Yo Ho Yo Ho, It’s a pirates life for me. Come on you know you want to sing along. Today we are going to dive into the history of the last attraction overseen by Walt Disney himself. Unfortunately, he passed away before its completion. Besides Disneyland itself, I believe that Pirates is one of Walts’s greatest accomplishments and my favorite attraction at the park. Enjoy this history of The Pirates of the Caribbean.
In 1954 when Disneyland was being designed, Walt had always had the idea of having a Pirates attraction. The original idea was to build an underground walkthrough wax figure attraction. But it just did not fit into the original plans of the park in 1955 due to size, location, and money. This is a really good thing because if it wasn’t for the Worlds Fair, POTC would be a much much different ride. The idea of audio-animatronics and the boat ride transportation system completely changed the idea of the attraction.
In 1957 Disney began construction on its brand new themed land New Orleans Square. The land was built around its two featured attractions, The Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean. The spire on the top of the building was based on the Cabildo building in New Orleans, which is where the Louisianna Purchase was signed. The second floor was going to be built like a bigger apartment for Walt and Roys’s Families to stay when they were in the park. Construction was put on hold for a while in the early 1960s as the Imagineer team was for the 1964 World Fair.
With the overwhelming success of boat travel and audio-animatronics, it was decided that they would need a lot more space than the site for the walkthrough ride. This was the first time that a ride would go outside the berm. The ride would be house in two huge show buildings but had to go 70 feet underground to clear the berm and the Disneyland Railroad track. Marc Davis was tapped for the concept art of the ride. From X Atencio to Alice Davis, it was All-Star lineup from Walts Imagineer team that developed POTC.
Walt Disney and his team of Imagineer decided that Audio-Animatronics, his latest animation technology, was the most imaginative way to tell Marc Davis’s crazy pirate story. It’s funny to think that in today’s world, a ride like Pirates would never be allowed to be made because of the times we live in. Alice Davis once said because she was a primary on Its a Small World, she graduated from children to dirty old men. There were almost 120 animatronics that had to be dealt with, programmed, dressed and placed in the correct spot to capture Marc Davis’s vision.
On March 18th, 1967 (just a few short months after Walt passed away) The Pirates of the Caribbean opened to huge fanfare in New Orleans Square in Disneyland park in Anaheim. From pirates holding off British soldiers to a battle on The Columbia sailing ship. POTC become one of the most popular rides at the park. It was also one of the fastest, because of the boat system it was able to move 3400 guests per hour. Even though it was so popular it has had many changes throughout the years. Let’s take a look at some of the major ones.
The first big change besides some character and Audio-Animatronics came in 1987. The queue was upgraded and the bridge was added to give guests more room to move more freely. Another change that was made was because of complaints was the chase scene. Instead of the pirates chasing the ladies around, it was changed to the men still the ladies but they were carrying food which was now the focus. The “pooped ” pirate was changed from being tired of chasing women was changed to the gluttonous pirate. He was now complaining about getting food.
In 2006 POTC was shutdown major overhaul. Coming off the success of Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl. It was decided to add elements from the movie to the attraction that the movie was loosely based on. A few scenes and the story of the ride were changed due to the movie. First being, Captain Barbosa replaced the captain on the ship in the battle scene. The story is now partially based on Barbosa taking over the town looking for Capt Jack Sparrow. The Barbosa figure was the original Captain just changed over. Captain Jack animatronics are all brand new figures in the town square. There was a whole other scene added during the 2006 upgrade. The scene with Jack singing at the end was all entirely new.
In 2018 there were a few more changes added to the attraction. The Davey Jones mist effect was removed and replaced by some original dialogue from 1967. They also added a new scene with an octopus and a pirate caught in a trap turning from a skeleton to a human again. The biggest change in 2018 was the addition was the famous auction scene. It was changed to instead of auctioning ladies off they were just auctioning off random things. The redhead that was being auctioned off was changed to a lady pirate.
In conclusion, Pirates of the Caribbean is a timeless classic and a true gem in the Disney parks. It is always where my family goes first whenever we visit the park. What is your favorite character or scene from this amazing and groundbreaking attraction?
Check FastPass Facts awesome video on some secrets and facts on the beloved attraction: