Yesterday was National Talk like a Pirate Day and I’d like to talk about one of my favorite rides in Disney: Pirates of the Caribbean.
The Pirates of the Caribbean opened in Disneyland in 1967. It has the privilege of being the last Disney ride that Walt had a hand in before his death in 1966. Many of Walt’s top Imagineers worked on bringing this ride to life, including Marc Davis, Sculptor Blaine Gibson, Claude Coats, John Cutry, John Hench Bill Martin, Xavier “X” Atencio, Leota Toombs Thomas, Alice Davis and more. There are over 75 audio animatronic figures in the ride and over 600,000 gallons of water.
Xavier “X” Atencio, wrote both the script for Pirates of the Caribbean and the theme song. X also voiced the talking skull at the beginning of the Disneyland ride. The original script has been modified over the years. The first modifications came when the company decided that they needed to tame down some of the subplots. In the scene where angry housewives are chasing down the marauding pirates, the original version had the pirates chasing after the girls. This was deemed a bit too risqué for modern audiences (though the bride auction has remained in the script)
The newest upgrades came after the hit film series. Updates included adding Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbosa to the cast as well as a more recent update that brought mermaids and Blackbeard to the Florida version.
Here are the 5 things about the Pirates of the Caribbean that you might not have known before tonight.
- Missing Captain Jack?
Not all of the Pirates of the Caribbean rides got a Jack Sparrow update. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland Paris is movie character free with its old façade and old track line. It’s still a popular ride though, proving that this Walt Original is timeless in any of its forms.
- Dark ride Drops
It doesn’t matter how many times you ride Pirates, you will still find yourself screaming when you hit the drops. While these drops do add to the suspense of the ride they really serve a much more practical purpose. In the original ride in Disneyland the ride façade is built just in front of the Disneyland Railroad tracks. The dips in the ride track allow guests to go under the railroad into the main part of the attraction. This pattern was recreated in Walt Disney World where the ride also straddles the railroad as it passes behind Adventureland.
- The Chess match.
There has been a lot of speculation about the chess match featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean. The official story is that they game is a stalemate, and pirates, being stubborn individuals, refused to budge and wound up stuck at that game board for perpetuity. That doesn’t really explain why the Chessboard is in the ride though. That answer actually comes from a strict Disney rule that says that Imagineers are not allowed to sign their work. This lead to some creative work arounds that still had the men behind the rides leaving their marks while still obeying the rules. Disney Legend Marc Davis used to leave chess pieces in and around his ride including the eternal stalemate in Pirates. Another notable Davis chess reference can be found in the spires on the WDW version of the Haunted Mansion. Rumor has it that the pieces move occasionally. I wonder if those pirates are still trying to find the winning gambit.
2 The Great Scenery Shuffle
When the Florida project was being planned many Disneyland attractions got counterparts in the new park. However the doubled attractions were never meant to be carbon copies of each other. This is the reason for the many, subtle, differences between the park attractions. For example, ‘It’s a Small World’ in California features an room dedicated to North America, while the Florida version has two dolls. The Pirates of the Caribbean in Florida is missing a few of the Californian scenes. First of all the ride in Florida starts inside the Castillo Del Morro and heads out to the Pirate cove with the Mermaids, skeletons and appearances by Davy Jones or Blackbeard. In California the ride starts in the Bayous of Louisiana in a scene reminiscent of the hunt for Tia Dalma. There is no treasure room at the beginning of the ride. This room would have set up the ride as more securely as a time traveling adventure into the past.
There are other differences between each of the main park versions. For example, the version of the ride in Shanghai Disneyland follows a completely unique ride track and script based completely around the new films rather than on the original ride. And as mentioned above the ride in Paris never got a film overlay. Hong Kong Disneyland doesn’t have a ride at all.
- Not a Magic Kingdom original.
Walt started planning the Magic Kingdom a few years before his passing. After he was gone Roy Disney came out of retirement to bring his little brother’s dream of a Florida park into reality. Every sketch was followed, every detail obeyed including a curious choice to exclude one of Disneyland’s most popular rides from the new park. When designing the Florida project Walt felt that the proximity to real life Pirate history made his pirate ride out of place. He didn’t think people would want to go on an imaginary journey when a real one was just a few hours away. Well, it only took a few months for everyone to realize that fans wanted a Magic Kingdom version of the attraction and it was installed in December of 1973, just over two years after the park opened.
So that’s a little bit of information about the Pirates of the Caribbean. Hope you had a fun during this years Talk Like a Pirate Day, see you next year.
*Most of the info for this article comes from the Keys to the Kingdom tour, The Disney Blogs and Wikipedia