They are the one mandatory stop in every Kingdom they dwell in, the one attraction you’re gonna have to do no matter how often you visit. From the moment you hear those seldom banjo chords to the great blazing finale, you never stop rediscovering this ever so detailed Disney experience and humming its Yo Ho(w) so famous tune!
Since in Hollywood dead men do tell tales, its grandeur recently broke out of the Kingdom’s berm and conquered the unthemed world…
This article is about the 4 Pirates of the Caribbean attractions of the 5 Magic Kingdoms!
As for the history fix, many people are aware that Pirates is the last attraction that Walt Disney followed the development from start to almost finish. He had Marc Davis sketch different fiction scenes, George Bruns and Xavier Atencio wrote the score …It opened in 1967, less than a year after New Orleans Square where it currently lays in Anaheim. This is one of the very rare attractions to be absolutely named the same all through the Kingdoms with one major difference being that only the original doesn’t reside in an Adventureland.
It is relevant to note that its first sister should have never been built. Imagineers, thinking Pirates were a bit overused in Florida, envisioned a Western style version of Pirates to be built during phase 2. But after many Walt Disney World guests asked why Pirates was not in the Magic Kingdom, they scrapped Western River Expedition to make way for Florida’s own ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ which opened in 1973. As there was no New Orleans Square in this Magic Kingdom, Pirates settled in Adventureland. The 2 other Pirates would both open on opening day in 1983 for Tokyo Disneyland and 1992 in Disneyland Paris.
Tokyo and Disneyland share the same exterior design, for even though there is no New Orleans Square proper in Japan, its Adventureland holds a similarly themed area with its own Blue Bayou and New Orleans street which both set the decor for its own Pirates of the Caribbean. They both hide behind the same Lousiana townhouse with the difference being that Anaheim’s has a queue area extension in the form of an elevated round-about ramp which hides most of its first floor.
Cleared off facade of Tokyo Disneyland Pirates’ town house.
flickr user: pink_emmie_bat
Disneyland facade hides behind the modern queue extension.
5 Kingdoms contributor partyhare
The two other versions have their own entrance style even though both of Spanish architectural inspiration!
Magic Kingdom park’s Pirates are shielded behind a Spanish fort-like structure called Castillo Del Morro, sided by a prominent clock tower. The ensemble is enclosed in an unofficial area called Caribbean Plaza which holds the recently renamed Tortuga Tavern (formerly El Pirata y el Perico) quick service restaurant which faces the Pirates attraction.
Walt Disney World’s own Castillo Del Morro is host to Pirates of the Caribbean
In Disneyland Paris, the buccaneers found shelter in an abandoned Spanish fortress. They use its own distinctive armory tower to rally the adventurous guest underneath a mast whose hauled down massive sail reads the iconic attraction’s title.
A production model of the dramatic entrance of Paris’ ride
Alain Littaye‘s Disneyland Paris From Sketch to Reality
Now each queue area is different among the 4 Pirates. But it’s fair to say that the theming is very similar for Tokyo and Anaheim.
In Disneyland, all the waiting primarily takes place outside of the house where you wander around its front garden, eventually climb up its pathway and down again toward the entrance of the house. Once inside, you queue pass a small brick wall above which the boats gently sail and behind which is set a small island with funny parrots. It is then a straight line to the Laffite’s Landing loading area.
In Disneyland (here) and Tokyo Disneyland, the indoor houseboat river means you’re close enough to Laffite Landing.
flickr user: christine.pingel
Tokyo starts the same way (minus the outdoor garden) unless after being welcomed by the boats and parrots, you take a left and explore the house’s first floor. There the line can stretch around indefinitely, even a second floor is available for very busy days. Afterwards it’s back next to where you enter and following the stream and brick wall toward the loading area.
Inside Tokyo Disneyland Pirates’ mansion.(Sorry no better quality)
Orlando’s Pirates waiting area is initially set underneath the hacienda where it can spread around its immense open air ground floor. Then the guests walk underneath two archways, along a wide cellar corridor and inside the besieged construction. Once inside, the queue splits in two – the original path to the right leads into the fort and past a prison scene where two skeleton pirates are forever playing chess. The clever Marc Davis gag here, rare to be even in the waiting area, is that the chess board is set in a totally unwinable stalemate! The left queue takes a different path, with less theming, to board the ride boats on the opposite side of the loading area.
The outdoor section of Orlando’s line is underneath the Castillo
flickr user: Groucho Dis
Disneyland Paris’ own fort holds a very long and detailed queue all set inside even though the outdoor is queue ready for major year dates. Indoors, it’s a series of very dark galleries going up and down, passing occupied prison cells, narrow windows, plunging precipices with skeletons in the bottom and all other kind of piratey artifacts ! Afterwards the guests come out overlooking the loading area which looks like a small Caribbean port swarmed impatient guests.
Paris’ many alleyways are garnished prisons cells acting as showcases of the pirate world!
But the outside is not the only thing differing on those 4 Pirate versions. The ride itself denotes a lot from one another. Before we start, it’s quite relevant to say that every Pirates of the Caribbean attraction has been updated to include references to the very popular movie franchise. For the nostalgic out there, as of today Disneyland Paris still detains a Jack Sparrow free crew but the Hollywood overhaul will soon be officially announced for the French park to roll out during its 20th anniversary next year. High five the castmember, we’re going in.
