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Walt Disney Imagineers Unveil the Backstory of Barnabas T. Bullion, Founder and President of Big Thunder Mining Company

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Last week, we shared an image of a portrait that’s a part of a new project our Walt Disney Imagineers are currently working on – and today we’re happy to reveal the identity of that man and share details on the role he’ll play in the enhanced storyline of a certain Magic Kingdom Park attraction, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Barnabas T. Bullion, Founder and President of Big Thunder Mining Company

The fellow’s name is Barnabas T. Bullion, and he’s the gold magnate who rules the Big Thunder Mining Company with a golden fist. Imagineers have already begun working overnight in the park on the attraction’s new interactive queue, where you’ll be able to see this portrait, as well as an additional landscape portrait of the mountain itself.
Big Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom Park

According to the enhanced backstory: “Barnabas T. Bullion is the founder and president of the Big Thunder Mining Company. The longtime mining magnate comes from a powerful East Coast family and considers gold to be his very birthright by virtue of his oddly appropriate name; in fact, he considers the ultimate gold strike to be his destiny. And that is why he is having so much trouble with Big Thunder Mountain. According to superstitious locals, Big Thunder Mountain is very protective of the gold it holds within, and the unfortunate soul who attempts to mine its riches is destined to fail. And so far that prophecy is coming to pass. The mine has been plagued by mysterious forces and natural disasters ever since. And yet the Big Thunder Mining Co. is still in operation. In fact, Bullion is discovering new veins of gold and digging new shafts every day, offering a closer look at the Big Thunder mining operation than ever before. But a word to the wise for anyone attempting to visit the mountain: watch out for runaway trains.”

Look for these new additions and a number of additional interactive elements in the coming months at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the wildest ride in the wilderness!

Look below for more news from Magic Kingdom Park:


  • What is it with the interactive queues? It used to be fun meeting new people and actually talking to them while waiting in line.

  • Definitely Tony Baxter!

  • I know I’m probably dating myself but that portrait reminds of the one they used for Barnabas Collins on the series “Dark Shadows”. The face of course is different but the pose is the same.

  • I like these hidden stories behind the attracxtions.

  • Barnabas T. Bullion…imagineers sure are clever. Hopefully they can work in the names that are on the trains like U.B. Bold, I.M. Brave, U.R. Courageous. Maybe those are his business partners.

  • It never occurred to me before, but Big Thunder Mountain RR really could use an updated queue. Its cousin Splash Mountain has one of the best themed queues in all of Walt Disney World so it’s fitting that Big Thunder has a great Scene 1 as well. I’d like to see it brought to a new level, like what we have with Haunted Mansion, Splash, and Expedition Everest; a queue where the guest is immersed deeply into the story before they even get to the loading area. Oh, just one little suggestion…can we get some AC in the queue area? It’s hot up there!

  • hmm….have any connection to the TV show….OR are we finally going to see the thunder mesa/frontier land expansion sometime soon 🙂

  • Imagineers are frequently the “models” for these background characters. One of my favourite is Harrison Hightower III from Tokyo Disneysea’s Tower of Terror, who bears a striking resemblance to Joe Rohde.

    I hope this goes well. Sometimes Imagineers get a little carried away with trying to develop a contrived story for things that don’t need a story (i.e.: the shops of Buena Vista Street), but sometimes they really create a meta-narrative of depth and interest (i.e.: the Atlantis storyline in Disneysea). The best stories are the ones in which the guests are the protagonists… Nothing makes a ride more dull than reducing me to a passive spectator watching Jack Sparrow’s or Melanie Ravenswood’s or Ariel’s story from inside a cart. But if I’m enlisted into Captain Nemo’s crew, or the star of tonight’s episode of the Twilight Zone, or guilty of looking into the Eye of Mara, THAT is an engaging story. Flying over Neverland is much more interesting than watching Peter Pan fly over Neverland. Just don’t forget that as you develop these stories!

  • Looks interesting! Word on when this might be ready?

  • aha! I didn’t post my guess but I knew it was for Big Thunder. I love that ride and to have some backstory is going to make it even more interesting to get on. Can’t wait! 🙂

  • Are you sure that’s not Donald Sutherland? just askin’

  • Not a bad tribute to Tony Baxter! Legendary Imagineers get windows on Main St. Baxter gets a whole attraction backstory!!! I wonder if the new queue will include some aspects of Baxter’s Thunder Mesa design.

  • I’m guessing the old Barnabus must be Tony Baxter’s great-great-great grandfather.

  • @ Josh: That’s exactly what I said when I first saw it too! He’s been around a long time, I think it’s a great tribute (if in fact they did use him as their “model”)

  • This is one of my family’s favorite rides! The line is always pretty long, even in the slow season, so an interactive queue is a great idea. I can’t wait!

  • A good bet it’s because they are developing a TV program and need it .

  • Hurm. I kind of liked when the whole thing was left up to my imagination and I could fill in whatever “story” I wanted as to why this mountain had a runaway train.

  • First the VP portrait of Phil Holmes in the new Fantasyland, now Tony Baxter in Frontierland. I guess it’s post your legacy time at WDW. Interesting how each park has its own backstory. Will Tumbleweed still be around? Is Bullion more ruthless than Ravenswood? Hmmmm…

  • Yeah I got it right! Can’t wait for the new queue!

    • Me either, should be a ton of fun.

  • You know Disney is detailed when they are creating backstories for backstories…

  • All I see is Donald Sutherland! lol. it’s gonna be like Auroras birthday make it pink! make it blue! Make it Tony make it Donald!

  • Hey, that’s Tony Baxter!

  • Why does the Mountain need a new backstory?

  • Is it just me, or does that portrait look like a cross between Tony Baxter and Donald Southerland?

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