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Pirates of the Caribbean

February 1967

Pirates of the Caribbean is one of Disneyland's premier attractions, a constant crowd pleaser that inspired their most successful ride-turned-into-a-movie to date (2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl easily beat out the previous record holder, Swiss Family Robinson).

The ride is built largely underground and is filled with water -- a tribute to New Orleans' famed high water table. Guests travel in boats through two sets of scenes -- one featuring skeletons in piraty situations, and the other populated with animatronic pirates fighting, looting, pillaging, abusing women, performing unlicensed surgery, and gleefully singing.

In January of 1997, Pirates was closed for 30th-anniversary renovation. It reopened in March of that year with several improvements -- and a number of controversial changes.

One of the original scenes in Pirates showed a number of lascivious scallywags chasing innocent women. The thought of what the pirates would do to the women once they were caught disturbed many guests (some of whom did not realize that the pirates just wanted to sing their jolly song to the ladies). After the 1997 renovation, this scene had been adjusted with a focus changed to pirates stealing food and illegally duplicating video tapes. The scene in which women are being auctioned was not changed -- the "Buy a Bride" scene's intent was to show women being sold for marriage, so the "moral majority" was not bothered by it since there was no implication of pirates having premarital relations with their purchases.

During the renovation, Disney -- again caving beneath the weight of complaings -- made subtle changes to the familiar "yo ho" song sung by the pirates for the bulk of the ride. The lyrics page (see link below) has a detailed comparison of before- and after-renovation lyrics.

Pirates, closed for rethemingBeginning in 2004, Disneyland also began to make a temporary, seasonal change to Pirates, converting the ride into "Pirates: Spring Break in the Caribbean" (see link below) for several weeks each year.

The ride was renovated yet again in 2006 so that it would better reflect the story of the Pirates movie, and the ride's back story was officially adjusted by officials in the Team Disney Ministry of Truth so that -- on paper at least -- the story was part of the ride first. The most obvious change that came as part of this renovation was to be the insertion of several animatronic figures of pirate Captain Jack "J.J." Sparrow. Budget cuts almost doomed the effort until it was realized that it is actually less expensive to hire actors, make them up like Sparrow, and pay them scale to stand around making repetitive motions than it is to build actual robots.

This renovation also re-modified the women-chasing scene so that pirates are chasing treasure or women are chasing pirates with treasure or pirates who have treasure or something or other. Frankly, at this point, pretty much everyone has either lost interest or can't keep track of just who's chasing who. It is an undenyable fact, however, that one of the "robotic" Captain Jacks is simultaneously grabbing the backsides of two headless women, and frankly we find that weird (particularly since one of the women is Madam Leota whose head can be seen in the Haunted Mansion, begging the question of where the other woman's head ended up).

Trivia: Every time an Imagineer's dog dies, it is used to replace the dog in the jail scene.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Lyrics | Script Highlights
Spring Break in the Caribbean


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