Psst! Avast there! Remember mateys that because these are all familiar scenes, the tale that follows will not linger into detailed description but rather give a quick synopsis comparison of the 4 riggety layouts.
Paris loading area as seen from the line above
flickr user: DanMcNeely
Let’s start by what doesn’t change around the Kingdoms : the main part of the ride – its core story! It starts between an assailing galleon called the Wicked Wench whose captain identified as Barbosa in some locations, but still Black Beard in Paris, shouts out against the attacked fort opposing him. It follows by a plundered town whose mayor is being dunked in a well and women are being auctioned. The third main stage is the most famous and depicts what happen when you put a bunch of inebriated pirates in the center of a burning city (which they set on fire themselves). That’s it - this is the main trail of the attraction, and the portion that throughout all 4 Kingdoms is always present with very little alteration.
Now for what’s before and after this most memorable course, we’ll see that no salty old Pirates seek the same adventure.
The original and Tokyo’s have you start with a bayou canal from which you can overhear the discreet whisperings of the Blue Bayou restaurant. Afterward every shipmate listens to the ‘cabin joe’ and plunge into the abyss of the Caribbean.
There, still shivering from their single drop in Tokyo and two consecutive drops in California they test their weathered eye against the icy air of some cryptic lair where pirates found their end sitting on piles of golds and captain’s quarters.
The rallying sail of Disneyland Paris’
5 Kingdoms contributor Partyhare
This quiet start differs in Florida and France as those two Pirates don’t convey any cajun theme. As Orlando is stripped of any ‘Pirate restaurant’, Florida has you start straight on your voyage among a deserted beach covered with the remains of headstrong buccaneers, a raging squall and down to the unknown where at this point your journey will be the same as Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland except for the cavernous lair and several show scenes not present at Magic Kingdom park.
Even though Paris’ does include a Pirate attached restaurant, its start is the most different from the four. Indeed, the very first knots traveled are also shared with fellow patrons of the Blue Lagoon which, though of a very different theme, serve the purpose of the Asian and American Blue Bayou, but as soon as you left the murmurings and chinkings behind you, the adventure takes a unexpected start for the bow suddenly inclines up a waterfall.
That’s right, even though every other Pirates of the Caribbean’s journey starts with traveling down a waterfall, Paris’ does the exact opposite by towing the boats to an upper level unique to its conception. Once way above see level, the guests can look down to witness the attack of the fort by the Wicked Wench before navigating though a flooded fort in which some inmates attempt to bribe a guarding dog. Once this very popular scene is behind, they go down the Parisian first drop which leads in the middle of the Wicked Wench attack and down to the same besieged town shared by all 4 attractions.
In Paris, running chains give the illusion that the boats are really being hauled up by the fortress ancient mechanism.
flickr user: Shahnawaz Sid
Now we can skip this shared storyline of villages pillaged and ablaze, and go right after it where our four cruises part way again.
In Paris right after escaping the flames through the second bridge, Les Pirates des Caraïbes have their matelots goes down another slope and into those very same treasure grottos the other mateys explored during the first part of their travel.
In the meantime, in Japan and both American coasts, sailors finish their journey through the dog and inmate scene which Parisians encountered at start. After that Orlando goes straight to the unloading area. Tokyo and Anaheim are not quiet done yet, they end up in the middle of a gun fight inside the town’s powder storage and while Japanese unload right after that, Californians have to stay on board for the final waterfall climb up and a second pass by the entrance parrots and queue, this time in the boat.
This famous closing scene is opening Paris’ Pirates
flickr user: K. Buckingham
After that, while Disneyland corsair are towed back up ride level, Japanese and Floridian visitors use a speed ramp up to the gift shop, while guests from Paris, already on ground level walk right into a small piratish area with a gift shop and the Blue Lagoon restaurant depicted above.
All of this not without having met the famous talking skull or Jolly Roger. Its location differs in Paris though where instead of warning of the squalls ahead, it reminisces of those before. It is the last thing you see of the ride, waiting to unload. Alas, the skull is absent in Orlando where for some mysterious reason it was taken down for the 2006 overhaul and never returned.
After that, the pirates of the world will have to ride it again and again in order to catch every single detail! Parisians may have missed those unique to Disneyland Paris sword fighting bachelors during the chase scene, or this huge split ship wreck they’ve been cruising through at the start.
Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris may have a better queue than Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland. Those last two may have a better storyline than their Floridian and European counterparts but they all share those common details which mark our body and mind every visit: those gentle splashing sounds, the oh so safe flickering flames, the rocking of the boat when landing after a breezy, rapid fall, and this ever question we like to ask ourselves no matter how many times we faced the answer, what next squall be ahead?
Every land of a Kingdom has a pillar attraction that defines it, ‘Pirate’s’ is just that for already 4 lands and hopefully soon 5. But beside that, it is the origin of 4 blockbuster productions, 9 video games and truly stands as a model of story telling applied to a seldom used medium : the amusement ride. That may very well have been the climax of Walt Disney’s comprehension of amusement park rides, and it certainly has been a turning point for the theme park industry.
They’re clever and funny, we all give a hoot
drink up me ‘earties yo ho!
Written by Regis Philibert AKA CheriBibi with the tremendous help of Partyhare.