Pirates of the Caribbean: The Ride - The Movie

Disneyland's famous ride, Pirates of the Caribbean was a major undertaking for Walt Disney. The work on Pirates of the Caribbean started long before it's completion in 1967. New Orleans Square began in 1961, and initially had plans for dining and shopping in the Blue Bayou area, where guests would end with a tour of a Pirates museum.

Work on Pirates of the Caribbean had to be temporarily halted while Walt Disney turned his attention to creating other attractions for the 1964-1965 World's Fair in New York. The attractions for the World's Fair included It's a Small World and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln; Walt's first animatronic human being.

After the World's Fair, Walt then decided to rework the new attraction combining the animatronics technology from Mr. Lincoln with the boat ride system from It's A Small World.

With the new plans for the larger scale attraction, it would no longer fit in the basement of New Orleans Square. For the first time in Disneyland history a new building was created outside the berm of the Park to create and hold the new revamped attraction.

The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at opening had 55 animals and 64 human characters, all done in what is now famously known as animatronics. Pirates of the Caribbean was one of the last attractions Walt Disney personally worked on. It eventually opened on March 18, 1967 just a few short months after the world lost Walt Disney forever.

With the romantic beginnings of the ride in a quiet moonlit bayou Pirates of the Caribbean starts calmly enough. Next you go down two small drops and the scenery abruptly changes. As you continue to sail through the attraction the music becomes lively and marauding becomes obvious as you enter the world of pillaging and plunging pirates. Pirates of the Caribbean has been able to maintain its charm for almost 40 years now.

Over the years there have been changes to the attraction. One such modification now has women chasing men instead men chasing women. This was a major modification that came about as a result of complaints about the scene. In turn long time Disney fans then began to grumble about the changes to Walt's final ride and still talk about it today.

In 2003 Disney released the film 'Pirates of the Caribbean, the Curse of the Black Pearl', which was very loosely based on the Disneyland attraction. There were several visual ties to the ride. Anyone who has been on the attraction at Disneyland will quickly recognize familiar scenes such as the dog holding the keys to the jail cell and the treasure trove in the caves toward the end of the movie. Many scenes from the pillaging of Port Royal come directly from the Disneyland ride.

Some long time Disneyland fans will argue that the storyline for Curse of the Black Pearl was completely based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Many others believe that it was only loosely based on the popular Disneyland attraction. In either case, the storyline of the movie has since become the theme to the attraction to many of the ride's fans.

With the overwhelming success of the first movie it was decided that the ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, would be completely reworked in conjunction with the premier of the next movie 'Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest'.

When Pirates of the Caribbean reopens in late June 2006 after an extensive 4 month refurbishment, Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa will join the other familiar animatronic characters in the attraction. The rival characters will be woven into many of the most memorable scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride. Unlike the first movie which took a few scenes from the attraction, the new movie has created a whole new theme to the Disneyland ride. The Disney Imagineers are thrilled. Not only are there changes to the attraction scenes, but the sound system is also being completely updated to incorporate some music from the movie. Since the release of the 'Curse of the Black Pearl', it has been rumored that the voice heard saying 'Dead Men Tell No Tales' is that of Davy Jones; a prominent character in the second film 'Dead Man's Chest'.

The current talk is that Captain Jack will be inserted into three scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean. One of the most noticeable changes to the attraction will be the renaming of a ship in the battle scene. What for years has been known as the Wicked Wench will soon be known as the Black Pearl.

There is concern from longtime Disneyland fans of Pirates of the Caribbean over the major modifications that are happening to the ride. Not only do they not like a favorite ride being changed, many are unhappy that this is happening as the result of a movie. There is some concern that the modifications are not being made to make the attraction better, but instead they are being carried out as a marketing ploy for the movie.

Walt Disney himself felt that Disneyland would never be finished. As long as there was imagination left in the world, change would happen and Disneyland won't be complete. The modifications to Pirates of the Caribbean that are happening in conjunction with the release of the movie should be viewed as an enhancement to the ride and to Disneyland.

A version of this article appeared in the Magazine: Moving Pictures (June/July 2006)

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