BACKSTORY (March 18, 1967—Present): Envisioned in the late 1950’s as a walk-through wax museum, it evolved into a boat ride through complex show scenes with Audio-Animatronics characters (possible due to advances in technologies from the 1964 NY World’s Fair). Real historic pirates were replaced with Imagineer Marc Davis’ humorous fictional ones. Upon its debut, POTC was Disneyland’s largest AA project and the last attraction Walt Disney worked on. The painting of the female pirate above the Captain’s Quarters’ bar is by Davis. The Auctioneer was a test AA; many innovations were tried on him first, making him the most realistic.
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Picture, if you will, the eerie and cavernous headquarters of the infamous Blackbeard, or the swampy bayous on the treasure-laden island of John Laffite. Take a page out of history when pirates sacked the Spanish Main, looted cities, set them ablaze, auctioned off the fair ladies and conquered fortress after fortress. Combine all of this with the most hilarious blackhearted buccaneers the world has ever seen, and you have a small idea of the excitement you’ll experience during a visit to Disneyland’s New Orleans Square this summer for the Park’s newest adventure, the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Using the most advanced techniques of the space age, Disney designers and “Imagineers” (the company’s word for imaginative engineering) have assembled an adventure not only unlike any other in the world, but unequaled entertainment-wise too.
In the best Disney tradition, not a moment is wasted. As the adventure begins, the action begins, and boat-borne guests literally “plunge” into the adventure with a thrilling splash down a 52-foot waterfall.
From there on it’s action and hilarity every league of the way—right up to the exciting climax and grand finale, when an entire port city is set ablaze, right down to the town arsenal full of powder kegs.
How do you escape the raging holocaust —only at Disneyland could you “fall up” a waterfall.
A reader recently asked me about the origin of the old gent smoking a pipe and sitting in a rocking chair in the bayou portion of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Famed Disney historian Jim Korkis was kind enough to give me some background:
The cabin was certainly original to the attraction (see the Marc Davis' original sketch at left) but I do not believe the figure with the corncob pipe was and over the years he came and went. Sometimes guests would pass by the cabin with no figure visable, just the sound of a banjo playing inside the cabin.
He never had a name (he did in WDW....Beacon Joe, shown at right) and was supposed to just give a sense of forboding since he does not acknowledge the passing boats and to give the feeling that you have gone deep into the uncharted portion of the Everglades where strange unfriendly hermits live. He did not have an official backstory or any direct connections to the pirates (like a lookout or a retired pirate).
On the Rivers of America at Walt Disney World, that small waterfront cabin in Alligator Swamp is the home to Beacon Joe who keeps an eye on this part of the river and helps out passing travelers. That cabin was designed by famed Imagineer Marc Davis but not for Florida. It appears at Disneyland in dark spooky lighting in the Blue Bayou just before guests drift past it into a pirate adventure. There was not going to be a similar scene in the Florida attraction so it was borrowed for the Rivers of America and years later was also included in Tokyo Disneyland’s Rivers of America.
Want to see Pirates of the Caribbean with the lights on? Want to play inside the attraction and get real close to all of your favorite audio-animatronics? If scene-spoilers and "how’d they do that?" photos don’t distress you, click here to see some amazing behind the scenes photos taken by former Disneyland cast member Ryan.
But I warn you...if you don’t want to ruin the magic and experience this attraction of with the lights on, don’t go to this page, and just keep on scrolling! Consider yourself warned, Mateys!