Pirates of the Caribbean opened in Disneyland fifty-two years ago this week on March 18th. Throughout the decades it’s become a fan favorite to Disney fans around the world. For me, the Disneyland version is my favorite. In celebration of the iconic ride, here are some fun facts and history from the Disney Archives about how Pirates of the Caribbean came to be what it is today.
Pirates was originally meant to be a wax museum. Before the Imagineers came up with the ride idea, Walt Disney had the simple idea of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. He left it to the team of Imagineers to take it from there. One of the early plans from Walt was a walk-through wax museum. Disney legend, Marc Davis enhanced the idea into an interactive walkthrough. During the walkthrough, guests would encounter six different vignettes, each telling a story. As we know, neither of these happened. It turns out, the ride system was developed for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.
Have you heard of Disney animator Xavier “X” Atencio? He became a Disney legend 1965 moving from an animator to Imagineering. He worked on another iconic attraction, Haunted Mansion as well as Pirates of the Caribbean. You don’t see his work, but you hear it. Xavier Atencio penned two famous park songs, “Grim Grinning Ghosts” and “Yo Ho, A Pirates Life for Me”. Prior to these two songs, he had never penned a song tune in his life. He also provided the voice of the Jolly Roger skull and crossbones.
Walt personally asked X to join the Imagineering team to develop the attraction. He got his inspiration for the ride from Disney’s 1950 live action Treasure Island.
Pirates of the Caribbean is the longest attraction at Disneyland. The 15-minute boat ride travels 1,838 feet through two enormous structures. At the rides opening, the attraction featured 119 life-size, three-dimensional figures – 64 human and 55 animals.
During the designing of the characters, there was a slight issue. Sculptor Blaine Gibson loved to people watch. He got his inspiration for his characters from watching people on the streets. His wife scolded him for staring at people whenever they were out in public. His bad habit finally caught up with him. He had to change the nose on one of his pirates after another employee mentioned that it looked like a man from another department at Disney. Whoops!!
Famed voice actor and Disney Legend Paul Frees is famous for two voices at Disneyland. He’s the voice of Ludwig Von Drake and he also belts out the greeting at the Haunted Mansion, “Welcome, foolish mortals…”. Do you recognize his voice anyplace else? His other famous phrase in the park is, “Dead men tell no tales…”. Did you just read that in your head as it sounds on the ride? Oh good, me too!!
If you’ve never experienced Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, you’re missing out! It’s not the same as Walt Disney World at all, which is why I love it so much!
Photo Source: Disney & D23
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