Walt Disney World
Main Street USA
Swiss Family Treehouse
Magic Carpets of Aladdin
The Enchanted Tiki Room
Pirates of the Caribbean
Walt Disney--The Man
Trip Planning Tips
"Yo, ho. Yo, ho. A Pirates Life for Me."
Concept work for a Pirate attraction began in the 1950's. It was to be a walk through attraction featuring pirates made of wax. However, with the invention of Audio-Animatronics the attraction was reworked in the early 1960's to include Animatronic figures; a definite upgrade from static figures. Pirates of the Caribbean is the last attraction Walt saw through to completion. Pirates opened as the headlining attraction of Disneyland's newest land, New Orleans Square, on March 18, 1967. Walt, unfortunately died in December of 1967. Walt was very proud of this project as you can see in the video clip from one of Walt's Disneyland T.V. Specials where he describes the attraction. The attraction is now found in three other Disney parks: Magic Kingdom (Opening two years ofter the park, in 1973), Tokyo Disneyland (where it was an opening day attraction, in 1983), an Disneyland Paris (where it was also an opening day attraction, in 1992). This boat journey places guests in the middle of pirate treasure caverns, a pirate attack on a fort, and the plundering of a Caribbean town where the Mayor is dunked in a well, the women are auctioned off, and the town finally set on fire.
Disneyland's ride begins with a trip through a bayou, followed by a dramatic drop down a waterfall where guests then travel in vast caverns filled with treasure and skulls. The Magic Kingdom attraction, however, has a shortened opening. The ride starts in a Caribbean Fort, instead of a bayou, and because Florida's high water table did not allow for underground building, there could not be a large waterfall leading into an underground show building. Instead the show building had to built at ground level, only allowing for a small fall into a shortened cavern scene.
The Pirates of the Caribbean loading dock is on what would be considered the second floor (remember Utilidors, Seven Seas Lagoon's dirt used for land fill over the top of the Utilidors creating a building base for the park, Florida's high water table, remember that when you think you're on the ground floor at Magic Kingdom you're really on the second floor, you with me? Confused, read here.), so when the Pirates boats drop down the small waterfall they are dropping to the first floor. The rides ending and guest exit at Magic Kingdom park also differ from that of Disneyland. In Disneyland guests pass through a scene of drunken pirates randomly shooting their guns around a stack of powder kegs then ascend up a waterfall to return to the bayou. In Magic Kingdom the ride ends with a scene of Jack Sparow relaxing in a room of treasure after which guests pass unceremoniously into the rides exit dock; no going 'up' the waterfall. Guests exit the boats on the first floor, after which the boat travels up and back to the loading dock.
While Disneyland's Pirate home is a bayou, the Magic Kingdom's setting is a Spanish fort in the Caribbean. The fort, Castillo Del Morro is guarded over by the Torre del Sol watchtower. As wind through the queue's stucco fort walls watch for the chess playing skeletons.
Interestingly enough the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was never intended to be part of the Magic Kingdom. Some thought it would not be exotic enough due to Florida's geographic proximity to the Caribbean and New Orleans. Instead, Imagineers developed plans for a similar attraction called the Western River Expedition (read more here), which would have featured a plateau of cowboys and Indians, as well as banditos, coyotes, miners, and a climactic boat descent bigger than those featured in the Pirate attractions. Instead, after many Walt Disney World guests inquired about the lack of this fan favorite pirate attraction an abbreviated version opened in Florida on December 15, 1973.
In 2006, Walt Disney Imagineering made refurbishments at Disneyland and 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. The refurbishments included a new Audio-Animatronic additions of Captain Jack Sparrow, and Hector Barbossa (who replaced the original captain of the Wicked Wench ship, you know, the only whole pirate ship found in the ride).
Some interesting trivia: Disneyland's, auctioneer Pirate Captain is a test figure for updated developments in Audio-Animatronic technology; many innovations are tried on him first. As a result, his movements are more lifelike and expressive than any other Audio-Animatronics figure.