 1998 the stage area got covered too, basically creating a nearly fully enclosed theater allowing productions all year round (even so the cold winds of winter are still able to move in due the only partially closed sides). This new opportunity was used for the first time with "Mickey's Winter Wonderland" during the winter season 1998/99. Back then the theater got what is till now its final look.
Even so the natural scene on the stage has been adjusted to the later productions it still uses the major elements created for "Pocahontas" and the shape of the rocks and gentle hills with the real life trees on them staid the same. The setting is so unique that in 2001 the german TV-station Sat.1 even produced the season opening special of its hit show "Nur die Liebe zählt" (Love is all You need) here. The sets were already prepared as a snow landscape for "Mickey's Winter Wonderland" making it the prefect fit for the airing of the show on the 23rd of December.
Fans of Disney Animation should take a close look at the "wall" of the stage area toward the Cottonwood Creek Ranch. Right beneath the roof a wide transparent is covering nearly all the distance from the rear of the stage to the front of the stage - advertised on it, with a big portrait, is a traveling western show starring Slue Footed Sue, Pecos Bill's girlfriend from the segment with the same name in the animated "Melody Time" (released 1948). This is just one of the many hidden details of the Disneyland Parc drawing from the rich history of the Walt Disney Company as there never was any show in Disneyland Paris starring this character for which this transparent could have been used as advertisement. While Slue Foot Sue was also featured in the Golden Horseshoe Revue in the original Disneyland's Frontierland as of 1955 on which the concept for DLP's Lucky Nugget Saloon and its original show in 1992 was modeled, the show in the Lucky Nugget did not feature her at any time. Even so not based on any specific character or movie the same amount of detail is also shown in the detail rich drawings of wild west scenes found at the inner rear wall of the auditorium.