Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Case for the Florida Pirates

This is going to be a hard one to discuss, although it really shouldn't be. Pirates of the Caribbean, in Florida, is one of those rides - the first, in fact - which received a markedly inferior remake the second time around and much of the commentary surrounding the ride itself has been clouded by people falling all over themselves to damn the attraction for not being the first version. In the process of commenting on such cases the reviewers have taken so little time to assess that second version that some of the interesting things done with the attraction for her second incarnation are lost - valuable insights, especially in the case of Pirates of the Caribbean, as this was the original creative team trying to weed out some of the compromises they had been forced to take due to the original ride's turbulent gestation.

We then our going to take up this subject in some detail, a true breakdown of the second incarnation of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, to better understand and expose her variations, reimaginings, successes and failures.

I would be remiss to not begin with an acknowledgment that in a way the deck was stacked to begin with in the case of the Florida Pirates, because by all rights the ride shouldn't exist at all. Had Walt Disney lived four or even five years longer Walt Disney World would have no doubt opened with Marc Davis' Thunder Mesa attraction complex, an insanely ambitious attempt to rework the Pirates of the Caribbean magic in a new idiom. Had this happened, perhaps Pirates of the Caribbean would never have migrated 'cross the Mississippi, or perhaps would have eventually done so in a far different form.

There is an additional problem with the notion of remaking Pirates of the Caribbean, and that is that the original attraction is the best ride ever built. There's just no mincing words here, human hands have never built something better. Everything you can hope to aspire to in themed design is in that ride, and riding it is a nuanced and staggering experience. Still, many of those things that make it what it is are also things that were out of the designer's control. Build a cellar for a wax museum? We'll make it a boat ride. Design a ride that's too big for the cellar? Put it elsewhere.... get Claude Coates to design something for the cellar. Then Disney got X Atencio in to write dialouge for scenes that were really just disconnected pirate business. Why again are all the pirates dead at the start of the ride? Well - what if you're sent back in time? ....It was a graceful, if desperate, fix.

Since these elements and more were things that the original design team were obligated to do rather than decided to do - call it the growing pains of the creative process - they would be less than inclined to repeat them in future variations, and exploring some of this is the purpose of this essay. Because the Florida Pirate Ride (all the sets have that stenciled on their backside) isn't just a cut down remake, it's really a wholly different creature. It may not be a masterpiece in the way that the Disneyland version is, but it is a valuable companion piece if we come to it with open eyes. After all, every East Coast kid grew up with the Florida Pirates and liked it just fine, even without a Blue Bayou and a longer drop. And many many more people experience for the first time Walt Disney's final creative triumph in the form of her Florida cousin each year, which ought to give one pause.

Indeed if it's possible to blot from your mind the mastery of the original attraction, the Florida version is still a fantastic ride. The modes and meanings of some of the story beats are however markedly different than deserve some further explication than they are generally afforded.


Overall Structure
The single biggest factor in determining the eventual shape of the Florida Pirate ride was its placement in a Caribbean Plaza in Adventureland instead of a New Orleans Square somewhere else.

It is commonly repeated that WED wanted something more exotic than a New Orleans setting for the East Coast version of Pirates of the Caribbean and as such did not repeat the Big Easy themeing. This may be true but I think there is a more pragmatic answer. Although it's not as if New Orleans is closer to California than it is to Florida, San Juan (where the fortress that would provide a model for Florida's facade stood) and the real Caribbean are a lot closer to Central Florida than New Orleans is, and if Disney had felt it were worth repeating the New Orleans Square they most likely would have considered it. The reason New Orleans Square was out is because so much of it's essential makeup had already been repeated in the Magic Kingdom park in Liberty Square. There was, of course, the Haunted Mansion, but even many of the New Orleans shops had been faithfully inserted in Florida. The One-of-a-Kind Shop became Old World Antiques, Le Gourmet became the Yankee Trader, and even the Silver shop was included. So it wasn't simply a matter of not wanting to replicate a New Orleans setting for the Florida Pirate ride due to regional tastes; any New Orleans area anchoring the ride would require a total reimagining from the ground up anyway due to what Disney had already installed in the park they were working with.

