Pirates of the Caribbean is, without question, one of the most popular attractions that Walt Disney Imagineering has ever created. It routinely ranks near the top in fan popularity, and the original Disneyland version was the last attraction that Walt Disney himself directly oversaw the creation of, though he did not live to see it open. However, while the original Disneyland attraction will always be beloved for being the first and the technologically advanced Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure in Shanghai is probably the most impressive, the version of the attraction at Walt Disney World is arguably the most interesting due to its unusual history.
Normally, Disney building an attraction at a second park is little more than a copy paste job, and thus the attractions are usually just as good as the original because they're literally identical, but the story of Walt Disney World's Pirates of the Caribbean is actually a lot more interesting than that. Here's why.
It Was Never Supposed to be at Walt Disney World
The most interesting thing about Pirates of the Caribbean at Walt Disney World is that the attraction was never supposed to be there. While the Haunted Mansion was designed to go into both the new New Orleans Square at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World at the same time, the feeling at the time was that Florida, being on the actual Caribbean meant that locals and vacationers from nearby wouldn't need a New Orleans or pirate themed attraction, as the real thing was so close. And so, Walt Disney World got a Liberty Square instead of a New Orleans Square, with no Pirates ride.
However, actual Caribbean or not, as soon as Magic Kingdom opened, the first guests were wondering where the hell Pirates of the Caribbean was. The desire for the attraction was so great that work began on it within a year of Magic Kingdom's opening. And it would open in December of 1973, barely two years after the park opened.
What’s New And What's Missing From The Walt Disney World Version
Because Pirates of the Caribbean was never designed to have space at Magic Kingdom, it basically had to be crammed into a section of Adventureland that wasn't as big as what the ride had in California. The result was that the ride in Florida would have to be truncated. The entire opening sequence found at Disneyland, showing off pirate skeletons while ["Yo-Ho (A Pirate's Life For Me)](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YoHo(APirate%27sLifeforMe)" played in the background, would be cut out. This results in the loss of some cool effects, as well as the fact that the Disney World version of Pirates is completely missing that element that ended up inspiring the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
What the attraction loses on the journey itself it tries to make up for in the queue. The vast majority of Disneyland's ride line is outdoors, but since rain is a bigger issue in Florida, the ride queue there is mostly indoors, allowing the creation of some cool things to see. There's stockpiles of barrels and artillery, and a number of prison cells, including one where a pair of pirates have turned to skeletons while sitting at a chessboard, the game forever locked in a stalemate.
It Played A Part In Killing A Major Walt Disney World Project
While the initial plan for Magic Kingdom didn't include Pirates of the Caribbean, that doesn't mean the park was never going to see anything similar to it. Disney may have skipped a Pirates attraction thinking guests in the southeast wouldn't need it, but instead, at one point the plan was to bring a taste of the Western U.S to Disney World. Marc Davis, the same Imagineer who designed the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction had an idea called the Western River Expedition, which would be a boat ride just like Pirates, but would instead take guests through a version of the wild west. The ride itself was part of a larger concept called Thunder Mesa Mountain, which would also include a runaway mine train attraction and a log flume ride among other things.
The Thunder Mesa idea was always planned to be an addition in the park later on, but when the decision was made to go forward on Pirates, the Western River Expedition became somewhat redundant, and the mine train attraction was spun off into its own thing, which became Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Thunder Mesa was an incredibly ambitious idea, and it would be decades before we saw anything quite like it again.
Pirates of the Caribbean Has Been Changed Multiple Times
A few years ago Pirates of the Caribbean made headlines when it was announced the attraction was going to undergo renovation to make changes to the "Bride Auction" sequence. Originally, women were being sold off by pirates who were looting a town, with most of them interested in a shapely redhead. The new version sees a new animatronic Redhead, named Redd, who is now one of the pirates herself. She's auctioning off the loot from the town herself.
A lot of people took issue with the change, as many do whenever any Disney attraction gets altered, but this was hardly the first update Pirates of the Caribbean had seen. Around 2006, Captain Jack Sparrow and other characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were added to the ride. Captain Jack can be seen at three different points. Prior to that even, in the late 1990s, scenes of pirates chasing after women were changed so that the pirates were now coveting food the women were carrying, rather than the women themselves. One sequence, with cat friendly pirate Old Bill was an original creation of the Walt Disney World version, that was later added at Disneyland.
There's a Somewhat Secret Way To Ride It
When visiting Walt Disney World one of the most potentially complicated tasks is figuring out how to balance your time and experience the most attractions in the shortest amount of time. The FastPass+ system, which allows you to jump into shorter lines, is an important tool in doing this, but you're limited to three FastPasses per day until you've used them all up, and by the time you do, whatever's left might not be that conducive to your schedule. However, there's a way to get a FastPass for Pirates of the Caribbean that not a lot of people know about and doesn't require reservations.
Located near the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean is a small shack where you can find a treasure map of your very own. Pirate’s Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas has five different experiences that will have you following clues and exploring all the corners of Adventureland in search for buried treasure. These are fun little games, especially if you have younger kids with you. But, if you complete three different treasure hunts, you can get a FastPass for Pirates of the Caribbean. The hunts only take 15-20 minutes a piece, so if the standby line for Pirates is an hour long or longer, you'll get on the ride faster, and have a lot more fun by playing the games.
Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean is often overlooked when it comes to looking at the history of the attraction itself. It's the smaller version of the popular ride that did the best it could with what it had, but like every attraction in every Disney park, it has a unique history that is all its own, that makes it special in its own way.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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