Pirates of the Caribbean (attraction)

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Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean Entrance.JPG
The attraction entrance at Disneyland.
Area New Orleans Square
Status Operating
Soft opening date March 16, 1967
Opening date March 18, 1967
Magic Kingdom
Area Adventureland
Status Operating
Opening date December 15, 1973
Tokyo Disneyland
Area Adventureland
Status Operating
Opening date April 15, 1983
Disneyland Park (Paris)
Area Adventureland
Status Operating
Opening date April 12, 1992
General statistics
Attraction type Dark ride
Manufacturer Arrow Dynamics
Designer WED Enterprises
Theme Pirates in the 18th–19th Century
Music "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio
Vehicle type Bateaux
Vehicles 50 Boats
Riders per vehicle 23–24
Duration Disneyland
15:30 minutes
Magic Kingdom
8:30 minutes
Tokyo Disneyland
9:30 minutes
Disneyland Paris
10:30 minutes
Height restriction 0 in (0 cm)
Number of drops Disneyland and Disneyland Paris
Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland
Audio-animatronics 119
Disney's Fastpass Not available
Single rider line Not available
Must transfer from wheelchair
Assistive listening icon.svg Assistive listening available
Closed captioning available

Pirates of the Caribbean is a dark ride at Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Park in Paris. The original version at Disneyland, which opened in 1967, was the last attraction whose construction was overseen by Walt Disney himself; he died three months before it opened. The ride, which originally told the story of a band of pirates including their troubles and their exploits, was replicated at the Magic Kingdom in 1973, at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and at Disneyland Paris in 1992. Each version of the ride has a different façade, but has a similar ride experience.

The ride is known for giving rise to the song "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" written by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio. It also became the basis for the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, which debuted in 2003. Since 2006, Disney has incrementally incorporated characters from the film series into the Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland versions of the rides.


The Disneyland version was the last attraction which Walt Disney himself participated in designing; it opened on March 18, 1967, three months after his death.[1] It was originally envisioned to be a walk-through wax museum attraction.[2] It is located within the New Orleans Square portion of Disneyland, its facade evoking antebellum era New Orleans, topped by a 31-star United States flag (which would indicate the 1850s). The ornate initials of Walt Disney and Roy Disney (W.D. and R.D.) can be seen entwined in the wrought iron railings above the attraction's entrance at Disneyland. An overhead sign at the boat dock names it for the famous pirate Jean Lafitte (although his name is spelled Laffite as the pirate himself originally spelled it, rather than with the English spelling which has now become standard), who fought alongside the U.S. Army at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. The second floor of the facade was originally designed to be a private Disney family apartment. Instead it later opened as an art-related retail/museum space called the Disney Gallery until late 2007 when it was replaced by the Disneyland Dream Suite. The original installation at Disneyland was manufactured by Arrow Development.[3] The attraction's passenger carrying boats are very similar to those in a patent assigned to Walt Disney Productions, but filed by Edgar A. Morgan, one of the founders of Arrow Development.[4] Arrow participated in the design and development of many attractions at Disneyland from 1953.[5] The Blue Bayou Restaurant within the ride opened the same day as the attraction, and is considered one of the original theme restaurants.[1]

Attraction description[edit]

Magic Kingdom[edit]

Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean

The attraction, guarded by the Caribbean watchtower Torre del Sol, is housed in a golden Spanish fort called Castillo Del Morro, inspired by Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in the Old San Juan in San Juan.[6]

Inside, the Blue Bayou has been replaced by Pirate's Cove and into a short grotto with Blackbeard, mermaids swimming in the water and singing their melody, skeletons of dead pirates and Mermaids, the hurricane lagoon, and an echoing "Dead men tell no tales". There is no treasure room sequence as found in other parks. Following the plunge down one waterfall, the remainder of the ride is similar to Tokyo and California. Unlike in California, however, riders do not return to ground level in their boat; instead, they exit the boat immediately after the Jack Sparrow in the treasure room scene, then take a speed ramp up to the ground floor gift shop. The Florida version also does not include the scene past the powder room with the intoxicated pirates firing cannons.