And besides, although New Orleans Square and the Blue Bayou were beautiful, they were quite different from the final setting of the attraction that was eventually built. Instead of waxen pirates lurking in shadowy New Orleans alleys as was the initial plan, this ride really took place in the Caribbean, necessitating some supernatural location jumps in the original version. Why include the supernatural element at all and just start the riders off in the town the pirates are attacking? This has some real sense to it and this is indeed what was done.

Now I've already spoken before about the myriad charms of Caribbean Plaza, which is a masterful and romantic extension of the aesthetic of the ride, but the area gets too little credit for how brilliantly it ties together the attraction experience. Although it is an amazing conjuring trick to transport spectators magically from the port of New Orleans to a Caribbean island, in Caribbean Plaza it really does feel as though the courtyards, bridges, and verandas seen in the ride are lurking just behind the facades one sees at street level - as though it really did happen here. This means that the ride itself informs the pedestrian space and the pedestrian space informs the ride, a dynamic hardly ever achieved in themed design in such a dynamic way in the particular context of a ride that cannot be seen from that pedestrian space; ie one which is enclosed by four walls. In doing this, the setting and chronology of the original attraction is radically altered in such a way to iron out a lot of the post-design script doctoring and focus the attraction on the central event: the raid on the town.

The logic of the Florida attraction goes like this: as one approaches Caribbean Plaza and the Castillo del Morro, cannonfire can be heard coming from the Castillo. Entering through a sun splashed plaza, inside the Castillo everything has been abandoned although we can hear the Spanish soldiers elsewhere in the fort preparing from an incoming pirate assault. We can also, by the way, hear the pirates themselves, who seem as though they may always be just around the next corner. This dialogue still plays in the queue, although poor maintainence and the new Overture music drowns much of it out. "Captain! Los Piratas! They are attacking the village!" "Sound the alarm!" still floats down those stone corridors, albeit dimly now.

Arriving at the central Pirate's Cove area where the ships for the Castillo are built, spectators are loaded into escape boats which launch into a secret exit hidden in the hillside the fortress is built into (this idea is garnered from real Spanish fortresses). Just as the boats slip into darkness we pass the Moonlight Bay scene, where the threatening pirate ship may be dimly seen out in the water.

After a quick but exciting trip through the caves, where it seems some pirates had long ago buried treasure, we emerge safely out of the fortress but in the midst of a heated battle between the pirates and the Spanish soldiers. Slipping through the town under the cover of night we see the pirates sack and burn the village, finally escaping only after the pirates find the town's treasure vault.

Ghosts on the Open Sea
That is the ride experience of Pirates of the Caribbean as it opened in 1973 in Florida, and one must admit, compared to the all-over-the-place nature of the Disneyland version, where an inland Bayou somehow connects to oceanside underground pirate lairs and then on to a Caribbean Island, even if magically, the Florida show is a tidy package. But even in cleaning up the logic of the attraction, certain side effects of the original structure remain.

The above synopsis, for example, does not account for all the ghostly and menacing activity in those caves, a touch which makes perfect poetic and harmonic sense in California where the attraction seems as full of myth and mystery and superstition about the sea as any passage of Moby Dick. The famous Dead Man's Cove scene, although restaged by Davis in a more concise form, is not as haunting or as cinematic as its original version in Disneyland where the boats hug the shoreline of the grim scene rather than simply approach and then move away from it.

But since these skeletons are obviously "dead", ie inanimate, their inclusion does not violate the more realistic linear outline of the Florida presentation, even if the ghostly disembodied voice intoning "dead men tell no tales" does. Still, following this with the nicely restaged but even more overtly supernatural Hurricane Lagoon and talking skull scenes does push the attraction into confusing territory. This is where confusion surrounding the intention of the original designers to include or exclude a time travel storyline in the Florida ride gets murky, because in Disneyland the occurrence of these elements are earmarks of a developing open sea ghost story. I have no explanation as to their inclusion in Florida, because the attraction is already operating under the logic that the Pirates are attacking now.

