10 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Ride
Drink up, me hearties, yo ho! Since its 1967 debut in Disneyland, the scurvy scallywags of Pirates of the Caribbean have been a favorite of park guests.
46 years, three additional attractions in parks around the world, four movies, and countless toys, games, and other merchandise later, the pirates are still going strong. Here are 10 amazing facts about this classic Disney ride so you’ll learn something while you’re trying to get that song out of your head.
It Was the Last Ride Walt Personally Oversaw
Pirates of the Caribbean was not among the attractions that the first visitors to Disneyland saw. New Orleans Square — the section of the park where the ride can be found — wasn’t even built until 1966, 11 years after the park opened. But the idea of a pirate-themed attraction for Disneyland was around since the 1950s. One of the earliest ideas was a pirate museum to be housed underneath New Orleans Square.
Pirates was also the last attraction to have Walt Disney himself personally oversee its construction. Walt Disney passed away in December of 1966, and Pirates opened to the public in March of 1967.
Animation Greats Voiced the Pirates
You can hear a lot of Disney parks regulars voicing the various pirates and townsfolk. The actors from the movies all provide the voices for their respective characters. Several of the main pirates unique to the ride are voiced by Paul Frees, who was the voice of the Ghost Host at the Haunted Mansion, Donald’s uncle Ludwig Von Drake and countless other characters for Disney, Jay Ward, and Rankin/Bass. Thurl Ravenscoft, voice of a singing bust from the Haunted Mansion and Tony the Tiger from your breakfast, can also be heard on the ride.
A Very Long Chess Game
While you’re waiting to get on the ride, you can check out a pair of skeletons seated on either side of a chess board. A popular rumor states that the board is set up in a stalemate, implying the two pirates sat playing the game, unable to make a move, until both died. But the internet has yet to reach consensus on whether or not not this is true. Some sources claim that the pieces are arranged to suggest a game that can’t be won. Others, such as The Florida Project, have photos showing that the pieces aren’t in a stalemate configuration and don’t even stay in the same place.
The Cannonballs Are an Illusion
Both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World versions of Pirates feature a battle between the pirate ship and the town’s fortress, with both sides lobbing cannonballs at each other. Of course, since launching heavy metal balls over guests’ heads is a lawsuit waiting to happen, no actual cannonballs are used.
Moving cannons, flashes of light, and blast from beneath the waves give the illusion of projectiles being fires and hitting the water. The recent addition of an air cannon blasting guests in time with the cannon fire adds to the effect of unseen cannonballs whizzing by.
The Original Ride Was Racy
The original ride featured a scene where several pirates chased after giggling local ladies and one heavyset lady pursued a pirate. This particular tableaux has been changed several times to keep up with what modern guests felt was appropriate for a Disney park ride.
At one point, the heavyset lady was given a rolling pin to chase the pirate off. Later on, the ladies and the pursued pirate were given food items, changing the object of the pirates’ desires from the ladies themselves to the goodies they were carrying. The giggles were dropped from the soundtrack as well. Curiously, the bride auction scene remains unchanged.
The Secret to the Fire Effect Is…
The fire effect in Pirates is surprisingly simple: it’s just a combination of cloth, fans and lights, but when seen from afar, it really looks like the town is burning.
The effect has fooled many riders into thinking that real fire is being used, including one Anaheim fire chief who was on the verge of shutting the ride down until he realized that the flames weren’t real.
Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirates Life For Me!
One of the most memorable parts of Pirates of the Caribbean is the theme song, ‘Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).’ It’s as catchy as ‘It’s A Small World,’ but far less likely to drive you crazy.
The music for this classic tune was composed by George Bruns, who co-wrote ‘The Ballad of Davy Crockett’ and scored numerous Disney films. The lyrics are by Francis Xavier Atencio — better known as “X” — who also wrote the original script for the ride as well as the script and theme song lyrics for the Haunted Mansion.
The Tired Pirate Has Also Been Censored
Another scene that has undergone several alterations is the Tired Pirate, also called the Pooped Pirate. When the attraction opened, he was holding a petticoat and spouting all manner of pirate-themed innuendo about the young woman hiding in the barrel behind him. Once again, lust was replaced with gluttony and the pirate switched to talking about the delicious food he had eaten.
Not everyone loved the changes to the ride. X Atencio himself derisively called the revamped version “Boy Scouts of the Caribbean.”
From Parks to Films and Back Again
Following the success of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films, the rides in Disneyland and Disney World were altered to include characters from the movies. The town is now under attack by Captain Barbossa. Jack Sparrow can be seen hiding throughout the town and at the ride’s conclusion. More recently, the mermaids from the latest installment of the series — ‘On Stranger Tides’ — were added to the ride.
Pirates in the Mist
One of the most impressive movie-related additions is what appears to be a waterfall from which the face of either Davy Jones or Blackbeard emerges warning guests of the dangers ahead. As the boat reaches the waterfall, both the face and the water vanish. All of it is actually a projection on mist.