The exterior of the attraction was slightly altered during the 2006 modifications. Included in the changes were the removal of the barker bird and original attraction sign. A new sign was placed on the outside corner of the fort facing toward the entrance of Adventureland. The design of the new sign is a ship's mast with the attraction name written in its black sails, and a skeleton of a pirate up in its crow's nest. The barker bird was eventually moved to the Pirates of the Caribbean section of the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney.

The position of the pieces on the chess board in the attraction's pre-show is not random. Marc Davis carefully arranged the pieces so that any move will result in a stalemate; thus, the skeletons have been playing the same game since 1973. The pieces were accidentally moved during a minor refurbishment and were not returned to their proper positions until someone found Marc Davis's original sketches.

Disneyland Paris[edit]

Disneyland Paris version

The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland Paris is the only installation that remains without the addition of the characters from the films. It is housed in a battle-scarred fortress at the back of the park.

The queuing area winds through several courtyards outside before entering the actual fortress show building. Inside, the queue passes through the dungeons of the fort, offering glimpses of several skeleton pirates, along with a view of the crew's quarters scene from a balcony looking down. The queue then enters the Blue Lagoon area inside the show building, made to feel as though guests are outside at nighttime. After boarding boats from a dock at the base of the fort, riders are sent under an archway and out into the Blue Lagoon, passing by the dining area on the left side and a jungle setting on the right. The boats pass through a shipwreck and enter an old fortress nearby. Inside the fort, gun noises and sword clanking are heard in the back as the boats climb up a large lift hill used to haul cargo throughout the building. At the top, riders are given a brief view of the Wicked Wench pirate ship in the harbor below before entering into the depths of the fort. Inside, flames are engulfing the fort, and the shadows of fighting pirates and soldiers are seen. Up ahead, guests see the pirates in jail trying to coax the key from the naughty guard dog.

The boats go down a waterfall in the side of the fort caused by a cannonball and pass the bombarding-the-fort scene, which riders have just previously seen from above, where the soldiers and the pirates fire at guests. Entering the relative safety of the town, guests see all the original scenes from the Disneyland version, as well as a new pair of sword-fighting men who duel for a girl in the chase scene, and a projection effect of two pirates chasing a girl around in an upstairs window. The main dialogue of the scenes is in French, with the minor parts in English. The boats then enter the burning town scene, where the original English vocal tracks are present, singing the attraction's theme song.

The boats pass under an archway and enter the arsenal. The supplies are ignited by the fire and explode. There is a flashing of lights (as an on-ride photo is taken), and the boats go down another drop into darkness. They emerge into the grotto scenes, passing all the skeleton pirate vintages seen at Disneyland, and a new shipwreck scene. This part of the ride can be seen from the railroad as it passes through the show building (similar to Splash Mountain at the other parks). The skull and crossbones from the original are seen over an archway, issuing a bilingual safety spiel. The boats return to the dock, and riders exit into a themed gift shop where they can purchase their on-ride-photo.[7]


The "auction" scene in which women are offered for sale by the invading pirates has remained largely intact since the attraction opened, though the "Take A Wench For A Bride" banner comes and goes with some refurbishments.

In its original form, the Disneyland attraction contained a scene in which pirates were shown chasing women in circles (achieved by simply placing figures on rotating platforms hidden below guests' view), along with a "comical" reversal in which an overweight woman was seen chasing a pirate. When guests were offended by this depiction, Disney initially changed the tableau of the woman chasing the pirate by having her try to hit him with a rolling pin. In 1997, this scene was changed so that the pirates pursued women holding pies, and the large woman is chasing a pirate with a stolen ham. However, the audio of the women's giggles while being chased remained despite complaints. Sometime after this the audio was also removed.

Originally, one overweight pirate (sometimes known as the "Pooped Pirate") was shown exhausted from his pursuit of an unwilling teenaged female. He brandished a petticoat as guests floated past and uttered suggestive dialogue, including: "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". Behind him, the woman he had been pursuing would anxiously peer out from her hiding place inside a barrel. This scene was altered in the American parks, but it remains unchanged in the version at Disneyland Paris. In the 1997 refurbishment, the "Pooped Pirate" was recast as the Gluttonous Pirate, a rogue in search of food. His dialogue included lines such as: "Me belly be feeling like galleon with a load of treasure", and "I be looking for a fine pork loin, I be". The woman hiding in the barrel was replaced by a cat.