What immediately followed in the 1973 ride was the ride's absolute poorest choice, which was to recycle Atencio's dialouge from the Disneyland version which achieved the magical transformation of time and place thanks to the "cursed treasure". These are the original dialouge lines:

"Ohh... perhaps ye knows too much. Ye 'ave seen the cursed treasure. You know where it be hidden! Now proceed at yer own risk. These be the last friendly words ye hear! You may not survive to pass this way again..."
"Dead men tell no tales.."
"No fear have ye of evil curses, says you? Ah, properly warned ye be, says I! Who knows when that evil curse will strike the greedy beholders of this bewitch'ed treasure!"
"Dead men tell no tales..."

Obviously intended to help the riders make sense of all this, in the Florida version these lines still played at the bottom of the downramp, now confusingly reduced in length to allow both voices to be heard in the abbreviated runoff area:

"Perhaps ye knows too much. Ye 'ave seen the cursed treasure. You know where it be hidden!"
"Dead men tell no tales.."
"No fear have ye of evil curses, says you? Ah, properly warned ye be, says I!"
"Dead men tell no tales..."

Instead of informing, these reduced versions are neither here nor there in content or context, confusingly referring to cursed treasure which we have not seen on the ride. The empty treasure chest at Dead Man's Cove clearly indicates that somebody has already gotten to the jewels and killed their own or another crew in the process. The whole scene is further muddled by the lack of the entire pirate underground lair presented at Disneyland: in that original context, "Dead men tell no tales!" clearly is a warning that the dead will not give up their secrets so easily.

In Florida, and I speak confidently here because this is how I interpreted the statement for years only having the Florida ride's context to work from, "Dead men tell no tales" seems to imply that the crew that buried the treasure were murdered to conceal the location of the treasure instead of the subterranean scuttle at a later date that Davis' scenic designs are meant to render. Because all we see to link the ghostly pronouncement to the evidence left behind is a beach strewn with bodies, "Dead men tell no tales" becomes a Disney version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Fifteen men on a Dead Man's Chest!"

No treasure left here....

Again, this does not seem to be the intention, and helps to draw out the suspicion that the "ghost" scenes were simply repeated for their fame and simplicity rather than for any reason of having a good reason to be in this radically altered version of the ride. Much like the stretching room scenes in the Haunted Mansion, which had to be radically re-engineered to be included in the Florida show since their practical purpose was no longer of value, these scenes simply were included because it wouldn't be Pirates of the Caribbean without them. However, sadly, it does leave a gaping hole in the logic of the story. Just what the heck happened to us on our way out of the fort?!

Through the Town
Now nobody discusses it much because of the Disneyland-centric nature of discourse about the attraction, but once through the problematic grotto scenes, the massive town scene - the reason for the ride to exist, let's admit it - is significantly better designed in Florida. Although to the untrained eye they're exactly the same, certain design eccentricities about the Anaheim show have been corrected , eccentricities which perhaps nobody saw fit to correct in the indecision about what to do with the Pirate show. The layout of the scenes in the town were originally designed to squish together into the basement dug for the walk-through version of the attraction in 1963, and although all the structural steel would be torn out and the basement re-dug to accommodate the expanded show, nobody seemed to alter the layout of the town scenes much beyond placing them outside the berm. I'm not sure I would have thought to do much either, but the cramped quarters downstairs under New Orleans Square did result in some odd placement which someone in WED recognized and adjusted for the 1973 show.

