Pirates of the Caribbean was originally created as a theme park ride for Disneyworld/Disneyland; years later it was turned into a massively successful film trilogy starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Geoffrey Rush.
The idea for the ride was conceived in the 1950s and originally intended to be a wax museum featuring various different pirates from history. The idea evolved into an indoor adventure boat ride featuring skeletons, battles, burning buildings, animatronics, catchy music and water flumes. It is one of the darkest rides at Disney's theme parks along with phantom manor (which was also turned into a feature film starring Eddie Murphy) and since its creation has established a cult following. The ride is featured in California’s Disneyland, Florida’s The Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Tokyo and Disneyland Paris.
It was the very last attraction Walt Disney oversaw himself. The characters were created by Mark Davis and the musical score for the ride was written by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio.
The grand opening for the ride took place on 18 March, 1967 and quickly became one of the most popular attractions featured in the park. It was Disney’s largest audio-animatronics project to date. The ride was never intended to feature at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort. Originally a similar ride entitled Western River Expedition, which would have featured Cowboys and Indians rather than Pirates, was planned. However, due to complaints, another version of the ride was released in Florida on 15 December, 1973. The ride was also marketed on the opening days of both Disneyland Tokyo and Disneyland Paris.
There have been many changes to the ride since its conception, especially since the release of the Pirates of the Caribbean feature films. However, the original attraction is still reputed to be the most thrilling. The ride starts as a casual boat ride and opens with a narrator speaking in a traditional pirate voice; this then leads into the sound of a waterfall.
Riders then plunge down the waterfall where, at the bottom, they can hear the cheery theme tune for the ride ("Yo Ho, Ho, Ho, a Pirate’s life for me") which leads into a dark cavern where the echoing voice can be heard "Dead men tell no tales!"
The ride then features a second plunge down into the depths of a dark, sinister pirate grotto with the skeletons of various pirates guarding their treasure. The ride then moves into a storm where an old pirate ship can be seen driven by a skeleton; then the boat passes by some skeletons playing chess and into a huge treasure room, featuring the Aztec chest featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
In later years a waterfall projection of Davy Jones (as featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) was added to the ride in which visitors pass through without getting wet. Several more changes were made to the attraction to make the theme of the ride more relevant to the film trilogy; wax figures of Captain Barbossa and Captain Jack Sparrow (featured several times throughout the ride) were added to the line up.
The ride then moves into a fierce battle between two ships, featuring cannonballs whistling overhead, puffs of air from the canons and explosions in the water. Guests then see a wide range of pirates drinking and laughing, along with scenes of women being sold as brides and a man being drowned in the local well. The town is then set on fire and riders move onto a jail where prisoners can be seen trying to coax a small dog, holding the keys to the cell in its mouth, with a bone. This scene became famous particularly amongst young children and was thus featured in the first movie.
Due to the fact that there are different variations of the ride in different theme parks and that many modifications have been made over the years it is hard to pinpoint exactly what happens throughout the ride. The ride finishes with the narrator speaking through a talking skull, informing riders of how to exit the boat; at the exit of the ride is, of course, a gift shop featuring a wide variety of pirate orientated products.
The original ride held a capacity of 3,400 guests per hour and required 750,000 gallons of water! It also featured 122 audio-animatronics.
Aside from the modifications added since the release of the film trilogy several more where added. One of the more famous scenes, which featured pirates chasing beautiful girls around in circles and a pirate being chased by an overweight woman, was changed due to customer complaints. The overweight woman was given a rolling pin and the women where given pies to make it appear as if the pirates where chasing the pies rather than the women. Later on, the overweight woman’s rolling pin was changed to a stolen ham.
Another original feature in the ride was an overweight pirate exhausted from his unsuccessful attempt to catch an unwilling woman, who was seen hiding in a barrel. This scene was changed in different theme parks, however the original version remains at Disneyland Paris and Tokyo. In one version the pirate’s dialogue changed and the woman was replaced by a cat, in another the woman is given a treasure chest to make it appear as if the pirate was chasing the treasure, not the woman. These changes were much debated by Disney's hierarchy.
Disney has been associated with all things piratey for a long time, especially since the release of Peter Pan featuring the infamous Captain Hook. Given the nature of the ride and its popularity, it is easy to see why Pirates of the Caribbean has such a huge following. Millions of children from all over the world travel to different theme parks to experience the wonders of the ride. Given the fact that it opened in 1967, it is nearly impossible to count the number of children that must have had their lives touched by the ride at some point in their lives. All over the world are millions upon millions of adults and children who have visited the parks at some point in their lives and fallen in love with Pirates of the Caribbean.
In 2003, the first of three films was released entitled Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a phenomenally successful film among children and adults alike featuring a star cast of characters, amazing special effects and a combination of supernatural and comedy. A sequel was released in July 2006 entitled Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and, on 25 May 2007, a third film was released called Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Johnny Depp won an Oscar for his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow and Dead Man’s Chest won an Oscar for best special effects. So far the trilogy has gone on to gross over £1.5 Billion worldwide. Pirates of the Caribbean came into being over four decades ago and will probably be around for a very, very long time to come. It’s characters are loved all over the world and as long as the rides still stand, it will entertain many generations of children for many years.