December 21, 2015

The End of Pirates of the Caribbean

It remains to be seen whether or not the 2017 Johnny Depp focused Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a big hit or flop.  A 5th go around could end up either way.

This is not the case for the Disney attraction that inspired it all!

The Imagineers under the direction of Walt Disney himself cooked up a rollicking journey worthy of the name... and I love writing about it. (See a 45th anniversary look at the attraction here.) Upon its debut at Disneyland in 1967 at the elegant New Orleans Square, the attraction became an instant fan favorite. No one had ever created a theme park attraction like it- almost 15 minutes of astounding adventure. It is the theme park gold standard world wide, but unbelievably, it was not an opening day attraction at Walt Disney World

The plan for the expansion of the Magic Kingdom included a Wild West styled version of the pirate adventure, Western River Expedition, along with a multitude of other attractions. Had it all been built as originally planned, it would have made this new park's Frontierland the one to see. 

 Not there on opening day. No plans until the guests kept asking for it.

Blame it on the energy crisis, cold feet of Disney executives, or even the deluge of complaints from guests wondering where Pirates was, but Western River Expedition and all the attractions at Thunder Mesa were not to be. Visitors won out with their complaints, and executive Card Walker made the decision to scrap Marc Davis' unbuilt masterpiece in favor of a known hit.

A great construction photo.

You've got to see this in full size! Just click on it.

When it came time to duplicate the show for Florida's Magic Kingdom, Imagineer Marc Davis created a brand new conclusion along with some new opening scenes. I've always loved the original ending where the Spanish soldiers protecting the fortress are tied up while the pirates grab the golden treasure.

The final scene.
Postcard at

When the films based on the attraction became very popular, both the Disneyland original and the Florida version added Johnny Depp aka Captain Jack Sparrow to the mix. Purists scoffed. Fans of Mr. Depp and the films cheered. Nonetheless, crowds began to return to the Florida attraction, filling the queue once again.

Photo by Mike Thomas at Magic and Memories

Changes are constantly in play with the attraction. Additions have included other characters from the film and even a hint of deadly mermaid activity in the caverns. 

In 2017, Pirates of the Caribbean celebrates its 50th Anniversary at Disneyland. You can bet the Imagineers are planning for some new surprises to celebrate and honor this landmark attraction. I'm certainly hoping they pull it off!

(Unless denoted, art and photographs copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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