On page 29 of Jason's Surrell's book on the ride, a blueprint of the attraction can be observed which is meant to fit snugly into that basement (if you need further proof, go back to page 24 of the same book and compare the shape of that layout rendering of the walk through Pirate show to the shape of the blueprint in question). This is exactly the shape the final ride in Disneyland follows, and it has some oddities dictated by available space. For example, as the boats leave Bombardment Bay they tightly hug a tower of the fortress under assault as the boats proceed into the Well scene. But as soon as the boats turn, they're immediately into the Auction scene, and some of the action of the Well scene is seen from a slightly strange three-quarters view as a result, including Carlos' house with his wife in the window. In Florida, the track and layout is altered so that the Well scene is arranged facing the boats from left to right instead of skewing away from the boats as in Disneyland. Similarly, the scene is paced out better because instead of viewing the scene from a remove caused by the curving nature of the track, in Florida the boats approach the scene, move alongside it, and then exit the scene. Marc Davis or somebody else has placed a handsome two-towered building between the Well scene and Auction scene, replacing a simple wall with a small boat as the visual divider between the two scenes.

These changes anticipate the shape of the alterations for the Florida show, which is overall slower paced with greater space between those scenes which have remained. Every scene in the Disneyland show is atop the next; although the boats no longer move at the proper speed in California and so we spend longer than WED intended in each scene, there is less breathing space between one scene and the next. By placing that two-towered building between the restaged well scene and the Auction scene in Florida, our attention is allowed to momentarily wander, to move from the Well scene's dialogue to that big building, or maybe across the way to a dimly illuminated balcony complete with flickering lanterns and some chairs. When we enter the Auction scene, we see it first from afar, become oriented, then move in close. It provides a better showcase for each scene.

Another beat that the California show is poorer without but which was invented for Florida is the quiet moment between the Chase scene and the Fire scene. The reason it's there is a somewhat practical one; it is at this point in the Florida show that the boats' spur line, a side track under and behind the sets onto which empty boats may be pulled to be sent to the Maintainence Bay, branches off the Main Track. In California this happens in the Bombardment scene, but the extra moment passing the spur line entrance in Florida once again allows the attention to wander after the last turntable gag in the Chase scene (fat woman chasing the terrified pirate), and something wonderful happens. The ride suddenly gets very quiet and we may notice the moonlight illuminated tree, Yale Gracey's cloud projections cutting across the sky, and then focus on Old Bill with his rum talking to the cats. Old Bill is a Walt Disney World original designed by Davis for this quiet scene, and the way the attraction gets very dim and quiet right before moving onto its' loudest and most raucous section in the Burning City shows real sensitivity to highlighting the internal rhythms and paces of the show.

Later on, Old Bill ended up in Disneyland too, but his placement almost directly across from the last turntable in the Chase scene meant that this wonderful moment was lost; Old Bill is just another figure on your way through the ride. It isn't a total tragedy; the spaces between these scenes in Florida in a way make up for the quiet, contemplative mood of the start and end of the Disneyland show which has been sacrificed in the streamlined Florida version. That all of the complex textures and tonalities of the original attraction could not be carried over is unfortunate, but the greatly improved pacing of the town scenes does provide some measure of balance in an otherwise greatly reduced attraction.

Out the Door
One of the biggest problems with the Florida show was actually its most unique feature: Marc Davis' redesigned ending, replacing the climatic shootout in the munitions storehouse. Now the Disneyland final scene doesn't make much sense and neither did the Walt Disney World treasure scene, but at Disneyland the whole experience is aided by following the inconclusive shootout scene with a ride back up the waterfall and back to the Bayou, whereas Walt Disney World's version immediately dumped out into an unload area and guests rode a speedramp back up to ground level.

It's not as if the Treasure scene was poorly done; the gags were very funny if strange (a pirate rubbing his bare feet in strands of pearls, for example) and some of the immediacy of the shootout was retained by having the pirates firing their pistols wildly in the air, rolling around like Mexican Banditos having taken off with the loot. But unlike at Disneyland, these pirates weren't shooting at each other - they weren't shooting at anything, and the threat of being hit by a stray bullet was less about being between two groups of pirates who are increasingly poor shots than just being beaned by a stray lead pellet. Thus the threat of the scene was gone. And although everyone enjoyed looking through the trestled arch into the treasure room, one nagging problem remained - the whole town was still burning up around the Pirates visible in the background, so perhaps, like at Disneyland, their victory would be short lived. In fact, since there is no time travel and thus no way to escape the fire, the threat of the pirates is not resolved by simply getting off the boats and up a speedramp. So ironically while the Florida version of the ride did provide a resolution to the pirates story, it still was less of an satisfactory ending than its' original form.

