September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day! And to celebrate, let’s take a look at Pirates of the Caribbean, one of my favorite attractions. It’s got an interesting, if not very PC, history… but it makes for a fascinating #9MagicalThings
PIRATES OVER THE WORLD… Pirates of the Caribbean is featured in Disney Parks all over the world. It opened first in March of 1967 in Disneyland, then in December of 1973 in Walt Disney World. April 1983 saw the attraction open in Tokyo Disneyland, it was April 1992 in Disneyland Paris (Formerly EuroDisney), and then recently, June of 2016 in the new Shanghai Disneyland.
IN THE BAYOU & CAVERNS… In Disneyland, the ride begins in a “bayou” setting, as you float amidst fireflies, across from the restaurant Blue Bayou. There are 630,000 gallons of water in this area and it takes 3 days to empty and refill for renovations. In Disney World, you enter the attraction in a golden Spanish fort called Castillo del Morro, and you take either the left, or Soldier side, or the right, the Pirate side (this is the Fastpass line). The queue takes you into a “cavern” to board the boat.
CHECKMATE… In WDW, notice the skeletons sitting playing chess.. . the board is set up as a stalemate. This gag was created by legendary Imagineer Marc Davis (who also created many of the jokes and gags in Haunted Mansion). Renovations over the years have seen the pieces move around, but from archival pictures, Cast Members have attempted to keep the chess pieces in their original spots.
JOHNNY DEPP… In April of 2017, the Disneyland Pirates was closed in the afternoon long enough to remove a Jack Sparrow animatronic, as the real life Johnny Depp, in full Sparrow regalia, taking it’s place, interacting with guests as they passed by. This was promoting “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, which has just been released.
WALT’S FINAL ATTRACTION… Pirates of the Caribbean was the last attraction Walt ever got to oversee. While he appointed an animator to write the script for the ride, Walt led the project to completion. (but died a few months before its Disneyland opening)
WILD WEST IDEA… When Pirates was opened in Disneyland, people thought it strange that Pirates wasn’t an opening day attraction in Disney World in 1971. Because there were many pirate based attractions around Central Florida at that time, Disney felt another Pirates attraction would be unnecessary, instead developing a Wild West river ride attraction called “Western River Expedition”. That idea was scrapped, however, when the demand for a Magic Kingdom Pirates was just too much.
THE POOPED PIRATE… Do you remember the controversy when Disney changed up the “redhead” scene? You know, the one where the Pirates were auctioning off a Redheaded woman, as well as a line of women all tied together? That’s nothing compared to the Pooped Pirate in the original script. Guests would float by a scene featuring a pirate who was exhausted from… well, the pirate was literally holding a woman’s shoe and lacy undergarment, while telling passing guests that he’d be willing “to share”, while a timid looking woman appeared from inside a nearby barrel. So you can do the racy math. Perhaps that was the true historical accuracy of real pirates from the 1600s, but evolving times led to public outcry about the scene in the 90s. It was finally changed to a pirate exhausted from eating too much, and now, you’ll see the pirate looking at a treasure map while Jack Sparrow sticks his head out of that same barrel. The original also had pirate men chasing women (though the one heavyset woman was mockingly chasing a pirate). Now you’ll see the women chasing after the men, or more specifically, chasing the treasure the men are holding.
YO HO WHO?… X. Atencio was a legendary animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, having worked on Pinocchio and Dumbo, among others. Walt was impressed with X, and brought him to Disneyland to work on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction script. X Atencio then wrote the lyrics for the theme song “Yo Ho Ho Ho A Pirates Life for Me”, while composer George Bruns, who co-wrote “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and scored other Disney films, wrote the music. The song itself is a bit racy if you listen to some of the lyrics, though that never bothered Atencio. He called the recent changes and “de-sexualization” of Pirates as the “Boy Scouts of the Caribbean”.
THE WAXY ORIGINS… Originally, Pirates was conceived as a Wax Museum sort of walk through attraction. However, the then-recent World’s Fair had introduced the world to the hugely popular Carousel of Progress, the really popular Great Moments with Mr Lincoln and the even more popular It’s a Small World, and so the attraction was completely re-imagined as a water flume ride.
Do you love Pirates of the Caribbean like I do? Were you bothered by the changes?
Also, I wrote an opinion piece on the Auction/Redhead change on my regular website — giving more of a personal take on the controversy (not speaking for anyone but the author) and you can find that here