Designing Frontierland – Fuente del Oro Restaurante

‘Fuente del Oro Restaurante’ is a counter service restaurant located right across the entrance to the ‘Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’ attraction at Fantasyland in Disneyland Paris. It serves Tex-Mex and Southwestern American specialties like fajitas, enchiladas and nachos.

Recently, we had the unique opportunity to sit together with mister Jeff Burke (show producer, Frontierland, Disneyland Paris) and discuss the design of this beautiful place.

The general layout of the restaurant is based on that of a traditional Spanish / Mexican four sided hacienda (residence) with a courtyard at its center. With ‘Fuente del Oro’, half of one wall was removed so guests on the adjacent promenade had a better view of the restaurant.

Although the structure is not based on any actual historic building, it does incorporate many details typical to hacienda architecture such as the adobe walls and the wooden beams sticking through the facade.

Adobe is one of the oldest building materials known to man. It has been used for thousands of years by the Indigenous peoples of the Southwestern United States, Latin and South America. Adobe bricks are made of a mixture of sand, water and clay, formed in wooden molds and dried by the sun. When finished, adobe walls are covered with mud plaster to prevent the bricks from deteriorating. 

Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum – Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, USA – September 2013.

To underscore the effects of the harsh environment of the American Southwest, from blazing sun to freezing snow, portions of the protective plaster of the ‘Fuente del Oro’ building were omitted, as if fallen away, exposing the ‘adobe brick’ construction underneath. And the facade’s rich color palette of terra cotta and orange was intentionally faded to a lighter hue at the top of the building as if bleached by the sun.

The roof of adobe houses traditionally consisted of logs (called "vigas") which supported wooden poles (sticks, called "latillas"), and which in turn supported wooden lathing or layers of twigs covered with packed adobe earth. The vigas often projected through the wall facades. This is also the case for the ‘Fuente del Oro’ building.

Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum – Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, USA – September 2013.

A strong Southwestern Native American influence is noted by the figure of ‘Kokopelli’ welcoming guests through the entrance portal of the restaurant. Kokopelli is one of the most well-known figures in Anasazi Indian mythology and Hopi legends. He is a trickster god, represents the spirit of music and presides over childbirth and agriculture. His image has been found painted onto and carved into many rocks throughout the Southwest.

Kokopelli is usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player. But you might notice that in Disneyland Paris, he isn’t carrying a flute, but a spear. While he normally carries a flute, sometimes, in self defense, it was exchanged for a spear to frighten away ‘hostile spirits’. At ‘Fuente del Oro’, Kokopelli prevents any ‘evil spirits’ from passing through the restaurant’s entrance portal.

On the opposite column of the portal, one can see the bas relief image of the moon and the stars. This image is based on Southwestern Native American design and is connected with their agricultural calendar. The crescent moon represents a time of planting. The full moon represents a time of harvesting.

Despite the restaurant’s rustic outer appearance of heavy wood beam, adobe brick and plaster wall building materials, underneath it all is a formidable skeletal steel framework. This was not just put into place to insure the building’s structural integrity, but also to support a live-action stunt show on its roof and balconies. The show featured characters from the TV series ‘Zorro’ which became popular in France during the 1980’s.

Although the stunt show was very well received among guests, it only lasted from 1992 to 1993. Crowds would gather outside the patio’s walls and Park Operations considered this a hazard to normal orderly guest flow along the walkway between ‘Fuente del Oro Restaurante’ and the ‘Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’ ride queue building, so they cancelled performances of the show.

Upon entering the restaurant, one will immediately come across the counter where orders can be placed. The two large dining rooms are to the left and right of it. The interior features a vibrant color palette. To create as much visual continuity as possible, these colors were applied on the tables, chairs, walls, pillars and ceilings.

A variety of floor tiles was used throughout the restaurant, from refined glazed terra cotta to rustic yet smooth stone pavers, all appropriate to the Mexican theming. Rather than confine the use of a singular type of floor tile to a specific room, it was determined to lay the floor tiles in such a way that they would invite the guests to investigate the various floor textures and to explore the restaurant’s entire interior (and exterior) layout.

The windows of ‘Fuente del Ore’ are filled with semi-transparent glass. This allows a more subdued light through the windows and doors, offering a pleasant dining experience.

The light fixtures are all reproductions of various designs that were researched and traced back to the authentic styles of the late 1850’s, the era when the structure would have been built in ‘Thunder Mesa’.

The remainder of interior decor props and dressings was inspired by native American and Mexican folk art and influences: the wall paintings, fireplace, statues, umbrellas, masks, musical instruments…

We would like to sincerely thank mister Jeff Burke (show producer, Frontierland, Disneyland Paris) for his kindness and help in creating this article. It was a real treat to be able to share and preserve your marvelous stories for generations of Disney fans to come!

Shared Knowledge

Submitted by Rusty on November 18, 2013 - 02:33 #

I didn't see it in your photos but loved Show Producer Jeff Burke's idea to partially embed hand thrown cups and saucers of the restaurant in the plastered walls. And I know Lavina Rose from next doors Blacksmith eats there quite often.

Comments

Submitted by Q. Gabriel-Smith on November 17, 2013 - 11:06 #

Wow, this is fantastic! It's such a striking yet subdued building, the authenticity of it is so natural that we can easily overlook such details and realism. I hope it's open for dinner on my next visit! Great job and wonderful pictures!

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