Marc Davis often spoke of his dislike of the upramp scene at Disneyland and saw to it that all subsequent forms of the ride that he would be involved in excluded it. But perhaps it is telling that when given the opportunity to remake the original ride for Tokyo Disneyland he cut, shuffled, condensed - and did not bother to include his 1973 Treasure Room scene, but did replicate the Walt Disney World unload area, complete with another trip up a speedramp back to the daylight.

I think however that Davis' instincts were right, here, in one other capacity, which may not seem like much but which indeed colors ones perceptions of the ride to come greatly. Unlike at Disneyland, where the first sight one is greeted with upon entering the attraction is people waiting to disembark, by unloading passengers downstairs at Florida and getting them on a speedramp up out of the building, the boats return to the Load Area ominously empty!


In the final analysis it's sort of a fool's errand to try to say that the Florida show is comparable to the California show since it obviously is not, even if some of the design choices do show an increased sophistication on the part of WED. For example, the decision to create a highly themed queue in Florida is likely a practical one: if the length of the overall ride is to be greatly reduced, then the exterior of the attraction and the waiting area must be used to set up the story.

But this design restriction opened up a whole new world of themed design possibilities by forcing WED to invent the themed queue, and the Pirates of the Caribbean queue in Florida is still one of the best and most brilliant. Even today Disneyland suffers somewhat from the fact that most of her queues were constructed prior to this central moment in themed design: much of the time the queue takes place in tightly packed, carnival-style switchbacks outside the exterior of the attraction. This was, of course, the rule at the Magic Kingdom in Florida as well: anybody who ever waited in line for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Jungle Cruise prior to their slight increase of themed diversions in the early 1990s will likely remember how maddening and deadening those experiences were. On the same note, WED clearly immediately grasped the import of the richly themed queue and created one so brilliant for the 1975 Space Mountain that even today the act of getting to and from the ride is 70% of that attraction's appeal.

There are some minor exceptions here - waiting areas for shows such as The Hall of Presidents and the Enchanted Tiki Room (either coast) were quite elaborate as early as the 1960's, perhaps because designers thought that if the audience were standing in one place waiting for the show to begin they would require more opulent surroundings. And of course there were themed boarding areas which contained part of the expected queue line, as anybody who remembers Adventure Thru Inner Space or If You Had Wings will recall. But the notion of the wait in line being an experience and of itself was new and in a way it may be WED's greatest design breakthrough of the 1970's. So while the ride may leave something to be desired, the fact that it is prefaced by something so central a moment in themed design means that perhaps the Florida Pirate Ride deserves more respect than she gets. After all, richly themed queue experiences like The Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones Adventure or Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey would be impossible without this supposedly "bastardized" version.

And I detect one more improvement in the Florida ride, which is the approach to the ride itself. In the 1967 version, the ride is hidden behind three sets of very plain doors and we take it more or less on faith that Pirates of the Caribbean is indeed back there. The Florida ride, however, looks and feels as massive and intricate as it will prove to be from the outside, a real call to arms to rush into the fortress and begin.

Then again those three doors and that sign hint that maybe the most extraordinary of adventures can lurk behind the most ordinary of doors; that we may, in effect, find any number of enchanted worlds by stumbling through an unmarked door down an alley or drifting to a lifeless and haunted part of a bayou. The California exterior hints at the mysticism and mysterioso qualities of that ride, the supernatural and haunted element which haunts us, too. The Florida ride is a call to adventure on a grand scale, but maybe in pulling all the kinks out of the ride, in a way, WED has taken a slinky and straightened it, made it no longer as fun. I think well above any missing figures or scenes or drops or restaurants, the most damning thing you can say about the Florida Pirate Ride is that WED has plucked the heart out of their mystery, made it somehow more like lesser rides. The 1973 version of the ride may have some admirable qualities, but it lacks the 1967 version's aspect of seeming to be like a dream - something that maybe you totally imagined. The literal minded 1973 ride lacks this quality and is innumerably poorer without it.


