52 Years ago, Yo Ho, Yo Ho…
March 18th, fifty two years ago, what arguably may be the most iconic attraction, opened at Disneyland Resort. Pirates of the Caribbean was the last ride Walt worked on directly, passing away before its completion. This among many other tidbits makes this attraction a park historians dream. I have literally spent days reading about this attraction. Maybe because it was Walt’s last interaction with us from a park perspective.
The ride originally was to be a walk through attraction. Dick Nunis speaks of this discussion in Disneyland Secrets, Stories & Magic (available on Youtube). Due to the limited amount of foot traffic, they decided to do a ride through would greatly increase the speed of the lines and getting more people through. In Disneyland’s 10th Anniversary (available on Youtube), Walt previews with Disney Legend Julie Reihms-Casaletto the mock up of the ride. This highlight involves numerous imagineers in addressing how the ride comes to fruition. Julie is seen here with Walt and Blaine Gibson.
Pirates of the Caribbean was a game changer, it was also a ground breaker, littered with audio-animatronics. Because of limited room to build the attraction, they went underground. Way underground, even building under the public streets. That is why you have two waterfalls. Pirates of the Caribbean is a who’s who of Disney Legends. Xavier Atencio, Claude Coats, Blaine Gibson, Marc Davis, just to name a few. Heck, even the Haunted Mansions voice of the Ghost Host makes a cameo. Paul Frees is the voice that says in that haunting monotone voice, DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES, echoing throughout the ride. X Atencio is the voice of the skull narrator right before the first waterfall and he also penned the song Yo Ho, which was not in the original plan for the attraction. Can you imagine sailing the boats without the song today?
Pirates of the Caribbean also has spawned a multi million dollar movie chain. The movies were so successful, Pirates of the Caribbean was revamped with characters from the movies, bringing full circle the original intention of the Park itself. Even the peculiar guard pooch became a iconic symbol of the ride.
There is so much history, information, rumors, trivia with this attraction, one could literally spend days perusing it all. Just a few trivia tidbits. Did you hear the rumor of a real human skull being in the ride? Well, it is true. It was supposed to be a model for the skeletons among other bones lent to the imagineers from UCLA. Cast members confirm the rumor, but then again, cast members are not the most accurate source of factual material.
I cannot imagine asking any park goer on what attraction cannot be missed without Pirates of the Caribbean being mentioned. I most likely have sailed these seas 200 times, and each time is as new as the first. As we sit back and reminisce of Pirates of the Caribbean, I think we can all appreciate the impact this ride had on the Parks and the magnetic attraction and return enjoyment it has had on all of us.
Disney Legend Roland “Rolly” Crump speaks of Walt’s gift when talking about It’s a Small World, Walt had that knack of touching everyone with his creativity, and he sure nailed it with Pirates of the Caribbean. It is why the Parks are the number one vacation spots in the world today. So sit back, and if you need a suggestion for a Pirate Cocktail, might I suggest a Dole Whip, spiked with rum of course.
Yo ho, Yo ho, a pirates life for me!