At the Magic Kingdom, the chase scene was altered to show the pirates making off with various treasure as the formerly "chased" women attempt to thwart them. The "Pooped Pirate" here holds a treasure map in his lap and a magnifying glass in one hand. His lines include: "This map says X marks the spot, but I be seein' no X's afore me". The woman in the barrel remains, although this time she is hiding a small treasure chest in the barrel with her.

These modifications garnered criticism from longtime fans and some of the attraction's original Imagineers; in Jason Surrell's book Pirates of the Caribbean: From The Magic Kingdom to the Movies, showwriter Francis Xavier "X" Atencio referred to these "softening" touches as "Boy Scouts of the Caribbean".

In 2006, Walt Disney Imagineering debuted refurbishments at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean feature films to coincide with the release of the second movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. With the recent revisions of the ride to incorporate features from the movie, Disney has completely done away with the sequence of women being chased by pirates. Instead, one turntable features two pirates running in a circle, each holding one end of a treasure chest. In another, a woman is chasing a pirate who is making off with some stolen pies (taken from the aforementioned Magic Kingdom modification). In the third, a woman is chasing a pirate while menacing him with a weapon. The "Pooped Pirate" character is now brandishing a map and the key to the town's Treasure Room, while Captain Jack Sparrow stealthily observes him from inside the barrel. Despite these changes, the women's giggling sounds can still be heard.

The refurbishments also included other Audio-Animatronic figures of Jack Sparrow, and one of Hector Barbossa (who replaced the original captain of the Wicked Wench ship), along with new special effects, improved lighting and audio, and an appearance by the films' supernatural character Davy Jones, all voiced by the original actors (Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Bill Nighy, respectively). The skeleton beach and hurricane scenes are now accompanied by a quiet, mysterious instrumental version of "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)", and a re-recorded part of a cue from Klaus Badelt's score to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl now underscores the Battle Scene. The Disneyland version also features a new final "lift scene". When the boats are being lifted back to ground level, guests pass by an Audio-Animatronic figure of a tipsy Jack Sparrow relaxing and humming bits of the theme song amongst a collection of treasure. A similar scene replaces the Treasure Room scene at the end of the Magic Kingdom version of the ride. Smaller modifications have been made to coincide with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. In the first treasure room, in the pirate's grotto, the chest of cursed Aztec gold from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl can be seen at the far right. In the skeletal bar room, in the very back of the room, Elizabeth Swann's discarded dress from Dead Man's Chest is visible. Also, portraits of Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa have been added to the pirate portraits that line the inside walls of the lobby at the Disneyland attraction.

Blackbeard projection at the Magic Kingdom ride.

In addition, the outdoor portion queue has been substantially changed since the Disneyland attraction's opening. The queue was originally all indoors, beginning at the doors that enter the ride's first show building. Lines of people frequently spread out into the entire walkway, creating a human barrier separating New Orleans Square, Tom Sawyer Island, and Critter Country from the remainder of Disneyland, the walkway in front of Pirates of the Caribbean being the only access to these areas except for the Disneyland Railroad.[citation needed] In 1987, Disney decided that the ride's popularity necessitated a reorganized, permanent collection of switchbacks outside. A hole was dug in the original walkway, forming a lower patio for the queue's switchbacks.[citation needed] A bridge was then built over the patio so that passersby could continue past the attraction without having to fight their way through people in line on crowded days. Today, guests in line for the attraction walk through an archway beneath the bridge, through switchbacks in the patio, and eventually continue up curved ramps that lead back up to ground level and the building entrance itself. Severe crowding can result in the queue being rerouted into the small courtyard east of the main entrance, adjacent to the jungles of Adventureland, and/or into additional temporary switchbacks along the front of the bridge on the Haunted Mansion side of the arch. During the 1997 refurbishment, a 30th anniversary plaque and decorative fountain were installed against the back wall of the courtyard.

To coincide with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, a projection of Captain Blackbeard from the film (voiced by original actor Ian McShane) temporarily replaced the 2006 projection of Davy Jones in the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom version of the attraction beginning on May 20, 2011.[8]

On November 24, 2011, the Disneyland version reopened after a heavy rehab which involved cleaning the props, replacing the cavern walls, repairing Dead Man's Grotto, repairing electrical systems, and cleaning mildew. Singing mermaids from the new movie "On Stranger Tides" have been added. The only major alteration, however, is the mist screen projection. Now it is randomized, meaning riders can see both Davy Jones and Blackbeard. Also, boxes have been added in the famous jail scene, and the treasure room at the end with Jack Sparrow now has a sparkling effect.


