Over the weekend Disneyland’s beloved attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean turned 50. Yes, believe it or not, the pirates have been pillaging and plundering for a whole half of a century and the attraction has been reimagined across the globe. To celebrate, I whipped up a Pirates parasol featuring the mural of Anne Bonny and Mary Read that is painted on the walls of the attraction shortly after entering. I have a soft spot for these ladies, as they were pretty bad ass, and I wrote a paper about them in high school. You can learn about these amazing women with this article written by one of my favorite historians, Karen Abbott. I also wore a pirate inspired ensemble for the occasion.
I feel like an anniversary such as this is a wonderful occasion to talk about the history of the attraction. Could you ever imagine Pirates of the Caribbean without riding in those little boats? It just seems perfect, doesn’t it? Well, it was almost a plain ol’ wax museum! But by 1963, the wax museum was put on the back burner as Walt Disney looked ahead to the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair, where he committed to building four attractions, all of would find homes at Disneyland after the closing of the World’s Fair. They were Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, “it’s a small world”, the Magic Skyway with Ford Motor Company, where guests rode in a new Mustang and witness the progression of history, and this included the Primeval World that would land along the Disneyland Railroad after, and the Carousel of Progress, which left Disneyland in 1973, but still exists in Walt Disney World. But it was “it’s a small world” and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln that really changed the game for Pirates. The success of the boats in “it’s a small world” meant that an ocean voyage type ride was possible. And President Lincoln was the first successful human Audio-Animatronic, leading to giving these would be static pirates, a life all their own!
The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction has seen a series of changes over the years. In 1997 many of the “sexist” elements were changed. Originally pirates chased women, with the exception of a larger woman chasing a scrawny older pirate, this changed to the women chasing the pirates, and the pirates had armfuls of food, to make it seem they were stealing. There was another pirate, dubbed the “Pooped Pirate”, who held a piece of woman’s clothing, and a woman popping out of a barrel behind him. The pirate said some rather lewd things, and he too got a more PC makeover. He became the “Gluttonous Pirate” holding a chicken leg, and a cat replaced the woman. He then talked about how full he was. But after the massive success of the 2003 film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, based on the attraction, film characters such as Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa joined the attraction in 2006. And the “Gluttonous Pirate” receive yet another change, Jack replaced the cat, and the chicken leg was replaced with a map, and then the pirate shared how excited he was to have the treasure map, and how Jack will never get his hands on it. Captain Jack joined some other scenes, Captain Barbossa takes the helm of the large pirate ship that is firing its cannons, Davy Jones speaks to Guests through a waterfall, and other lines in the attraction have seen change to accommodate a Jack Sparrow plot.
To learn more about Pirates of the Caribbean, I highly recommend the book Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies by Jason Surrell.
Below you’ll find one of my favorite videos about Pirates, from the Wonderful World of Disney, it gives you a behind the scenes look at the creation of the attraction, its opening day festivities, and a float through, so you can see the original scenes that have since changed.