Pictures: Daveland.Com, Disney and More, Disney Pix, Pana Vue Slides, etc...


Mat Black said...

Excellent article as usual!
I think the way WDW has neglected the POTC is a shame. The last two times I've been on it the projected clouds weren't working. I wish they would have saved the money they wasted on the Depp AA and the squidface projection and instead put that money back into maintenance.

Omniluxe said...

Great observations on this. I was certain that they had done away with the sound of the Spanish guards in the queue in 1997, but as you noted the music from the film in there now is so loud that nothing can really compete. It also seems to me that the storyline promised by the queue is already compromised (before you even see the ship in Moonlight Bay) if you're on the right hand side of the queue, because you pass the cave where pirates are digging away. If they're among those "attacking the village," however, then the queue's logic is still potentially in tact.

ericpaddon said...

Fascinating article, the first I've ever read that really tries to get to the heart of the difference between the two versions.

I would like to think for the sake of my own enjoyment of Pirates over the years (never having been to DL), that in the best of all possible worlds, WDW could have gotten the Western River Expedition as originally planned and that sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, Pirates came to WDW anyway.

ash said...

having only experienced the dland version of the ride, this was really fascinating. i've been going to the park since i was just a young kid (four, i think, was my first trip) and i had never, in all those years and dozens and dozens of rides realized how the story works and to think that it tells a different one in florida is fascinating!

great piece.

Dan said...

Great post! Have you visited the Pirates ride at Disneyland Paris? That one is long and intriguing, with several drops and some amazing sequences. I only rode it once, and it's the type of ride that needs many trips to see everything.

Adam said...

You make me want to be a better Disney Fan.

Again, a masterwork of design analysis.

Unknown said...


Maybe one day, we can have week-long seminars in Disney Design.

Will we call you Professor Foxx, Professor Fur or Professor Foxxy?

Carly said...

I hope Disney is reading this so they know that people are paying attention to what they're doing to the rides we love!

I second the vote for Pirates in Disneyland Paris, although there's no security whatsoever on that ride. Tons of flash photography and a teenage water fight ruined our last ride over there.

Jason G. said...

Great article. I presume that many East Coasters like me grew up with Florida Pirates as our only example. Sure we may have heard tidbits about Disneyland Pirates, but people forget that in the '80s (maybe '70s for some), it was very hard to really get this kind of information like we can now. One can easily view ride-throughs on the Internet. And honestly, it's not a big deal anymore to fly cross-country on a plane. That wasn't something a lot of people I knew did in the '80s.

So for someone like me, I hit up WDW 10 times before i ever got to Disneyland. By that point i had heard from two people in my life who'd gone to DL that the Pirates "was better." When i went in 2006, i certainly concurred. To me the thing that struck me were the scenes in DL that more properly inspired the films. I also just adored the whole bayou sequence and some of the other expanded sections. But i still love Florida's because of it's own inherent charm, the nostalgia i have growing up with it, and that it can't be slighted for not being the absolute best. It's like reading a book after seeing the movie. Sometimes you can appreciate both and just enjoy the book as a more in-depth version of the same concept.

Go said...

Superb article. Really enjoyed it.
Love both Pirate rides in DL and DW.
Caribbean plaza and the queue in Florida are top notch. The bayou scene with the fireflies in DL is unforgettable.

Robynne said...

I loved reading this article. Your work is exactly the kind of scholarly attention to detail that the Disney parks deserve. There's more artistry that goes into the parks than most people acknowledge.