In 2003, Disney released Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a feature film inspired by the attraction starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, an Oscar-nominated performance. It is currently followed by three sequels: Dead Man's Chest (2006), At World's End (2007), and On Stranger Tides (2011), with the second installment winning an Oscar for Best Special Effects in 2007. The trilogy has grossed over US$3.7 billion worldwide. These films included numerous allusions to the ride, most notably the attack on the fort, the famous jail scene, the namesake song, and a few lines from the characters.

At Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom Park of Walt Disney World, the character of Captain Jack Sparrow is occasionally available for photos and autographs, and is further featured in the short show Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial based loosely upon the film series. The show is presented in front of or adjacent to the respective park's Pirates of the Caribbean attractions and features Captain Jack holding court and enlisting budding pirates to join his crew. Alongside Captain Jack is Mack, his faithful crewman; together they teach the audience how to be a pirate. Veteran Disney actor and performer Mark Priest was fatally injured in an accidental fall while performing in Pirate Tutorial in Florida in July 2009.

A video game by Akella, loosely connected to the first movie's plot, was released to coincide with the film. Port Royal, a world based on the Pirates of the Caribbean films, appears in the Square Enix game Kingdom Hearts II.

In 2000, Pirates of the Caribbean II: Battle for Buccaneer Gold, opened at DisneyQuest at Florida's Walt Disney World Resort. On this attraction, up to five players board a virtual pirate ship to sail around a small 3-D world. Players may fire cannons at other virtual pirate ships; if opposing ships are sunk, their treasure will be "stolen".

Video game developer Ron Gilbert has often said[9] that the ambience for the Monkey Island video game series was partially inspired by the Disney attraction. One obvious homage is the prison scene in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, in which the player needs to retrieve the cell key from a dog using a bone. Although the dog in the scene is named Walt, it is named after game artist Steve Purcell's dog and not after Walt Disney.

On May 25, 2007, Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer's Island opened at the Disneyland park on the existing Tom Sawyer's Island section of the park. It features new caves and a Captain Jack Sparrow meeting area that is currently unused. The island also featured a 20-minute stunt show featuring character Captain Jack Sparrow when it originally opened.

Popular culture[edit]

A long-standing urban legend maintains that Disney was cryogenically frozen and his frozen corpse stored beneath the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.[10]



A version of "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" can be heard in several Disney theme park fireworks shows:

See also[edit]


  • Surrell, Jason. (2005). Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies. New York: Disney Editions. ISBN 0-7868-5630-0. Describes the origins of the attraction, its incarnations at Disney parks around the world, and the first two films inspired by it.
  1. ^ a b "Disney history: Pirates of the Caribbean opens". The Orange County Register. March 14, 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Jim Fanning. Disneyland Challenge. Disney Editions, 2009. p.28 ISBN 978-1-4231-0675-3
  3. ^ Gurr, Bob (27 November 2013). "DESIGN: Those Were The Times – No.23 1955 Arrow Development – Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon". MiceChat. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  4. ^ US patent D204282, Morgan, Edgar A., "Passenger-carrying amusement boat", published April 5, 1966, assigned to The Walt Disney Company 
  5. ^ O'Brien, Tim (November 30, 1998). "Pioneers share Living Legend Award". Amusement Business 110 (48): 20. 
  6. ^ Puerto Rico "Pirates of the Caribbean" Disney Reporter – Where the Magic Lives
  7. ^ Posted by Strange and Frightening Sounds (2011-12-25). "Strange & Frightening Sounds Blog: Pirates at Disneyland Paris". Strangefrighteningsoundsblog.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  8. ^ Fitzgerald, Tom (May 6, 2011). "Blackbeard Comes Aboard at Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom Park May 20". Disney Parks Blog. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  9. ^ Scumm Bar (March 7, 2003). "Monkey Island – The Revelation". Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  10. ^ Mikkelson, B & DP (August 24, 2007). "Suspended Animation". Snopes.com. Retrieved May 21, 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]