Can it really be? Next month, one of the most beloved theme park attractions, Disneyland's iconic Pirates of the Caribbean, celebrates its 50th anniversary. That's 50 years of high seas swashbuckling fun and adventure. 50 years of setting sail from the lovely New Orleans Square. And 50 years of changes both large and small.
Have you noticed the attraction has been down for refurbishment until next month? It's off the grid during Disneyland's slower post Christmas season in preparation for a fine tuning of effects... or even more change. What could they be up to?
Ever since Imagineer Marc Davis and company worked with Walt Disney himself to design this landmark adventure, it was clear there was always room for more show scenes, more enhancements, and more detail to be added over the years. There's concept art all over the internet showing scenes designed that never made the cut.
The success of the first Pirates film starring Johnny Depp, (that's Captain Jack Sparrow to you), and those that followed, brought about the most obvious changes to the attraction. But there's been hints along the way that other ideas and additions are seriously being considered.
The first major reworking of the flow of the attraction took place under Chris Tietz's leadership when designing the beautiful French Adventureland. The now very famous sword fighting pirates of Disneyland Paris (shown above) could make their arrival when California's version reopens next month. But perhaps there's more on the horizon. Couldn't they be looking in Asia for inspiration?
Shanghai Disneyland's version of the attraction is justifiably getting rave reviews. The eye-popping transformation of Captain Sparrow from skeleton to human is an Imagineering feat people will talk about for years to come. And the Imagineers at Disney who have a heart for "Walt's park" are not going to let this kind of special effect only be used overseas. In some manner or fashion, this accomplishment will make its way to Anaheim. That you can be sure about! When is the question. And what could be better than a 50 year anniversary?
Change is coming to Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland. We still have a few more weeks to wait and see what the Imagineers have cooked up, but I'm hopeful for what we'll see. Let's not forget this is the team that brought about the Hat Box Ghost for the Haunted Mansion. They've shown they look backwards at the roots of beloved attractions as they plan for its future. (Certainly not the suits but the artists, the Imagineers.) As the designers have shown us in China, they also look forward, using new technologies to give us reason to return again and again. And I know I will.