Ya’ come seekin’ adventure with salty ol’ Pirates, eh. Well, you’ve come to the proper place. Now hold on tight, with both hands if you please. And remember, dead men tell no tales
Frontierland always had its Southern spirits, from it’s sparkling Mississippi River, and Mark Twain River Boat, to Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House. Walt Disney realized that a historical New Orleans-type background would fit perfectly with a few new attractions WED designers were planning for Disneyland. These new attractions included a Haunted Mansion, a Thieves Marketplace, and a Pirate Wax Museum.
This idea spun off into an entirely different land, the first added “land” to Disneyland since the park’s initial opening on July 17, 1955.
Construction began on New Orleans Square in 1961, leveling the southwestern part of Frontierland. A huge basement was dug, this was made so guests could enjoy dining and shopping, then could go downstairs through a Pirate Wax Museum.
After completion of steel frame working on the New Orleans Square basement work stopped on the project. Walt Disney was planning bigger things for his WED Imagineers. The 1964 World’s Fair caught the attention of Walt Disney, Walt decided to help sponsor various companies with attractions at the fair. Even though the fair brought a halt to new attractions at Disneyland, it was good for two reasons. One, all the companies wanted attractions that would be, in effect, state-of-the-art, which would help Walt Disney Productions advance technically in the theme park industry. And two, part of the deal was when the World’s Fair was over, all the attractions could be shipped off to Disneyland.
During the Disney excursion into the 1964-65 World’s Fair, breakthroughs were made in the combination of sound and animation of three-dimensional figures, called Audio-Animatronics. The Audio-Animatronic figures were used extensively in many other Disneyland Attractions, such as: “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln,” and The Carousel of Progress (both originally featured in the World’s Fair)
Because advancements had occurred in audio-animatronics fields, WED Designers were able to incorporate the Audio-Animatronic Movements into the still wax Pirate Figures, turning them into swaggering, singing, and moving characters.Originally the ride was to be a walk-through; however, to increase ride capacity, the attraction turned into a boat ride, using the same system “It’s a Small World” uses.
When work was finished on “It’s a Small World,” Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, the Primeval World Exhibit, and General Electric’s Carousel of Progress, construction resumed on New Orleans Square. This time when work restarted Walt told his designers to take what they learned from the World’s Fair Projects, and put them into the new attractions in New Orleans Square.
Boasting a cast of 64 human figures, 55 animals, the Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most entertaining attractions in the park. Riders board colorful boats which at first float through a quiet bayou, but then they plunge into the depths of the pirates lair, into caves, with echoing voices announcing, “dead men, tell no tales.”
This was the last attraction that Walt Disney worked on extensively before his death. It opened afew months after his death, on March 18, 1967. Primary character design was headed by Disney veteran Marc Davis, with Claude Coats designing the many lavishly detailed sets. The audio animatronic figures were designed by animator-turned-sculptor Blaine Gibson.
The ride begins in a quiet buyou, on a darkened evening. Boats pass by what appears to be an outdoor restauraunt, The Blue Bayou, past a small shack with a man sitting in a rocking chair, with the faint sound of “Oh Susanna” being lightly played on a banjo. A talking skull warns riders “hold tight, and with both hands if you please.” The first drop plunges riders into the depths of the pirates lair. Floating past jewels and skeletons, and being warned of the cursed treasure, passengers continue, passing a pirate ship, and a small town fort, both dueling eachother.
Once past the small fight, riders find themselves in a small town where pirates have taken over. Gradually the boats float through the flume, passing the town, gradually being ransacked, and burned to dust by the pirates.
Then, to end the dramatic scene, riders are taken “up a waterfall,” to the quiet lagoon, to exit their boats.
The effects in this attraction, along with the vast size and attention to detail, makes this an attraction to visit over and over again.
Heading up the cast of voices for the theme, is Thurl Ravenscroft, who also appears in the Haunted Mansion, joined this time by the Mellomen singing “Yo Ho”. If you listen closely in the ride, Thurl is the voice of the drunk pirate singing along with the theme.
Pirates of the Caribbean Media:
- Yo, ho, yo, ho, a Pirates life more me” In Real Audio*
- Walt Disney, describing “New Orleans Square. In Real Audio*
Real Audio is availible for download, for free, at Real.com
Some images on this page were courtesy of the Disneyland Source.
The top image, entitled “moving_scull.gif” is Copyrighted by JustDisney.com