BACKSTORY (March 18, 1967—Present): Envisioned in the late 1950’s as a walk-through wax museum, it evolved into a boat ride through complex show scenes with Audio-Animatronics characters (possible due to advances in technologies from the 1964 NY World’s Fair). Real historic pirates were replaced with Imagineer Marc Davis’ humorous fictional ones. Upon its debut, POTC was Disneyland’s largest AA project and the last attraction Walt Disney worked on. The painting of the female pirate above the Captain’s Quarters’ bar is by Davis. The Auctioneer was a test AA; many innovations were tried on him first, making him the most realistic.
The lusty pirates chasing shapely females in circles (figures on hidden turntables) and the comic reversal of an overweight woman chasing a pirate offended some, so Disney gave the hefty woman a rolling pin. The scene changed again in 1997: pirates chased women with pies and the large woman chased a pirate with a stolen ham.
Another pirate was once shown exhausted from his pursuit of an unwilling female, holding her petticoat and uttering suggestive lines like “It’s sore I be to hoist me colors upon the likes of that shy little wench,” and “I be willing to share I be.” The woman popped her head out from a barrel behind him. The “Pooped Pirate” was renamed the Gluttonous Pirate and recast in 1997 as a hungry rogue. His dialogue included “Me belly be feeling like galleon with a load of treasure” and “I be looking for a fine pork loin I be.” A cat replaced the woman in the barrel.
In 2006, Imagineers made changes inspired by the “POTC” films to coincide with the sequel’s release. This time the turntables feature pirates chased by women with a broom, rolling pin, and a pitchfork. The “Pooped Pirate” character now holds a treasure map & vault key while Capt. Jack Sparrow observes from the barrel.
The refab also included other AA figures of Capt. Jack and one of Hector Barbossa (who replaces Blackbeard on the Wicked Wench), along with new special effects, improved lighting & audio, and a ghostly appearance by Davy Jones, all voiced by the original actors. The final Jack Sparrow in the Treasure Room was supposed to roll a coin on the back of his hand, but the Imagineers were unable to get the effect to work properly, thus causing this Sparrow’s hand to be dubbed “The Million Dollar Hand.” The skeleton beach and hurricane scenes are now accompanied by an instrumental version of "Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” written by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio. As the boats are lifted back to ground level, guests see Capt. Jack with his new treasure.
Click the shopping cart icon below left for details of how to purchase high-quality photographic prints of my work, or click the social media buttons below for more Daveland creativity and fun!
Picture, if you will, the eerie and cavernous headquarters of the infamous Blackbeard, or the swampy bayous on the treasure-laden island of John Laffite. Take a page out of history when pirates sacked the Spanish Main, looted cities, set them ablaze, auctioned off the fair ladies and conquered fortress after fortress. Combine all of this with the most hilarious blackhearted buccaneers the world has ever seen, and you have a small idea of the excitement you’ll experience during a visit to Disneyland’s New Orleans Square this summer for the Park’s newest adventure, the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Using the most advanced techniques of the space age, Disney designers and “Imagineers” (the company’s word for imaginative engineering) have assembled an adventure not only unlike any other in the world, but unequaled entertainment-wise too.
In the best Disney tradition, not a moment is wasted. As the adventure begins, the action begins, and boat-borne guests literally “plunge” into the adventure with a thrilling splash down a 52-foot waterfall.
From there on it’s action and hilarity every league of the way—right up to the exciting climax and grand finale, when an entire port city is set ablaze, right down to the town arsenal full of powder kegs.
How do you escape the raging holocaust —only at Disneyland could you “fall up” a waterfall.
A reader recently asked me about the origin of the old gent smoking a pipe and sitting in a rocking chair in the bayou portion of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Famed Disney historian Jim Korkis was kind enough to give me some background:
The cabin was certainly original to the attraction (see the Marc Davis' original sketch at left) but I do not believe the figure with the corncob pipe was and over the years he came and went. Sometimes guests would pass by the cabin with no figure visable, just the sound of a banjo playing inside the cabin.
He never had a name (he did in WDW....Beacon Joe, shown at right) and was supposed to just give a sense of forboding since he does not acknowledge the passing boats and to give the feeling that you have gone deep into the uncharted portion of the Everglades where strange unfriendly hermits live. He did not have an official backstory or any direct connections to the pirates (like a lookout or a retired pirate).
On the Rivers of America at Walt Disney World, that small waterfront cabin in Alligator Swamp is the home to Beacon Joe who keeps an eye on this part of the river and helps out passing travelers. That cabin was designed by famed Imagineer Marc Davis but not for Florida. It appears at Disneyland in dark spooky lighting in the Blue Bayou just before guests drift past it into a pirate adventure. There was not going to be a similar scene in the Florida attraction so it was borrowed for the Rivers of America and years later was also included in Tokyo Disneyland’s Rivers of America.
Want to see Pirates of the Caribbean with the lights on? Want to play inside the attraction and get real close to all of your favorite audio-animatronics? If scene-spoilers and "how’d they do that?" photos don’t distress you, click here to see some amazing behind the scenes photos taken by former Disneyland cast member Ryan.
But I warn you...if you don’t want to ruin the magic and experience this attraction of with the lights on, don’t go to this page, and just keep on scrolling! Consider yourself warned, Mateys!