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The relationship between Pirates of the Caribbean, the Disneyland attraction, and Pirates of the Caribbean, the film franchise, is one of perpetual influence of one upon the other. The original 1960s attraction inspired the movie that became Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and then the characters from the movie became part of the ride itself. However, it turns out that Curse of the Black Pearl is an even bigger part of the attraction at Disneyland than you might think, because an actual prop from the movie can be found inside the ride.
If you've been on Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland any time in the last many years, then you'll know that early in the ride, as your boat passes a skeleton sitting atop a pile of treasure, you'll also see the chest of Aztec gold that is the focus of the pirate curse in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. However, according to the new Disney+ series Prop Culture, which will be debuting May 1, that chest isn't just a theme park replica, but the actual chest used in the film.
I had a chance to speak with Prop Culture host and producer Dan Lanigan recently, and I asked him to confirm that the chest was, in fact, the one from the movie, and not something built by Walt Disney Imagineering. While the idea that the chest could be the real thing has been suggested before, even many Disney fans don't believe that the chest isn't simply a replica. According to Lanigan...
I wouldn’t say it’s common [knowledge], it’s out there, but it’s considered a myth. They don’t publicize it, and on some of the boards they say it is. And in fact, I was talking to a Disney fan since we shot this and I showed it to a friend of mine, I showed him the episode he says ‘Are you sure that thing's an original? I bet it’s not. I bet it’s replicated.'
The chest itself is just a chest. It would have been easy enough for one to be fabricated, but according to Walt Disney Imagineer John Gritz who appears in the Pirates of the Caribbean episode of Prop Culture, the chest is actually the same one from from the movie. The coins are not all from the movie, but as part of the story Gritz tells in the episode, one of the original coins from the film was still in the chest when the Imagineers got it.
And if you're still not convinced, Dan Lanigan got a closer look at the chest than what you see in the episode, and he concurs that the chest is the actual film prop.
From my moderately expert opinion, I’d say it’s an original. The way it’s built as a prop for a movie is different [than] the way it would be built as a prop for the park.
After watching most of the episode of Prop Culture, Dan Lanigan is being a bit coy when he calls himself a moderate expert. He knows more than a little about movie props. His opinion should count for a lot.
Nearly everybody who recognizes the chest when floating through Pirates of the Caribbean probably believes the chest is just a theme park duplication, but it's not. And when we can all ride Pirates of the Caribbean again we can go see the real thing once again.
Prop Culture debuts on Disney+ May 1.