From the Archives to the Park:
The History of Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction
Not only was the 5th installment of Pirates of the Caribbean Movie franchise released last week, but Disneyland is also celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Pirates of the Caribbean is the last attraction that Walt Disney assisted in designing. The project was completed approximately 3 months after Walt passed away.
Located in the New Orleans Square portion of the Disneyland part, the original ride first opened March 1967, the premise behind the ride was to tell a story about a band of pirates and their exploits. The ride started the Disney reimagination process in 2006, after the 2003 release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. The reimagination process shifted the focus of the ride from a random band of pirates, to Jack Sparrow and his exploits.
The reimagination of the attraction, not only features scenes and characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise but the film’s theme song. While floating along you float to the “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” song (Fun Fact: You say Yo Ho approx 18 times if you are signing along with the song during the ride). While on the ride you are splashed, encounter a few sudden drops and then there is the special appearance of Davey Jones, who delivers a chilling message.
However, the ride could not be a pirate adventure without a pirate treasure. The ride ends with Jack Sparrow singing the Pirates life song and bopping to the beat.
So how did the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride come to life?
We visited the Disney Archives located in the Disney Animation Studios to get the backstory. While at the Archives we learned about a project started in 1951, using little mechanical figures. The project was called “Project Little Man”.
Project Little Man technology is considered the great-great grandparents to the Animatronics used in Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
In 1955, Disneyland was not completely built out. Walt had a lot of ideas, but he only had so much money to bring these ideas to fruition. So it took a few years for the park to be successful so that he could fill the park out. As early as 1957, Walt had teetered with the idea of building a New Orleans themed part to Disneyland. An avid fan of the city of New Orleans, he was inspired by the romance of it. In the early 1960’s it was decided to build the New Orleans Square and decided that the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction would be a wax museum. Lots of ideas were tossed around, but the project got put on hold because they began working on the 1964-65 NY Worlds Fair. While the project was on hold, Audio-Animatronics and a boat system were created.
With this new technology in hand, some of the park operations suggested building some type of ride to get more people through the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. They foresaw that the attraction was going to be popular. They had already dug out a basement in the bottom of a building that was going to be called Blue Bayou Mart. So when they re-visited the project they used that dug out area as a segway to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. This is why you go down the drop when entering the ride.
Construction began on Disneyland’s New Orleans Square in 1961. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride opened March 18. 1967. Walt never had a chance to ride the ride itself however, he was able to experience a walk thru that the Imagineers had set up. Walt was very involved in the project, in fact, he was the one who came up with the term Pirates of the Caribbean. So there you have it folks, the beginning of this fun attraction.
HERE ARE SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN ATTRACTION, COMPLIMENTS OF THE DISNEYLAND WEBSITE.
- Pirates of the Caribbean was loosely inspired by such Hollywood films as “Captain Blood,”
“The Sea Hawk” and “The Buccaneer,” plus Disney’s “Treasure Island,” “Kidnapped” and “Swiss Family Robinson.”
- It cost $15 million to build New Orleans Square, the home for Pirates of the Caribbean. This is equal to the amount the United States paid for the real New Orleans in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
- Guests ride through the attraction in a 1,838-foot canal.
- Approximately 120 animated characters (human characters plus nine different types of animated animals) appear in the Audio-Animatronics cast of Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Several original designers and Imagineers for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction have since become Disney Legends, an honorary title bestowed on individuals by The Walt Disney Company.
- Guests ride through the attraction for approximately 15 minutes, on one of the longest rides at Disneyland Resort.
- Approximately 400 million guests have ridden Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Park since its opening in 1967.
- Both Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa from the blockbuster films appear in the attraction and the ghostly image of Davy Jones appears on a waterfall.
- Guests can spot Captain Jack Sparrow at three different points during their journey.
- Approximately 400,000 pieces of gold coins and set pieces were added to the attraction during a lengthy refurbishment in 2006 when some of the film characters were added to the story.
- The Aztec pirate chest used in the film “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” appears in the Treasure Room as the last thing guests see in that scene.