Pirates Of The Caribbean: The History Behind The Attraction

Pirates of the Caribbean is near and dear to the hearts of so many guests. This attraction, imagineered by Walt Disney himself, is one of Disneyland and Disney World’s oldest attractions. There is a version of this attraction at almost every Disney park across the globe. Although Walt Disney passed away three months before the attraction’s opening at Disneyland, he personally oversaw the construction, design, and development of the ride. These special “Disney touches” are seen throughout the attraction and is part of what makes it such a successful attraction.

Pirates of the Caribbean
A Scene From Disneyland’s Pirates Of The Caribbean Ride. Photo by Disney

The Imagineering And Planning

Following the success of the dark-ride boat-ride “It’s A Small World“, the Disney imagineers took an original concept of a wax museum surrounding pirates and decided to created an attraction with the same ride system. The idea behind Pirates of the Caribbean was to set the scene of pirates throughout the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea. With 75 audio-animatronic pirates and villagers in the Disneyland version, this attraction was a major project. Each pirate and villager are unique, along with audio-animatronic birds, and a dog as seen in the infamous jailbreak key scene.

Pirates of the Carribean
The Ship Fight Scene. Photo by Disney

Every Disney attraction puts focus on the narrative or story that is told throughout the ride. Pirates of the Caribbean tells a visual story using audio-animatronics, scenery, and music. The original attraction begins in a bayou which matches the surrounding theme of New Orleans Square. The riders travel through the bayou lit by fireflies and take plunge into a cavern, with a second plunge taking guests into “Dead Man’s Cove” where the infamous warning “Dead Men Tell No Tales!” echoes throughout. Guests then go on to travel through eerie skeletal remains of pirates, until they reach a cannonball fight between two pirate ships. The remainder of the ride travels through a village being plundered and looted while the charming “Yo Ho (A Pirates Life For Me)” plays and is sung by the animatronic pirates. The bride auction scene soon follows, as well as the jailbreak scene where the pirates attempt to lure a dog holding keys over to them to break out. The attraction ended with a shootout scene between two pirates and the boats climbing a hill to reach the bayou from the beginning of the ride.

The attraction became an instant classic and was quickly moved to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom shortly after the park’s opening. Since then, there has been a Pirates of the Caribbean ride added to Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, and Shanghai Disneyland.

Renovation History

Pirates of the Caribbean is a classic ride, but it has seen massive changes throughout the years. This attraction has an extensive renovation history. Some of the biggest changes to this attraction include:

  • The chase scene in which animatronic pirates are seen chasing female villagers was reversed in 1997, now showing the female villagers chasing the pirates.
  • In 2006 a major renovation was done to the attraction to be more cohesive with the film adaptation of the ride. Captain Barbosa, and later Davy Jones, were added to the beginning of the attraction via projection. An extremely realistic Captain Jack Sparrow animatronic was added to the attraction, to be seen in two different scenes of the ride. Projections of mermaids to match the film were also added to the beginning of the attraction.
  • In 2017, a major change to the infamous bride auction scene was announced. The redhead featured in the auction scene was reworked to be a pirate herself. She was given a name, Red, and now took the role of auctioneer and auctioned off loot and other treasure.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Animatronics on Pirates of the Caribbean. Photo by Disney

The Future Of The Attraction

Pirates of the Caribbean is showing no signs of going anywhere, and there haven’t been any major changes announced to the ride for the future. The attraction spawned the successful Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Kiera Knightly. This film franchise grossed over $4.5 billion worldwide and was not only massively successful, but credited for further popularizing Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. A spinoff series was announced in 2020 to star Margot Robbie, however there hasn’t been any further confirmation that this series is still in the works.

It’s safe to say that Pirates of the Caribbean will be transporting guests to the world of pirates for many years to come. What do you love about Pirates of the Caribbean? And which version of the attraction is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured Photo by Disney

Written by

Megan Woodard

Contributing Writer

Megan was born into a Disney family. Her first trip to Disney World was when she was only 18 months old. Now as an adult, Megan loves to share the magic of Disney with her two toddlers. Keeping up with Disney news and Disney World knowledge is a fun hobby for Megan. Disney World is her favorite place to be and continuously brings back her childhood joy.

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