…properly warned ye be…
Being the first real blog about the history of Disney Parks, I had a hard time thinking of where to go. Do I take a more broad look at Disneyland, the original park, or do I take the readers somewhere specific, delving right into the meat and bones of it all. Well, I’ve decided to delve right in, but in a charming and popular way. I’m not here to talk about something few people would know about. I’m here to talk about, possibly, the most beloved and technologically advanced attraction, even by today’s standards, Pirates of the Caribbean.
Ever since my first visit to Disneyland when I was four years old, I loved this attraction, and it is truly an “attraction” not a “ride”, No where else on earth is there something so engulfing in story and so abundant in technology that you can stand to be onboard for 15 minutes or longer. Heck, most theme parks rides don’t last longer than two minutes and some movies can’t keep my attention for any longer than 15 minutes. So what makes this attraction so great? Why do people still stand in line for an attraction over 40 years old instead of hitting up the hottest new thrill ride on the block?
The truth is, like all ideas in the 1950s and early 60’s at Disneyland, it started with Walt Disney himself. The idea behind what would be become Pirates of the Caribbean was to have a walk-through wax museum of pirates under the new part of Disneyland, New Orleans Square. Disney came up with the idea for the walk-through in 1957, but after bringing audio animatronics to the forefront of technology with The Enchanted Tiki Room and the attractions he produced for The Worlds Fair in 1964, (Abe Lincoln, Small World, and the Carousel of Progress) it became apparent that “Pirates” had to be more than just a walk-through. Arrow Development was brought in to create the boats and the ride system that would be used to transport guests through the attraction and WED (Disney’s company in charge of the parks and resorts) continued to break ground on how “life-like” their audio animatronics could become.
New Orleans Square opened in July of 1966, just six months before Walt’s death, without an attraction. WED was on the move to get Pirates of the Caribbean open to the public. Even after Walt’s passing on December 15th, 1966, WED continued to push through to get the attraction open. It was rough, but the attraction opened on March 18th, 1967,and it became the first attraction for the New Orleans Square area of Disneyland.
Taking a ride on the Pirates of the Caribbean is surely an adventure. Starting in the Blue Bayou (also my pick for best restaurant at Disneyland, but I digress) you take a plummet down a waterfall after hearing the “keep your arms inside the vehicle” talk from a Jolly Roger. (also the best ” keep your arms in” talk in my view) Then you take another dive down a second waterfall after crossing paths with skeletons in various positions who had been seeking a cursed treasure. After the second waterfall, you find yourself in front of a giant pirate ship, “The Wicked Wench”, attacking a port. With cannon fire sweeping past you and hitting the water, you might get a little wet as water splashes up from the seas. Then you make your way through several scenes including the Mayor being tortured, women being auctioned off as brides, and many pirates drinking rum and making friends with the animals of the town. Then a turn for the worst as the town is set a blaze and the pirates don’t seem to notice. As you make your way through the end of the ride, you find that the pirates are in fact going to kill themselves by shooting at barrels of gun powder in a burning town, but for you and the crew of your boat you safely make your way back to the Blue Bayou by making your way “up” a waterfall.
Now, some would say, and even I would agree, as to why an attraction dedicated to looting, drinking, womanizing, and criminal actions was even considered for the “Happiest Place on Earth”. Well, even Walt Disney was skeptical of how people would react to all the scandal taking place beneath New Orleans Square. However, its the whimsical artwork of Marc Davis that allowed the Pirates to be seen as cartoon-ish rather than seeming like a real threat, and over the years, certain scenes have been changed, such as the men chasing women scene had been changed to men chasing food and the drunken pirate talking about trying to find a woman to make his own was changed to trying to fulfill his appetite for the town’s food.
In 2005, the ride got an overhaul to accompany some of the elements of the movies that were inspired by the attraction. Jack Sparrow was added to two scenes and a new scene was added at the end of the attraction showcasing Johnny Depp’s character with the cursed treasure. Captain Barbossa was added in as the captain of “The Wicked Wench” and Davey Jones was added in as a CGI projection onto a cloud of smoking warning all who pass that no good is ahead for them.
Of course, lets not forget the music. Xavier Atencio not only created the dialogue and original story for the attraction, but along with George Burns, he also wrote “Yo Ho (A Pirates Life For Me)” which has become iconic. Even people who don’t know the attraction know the song. It sticks out as one of the great songs written for a Walt Disney attraction, surprisingly, not by the Sherman Brothers. Atencio also wrote the story and song for New Orleans Square’s next attraction, The Haunted Mansion and provided voice overs in both attractions as well The Submarine Voyage.
Pirates was also brought to Disney World after an outcry from guests wanting the attraction there. The ride was added to Adventureland and was shortened to only 8 minutes, but it still has the same charm as the original at Disneyland. Soon, both Disneyland Park in Paris and Tokyo Disney got their own versions as well. Will Hong Kong or Shanghai also get versions of their own? Currently, it is unsure if Pirates will make its way to those parks, but I hope they do get to experience the magic of this great attraction.
I’ll see you all again later this week for another blog.