Yo Ho Yo Ho A Pirates Life For Me is a Disney World staple, but would you believe me if I told you it was
originally meant to be left out of the parks in Orlando altogether? When Walt Disney World opened in 1971 the park was a huge success as people from all over the country flocked to Orlando, but one attraction from Disneyland was missing. Disney got complaint after complaint from guests, “where are the pirates”? Pirates of the Caribbean was featured all over television as the main attraction at Disneyland and when people arrived in Orlando not knowing it wasn’t there were not very happy to say the least. But Disney believed that Orlando was simply to close to the Caribbean to have a Pirates ride and had a planned boat ride called the Western River Expedition taking guests through the Wild West to face Mexican rebels, Cowboys, and Indians as well as much more. This ride was going to be a part of a much larger complex called Thunder Mesa. This project was 100% a go, guests even heard about the Thunder Mesa expansion as they rode the train. However, as complaints rolled in asking where are the Pirates, Disney decide to give the people what they wanted and let the people know they would get their Pirates and SOON.
Disney World was costing the Disney Company tons of money, so a ride that was already designed and a
sure smash hit was easy for them to jump on board with. It began initial concept design in the 1950s for Disneyland and was originally intended to be a walk-through attraction, where guests could see wax figures of Pirates. However, with the invention of the Audio Animatronics the concepts were changed and Disneyland guests would get to see pirates come to life. This was the last attraction that Walt Disney would oversee construction of before passing away 3 months prior to Pirates opening at Disneyland on March 18th, 1967. Fast forward about 5 years and Walt’s last attraction would be headed to the East Coast by popular demand.
The addition of Pirates of the Caribbean in Florida would be placed very strategically to bring the park full circle. A plot of land near the Jungle Cruise was designated for Pirates, so Frontierland and Adventureland could finally be connected and a Caribbean theme was perfect to transition guests from Adventureland to Frontierland or vice versa. Up until the completion of Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney World guest had to pass through the small walkway by the now Sunshine Tree Terrace and Magic Carpets of Aladdin, which made that area of the park constantly congested. So now all the Imagineers had to do was plan/build a show building, pick the scenes from California that they would like to bring over to Florida, and finally a new mini-land to be known as Caribbean Plaza.
The ride debuted in Disney World, December 15th, 1973 and despite being a compacted version of
Disneyland’s, guests loved it. The attraction in Disney World had a much more immersive queue that took and still takes you deep into the Castillo de Morro and into “A Pirates Life.” You are able to take 2 separate queue lines, Soldiers or Pirates and see amazing details like two pirate skeletons sitting down playing a game of chess that is eternally locked in a stalemate. The ride stayed very much the same for a very long time, except for a few politically correct changes like making the women chase the men instead of vice versa and the “pooped pirate” would no longer hold a corset and would talk about all of the food he ate instead of the women inside of the barrels behind him,
which made original Imagineer, “X” Atencio refer to the rides as “Boy Scouts of the Caribbean”. Other than these few minor changes the ride didn’t undergo any major changes until 2006, when the attraction inspired movie franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean would come full circle and be incorporated into the ride. Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa would be added to the ride. Later on the misty waterfall would be added with an image of Davy Jones talking to sailors and later changed to Blackbeard. Finally the most recent additions are the mermaids in the water as well as the mermaid skeleton in Dead Man’s Cove.
– Duration: 8 minutes 30 seconds
– The waterfall drop is only a mere 14 feet
– Max Speed 3 mph
– Originally the Men chased the Women
– A slightly dumbed down Western River Expedition was still in the works to “out do” Pirates even after Pirates was built
– The ride begins on the second floor before dropping below the WDW Railroad tracks to the first floor
– Pirates of the Caribbean is featured at or being built at every Walt Disney Park/Resort Worldwide (Hong Kong Disneyland is the only without, and Shanghai is building an entire land dedicated to Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Cove)
– Disneyland’s version is nearly twice as long as Magic Kingdom’s at 15 minutes and 30 seconds
Thank you for reading and please share any fun facts, experiences, or rumors you may have for Pirates of the Caribbean.
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Images courtesy of the Walt Disney Company