Pirates Invade the Disney Archives at D23

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland attraction Pirates of the Caribbean. And with that, the Walt Disney Archives decided that their exhibit at D23 would be dedicated to pirates of all sorts! From early shorts to the latest in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And since this was an amazing exhibit, thar be plenty o’ pictures ahead! Ye been warned!

Disney and pirates go back a long way, starting with the 1932 Silly Symphonies cartoon King Neptune (which you can watch here) and then later with Pirate Gold with Donald Duck.

And who can forget Disney’s 1953 film interpretation of Peter Pan and the pirate Captain Hook? I loved seeing these works for his character, along with storyboard images and cels from the film.

Before Disneyland’s Fantasyland got its makeover in the 1980s, right in the middle resided the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship, which was a restaurant for guests!

But not all pirates in Disney works of the 1700s, in 1956 Disney had Davy Crockett meet Mike Fink and his “river pirates”!

The above works are the original illustrations used in the opening sequences of the Davy Crockett installments. Also showcased was a never filmed scrip that involved the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte.

Lafitte has many mentions throughout New Orleans Square, including the large anchor. This paper is the final text for the plaque that accompanies the anchor, which Walt personally gave the “OK” for. The anchor originally resided in Frontierland, and was later moved.

There was even silver shop in New Orleans Square featuring Lafitte’s name! This sign from 1966 hung above a shop where guests could purchase jewelry and other silver works until it closed in 1988.

Speaking of Lafitte, once upon a time there was a Lafitte “mega theme” that connected the Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Tom Sawyer’s Island together. This now abandoned theme is described in this post here from Long Forgotten.

Some of the earliest works for New Orleans Square started in 1957, which this sketch from Sam McKim showcases.

Here in this version, there was a Haunted House, on the far left, Wax Museum, and the Chicken Plantation restaurant got to stay, however, in 1962 the Adventureland attraction, the Jungle Cruise, received an expansion, which ate up most of the land of this incarnation of New Orleans Square. Swift’s Chicken Plantation closed in 1962.

Additionally some of the earliest Haunted Mansion ideas included pirates! In 1957 Ken Anderson created these sketches which were part of a ghostly pirate story about a captain named Bartholomew Gore.

Originally, Pirates of the Caribbean was going to be a walk-through wax museum focusing on real life pirates. However, development was put on hold as Walt turned his focus to the 1964 World’s Fair. An event that would completely change the Pirates attraction. It’s a Small World, originally built for the World’s Fair, used boats to move guests “around the world”, and as pirates are seafaring, this method of conveyance only made sense, and soon the Pirates attraction was changed to a boat ride. Additionally the ’64 World’s Fair saw the debut of life-size human Audio-Animatronics with Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and the change from static wax figures to moving figures was made for the Pirates attraction.

Eventually the dust of many massive changes settled and there was a clear new focus for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Marc Davis, set forth to create the scenes and characters, and song writers George Bruns and Xavier Atencio wrote the now beloved song “Yo Ho”.

Pirates of the Caribbean opened in March of 1967 with quite the opening day celebration (you can take a look behind the scenes at the attraction and see the opening day festivities here). Upon exiting the attraction there was the Pirates Arcade Museum, with unique games of skill, and a machine to purchase postcards featuring Marc Davis’ concept work (a set I have collected over the years).

In 2003 Pirates of the Caribbean got a whole new meaning, as the attraction became a film. Movie goers fell in love with the charming Captain Jack Sparrow, and the film won the hearts of audiences so much so that the fifth installment of the franchise was just released this year, and the later half of the exhibit showcased costumes and props from the various films.

This exhibit was a true joy to experience, and I learned so much about the development of the Pirates attraction and I absolutely loved seeing the costumes and props from the films up-close!

As D23 is only every other year it will be two more years before we get to find out what the Walt Disney Archives shares next! Although I’ll take a stab in the dark and say it will be about ghosts and the Haunted Mansion attraction, as Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion turns 50 in 2019.

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