I think it's worth addressing the overall plot and message of both rides. (This is all prior to the inclusion of Jack Sparrow.) At the end of the Disneyland version, with the shootout scene, it is clear that the pirates are sealing their own doom. They have the treasure, yes, but they are merrily shooting at each other while surrounded by explosives. The implication to me has always been that, happy as they are, they are about to die in a fiery blast from their own foolishness. Thus, the curse we learned about at the beginning comes home for everyone who takes that treasure. This is underlined by the skeleton pirates you see on the ramp back up, who are pushing treasure too heavy for them to lift and have stabbed each other in the back for it. Clearly, they don't make it out alive.

In the Florida version, there's no shootout. I always took the end scene as being the town's treasure vault, which the pirates have successfully looted. The curse has no resolution in this version; in the end, the pirates get away with their villainy.

otisney said...

Very nice article, Foxxfur.

I just experienced Tokyo's Pirates this April, was raised on the original version (lived in Orange County, CA for 12 years) and now live in Orange County, FL. So, I'm quite familiar with all 3 versions. (Never been to Paris, sigh).

This thesis puts a lot of the different versions and storylines into perspective. Very thought-provoking, Kudos!


Inkwell Bookstore said...

Wonderful! Thank you!

Mark said...

Have you ever seen DLP's version of Pirates? It's the best of all worlds.Simply amazing.


champagneandgummibears said...

Very interesting post, as usual. For some reason when I was little I always took "Dead men tell no tales," to be a threat, thinking the disembodied voice was making it clear that the easiest way to prevent us from telling someone the location of the treasure, or as you pointed out lack there of in WDW, was to kill us. Perhaps I thought this is why the pirates in that scene were dead, who knows, but this post made me realize that my three year old self's logic has always colored how I viewed PotC

tamajinn said...

Foxx, I just saw on Youtube that mermaids-- MERMAIDS-- have been added to the caves in the WDW version, along with a mermaid skeleton on the beach. What the holy heck is up with that?? I'm floored. Why not just add a giant animatronic Calypso to the bombardment scene too while we're at it?

In reply to Robynne's comment, I thought I remember there having been a "shootout" scene at the end of Magic Kingdom pirates. I believe this may have been done away with, but I feel like I remember watching the pirates take pot shots at each other when there were boat back-ups waiting to unload.

Still-- the mermaid business. I feel like it will encourage noisy tourists to say, "Look, pirates killed Ariel!" *dread*

tamajinn said...

Whoops, I somehow missed the paragraph regarding the shootout the first time I read through. I remember thinking that if the ride designers wanted us to be scared of being shot by the pirates, it didn't really work. The cannonball effect is much more ominous, even if no one is really worried that the little boat will be demolished.

Cheers to Old Bill!

Tim said...

This is a great article, but there's a couple there a couple aspects of WDW's Pirates ride that tend to get over looked, or have just been lost to time.

As you mentioned the Thunder Mesa/Western River ride was originally going to be Florida's answer to DL's Pirate Ride, but WDW was going to have a whole Pirate island instead. Treasure Island out in Bay Lake was going to include a Spanish style fortress that housed some type of restaurant/dinner theater, I believe it going to be something like Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue or the Polynesian's Luau... except with Pirates. But when the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was fast tracked for WDW in 1972 it seems the plans for Treasure Island's Fortress got recycled and relocated into Caribbean plaza, and it's also the reason Treasure Island was eventually renamed Discovery Island. The early maps in the resort hotels showed the fortress out on Treasure Island, ImagiNERDing has a pretty good scan of it here.

Also the decision to build POTC at WDW in 1972 didn't immediately rule out the building of Western River Expedition, which was still planned to be built until the late 1970's. However the Western River Ride had already incorporated 2 features of Disneyland's POTC, the long slow boat ride through the caves at the beginning, and a ride "up a waterfall" at the end. Since Western River was still a possibility at the time Florida's version of POTC was being designed by Marc Davis I think it's probably safe to assume that he omitted those 2 features so not to have them seem like repeats when/if Western River was finally built.

FoxxFur said...

Hey Tim;

Check out this (3 part) article I did on Western River Expedition. I reached some similar conclusions.