Pirates of the Caribbean is a dark ride attraction at Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Park in Paris. The original version at Disneyland, which opened in 1967, was the last attraction whose construction was overseen by Walt Disney; he died three months before it opened. The ride, which tells the story of a band of pirates and their troubles and exploits, was replicated at the Magic Kingdom in 1973, at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and at Disneyland Paris in 1992. Each of the initial four versions of the ride has a different façade but a similar ride experience. A reimagined version of the ride, Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, opened at the Shanghai Disneyland Park in 2016.

The ride gave rise to the song "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" written by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio. The Vandals use the song's melody briefly in their song "Pirate's Life", which is about riding the attraction under the influence of LSD. The song also became the basis for the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, which debuted in 2003. Since 2006, Disney has incorporated characters from the film series into the Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris versions of the rides.


The Disneyland version was the last attraction that Walt Disney himself participated in designing; it opened on March 18, 1967, three months after his death.[1] It was originally envisioned as a walk-through wax museum attraction; however, with the success of the boat ride concept of It's a Small World at the 1964 New York World's Fair, Disney decided to employ a similar concept on Pirates of the Caribbean.[2] It is located within the New Orleans Square portion of Disneyland, its facade evoking antebellum era New Orleans, topped by a 31-star United States flag (which would indicate the 1850s). The ornate initials of Walt Disney and Roy Disney (W.D. and R.D.) can be seen entwined in the wrought iron railings above the attraction's entrance at Disneyland. An overhead sign at the boat dock names it for the famous pirate Jean Lafitte (although his name is spelled Laffite as the pirate himself originally spelled it, rather than with the English spelling which has now become standard), who fought alongside the U.S. Army at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. The second floor of the facade was originally designed to be a private Disney family apartment. Instead it later opened in spring 1987 as an art-related retail/museum space called the Disney Gallery until late 2007 when it was replaced by the Disneyland Dream Suite. The opening of The Disney Gallery in 1987 also coincided with the attraction's outside queue area being completely redone to improve traffic flows. A bridge walkway was built in front of the attraction entrance to allow crowds to pass through New Orleans Square without causing traffic jams with the guests waiting in line for the attraction. The original installation at Disneyland was manufactured by Arrow Development.[3] The attraction's passenger carrying boats are very similar to those in a patent assigned to Walt Disney Productions, but filed by Edgar A. Morgan, one of the founders of Arrow Development.[4] Arrow participated in the design and development of many attractions at Disneyland from 1953.[5] The Blue Bayou Restaurant within the ride opened the same day as the attraction, and is considered one of the original theme restaurants.[1]

Attraction description


There are 630,000 gallons of water, 53 audio-animatronic animals and birds, and 75 audio-animatronic pirates and villagers in the attraction. It takes three days to empty and refill the "bayou" for renovations.[2] Across from the boarding area is the Blue Bayou restaurant, made to look like the backyard dinner party of a southern plantation.

The ride begins amid glimmering fireflies during an evening in a Louisiana bayou. Riders board their boats at Laffite's Landing and are at once afloat in the heart of bayou country, after the safety rules given by Blackbeard. Once past several rickety houseboats, the soft strumming of banjo melodies (including "Oh! Susanna" and "Camptown Races") can be heard over the peaceful sounds of nature as guests pass by one houseboat on whose porch an old man calmly rocks back and forth in his rocking chair. Above a stone archway, a talking skull and crossbones (voiced by songwriter Xavier Atencio) provides this taunting warning:

Psst! Avast there! It be too late to alter course, mateys. And there be plundering pirates lurkin' in ev'ry cove, waitin' to board. Sit closer together and keep your ruddy hands in board. That be the best way to repel boarders. And mark well me words, mateys: Dead men tell no tales! Ye come seekin' adventure with salty old pirates, eh? Sure you've come to the proper place. But keep a weather eye open, mates, and hold on tight. With both hands, if you please. Thar be squalls ahead, and Davy Jones waiting for them what don't obey.

A more chilling sound becomes audible from the darkness ahead: the thundering of a waterfall. The guests' boat takes a hair-raising plunge down the waterfall into a dimly lit cavernous passage, where a high-spirited version of the theme music plays.

After a second plunge further into the depths of an underground grotto known as Dead Man's Cove, guests behold the skeletal remains of an unfortunate band of pirates, guarding their loot and treasure with macabre delight.

The boats glide gently past a violent thunderstorm tossing an old pirate ship about, though the ship's pilot is nothing more than a skeleton. The boats pass through the crew's quarters, complete with skeletal pirates frozen in time – playing chess, the captain examining a treasure map, an old harpsichord playing the theme song, and a huge amount of treasure being guarded by another skeleton pirate. The Aztec chest from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl sits in the corner of the Treasure Room and is the last thing guests see before entering a dark tunnel.

A version of the main theme on a pipe organ echoes through the dark tunnel. A curtain of mist appears in the darkness. The image of Davy Jones is projected onto the mist and invites guests to proceed if they "be brave or fool enough to face a pirate's curse". The riders pass beneath the mist curtain and emerge into the next scene.

Cannonballs whistle overhead and explosions throw water into the air – a fierce battle between a marauding pirate galleon and a Caribbean fortress is in full swing. Captain Barbossa leads the assault from the deck of a pirate vessel named the Wicked Wench. A musical theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean films plays. From the deck of the Wicked Wench, Barbossa yells: "Strike yer colors, ye bloomin cockroachers, by thunder we'll see ya to Davy Jones! They need persuasion mates. Fire at will! Pound 'em lads! Pound 'em!" When a cannon is shot, guests may feel a powerful blast of air coming from the cannon, followed by a large splash and underwater lighting effects to simulate cannon fire.

The village of Puerto Dorado on Isla Tesoro is overrun with pirates in search of treasure. The first sight is the town square, where some pirates have kidnapped the mayor, Carlos, and threaten to drown him in a well if he doesn't divulge the location of the treasure. Carlos' wife tells him to be brave and not talk; she is shot at as Carlos is repeatedly dunked in the water while several other captive city officials look on. Captain Jack Sparrow is seen hiding behind some dresses. An auction scene follows, where a pirate auctions off the sobbing women of the town to other pirates. Drunken bidders hoot and holler for a redhead who is next in line while ignoring an overweight but chipper woman currently offered for bidding.

In the next scene, pirates run around chasing women holding trays of food, and two foolish buccaneers who have stolen snacks are chased by an angry woman holding a rolling pin. Just beyond is the "Pooped Pirate" drunkenly waving a map and key to a treasure vault, boasting that Captain Jack Sparrow will never see it. Jack is hiding in a barrel just behind him, popping out and getting a good look at the map over the pirate's shoulder. Off to the side, a pirate by the name of "Old Bill" wants to share rum with a group of terrified alley cats.

Carefree, tipsy pirates succeed in ravaging the town and setting it aflame, filling the night air with an orange glow. Riders next float past a jail where imprisoned pirates are doing their best to escape as flames draw near. A small dog just out of the prisoners' reach holds the key to their escape in his teeth; he seems all but immune to the pleas of the pirates trying to coax him closer. One of the pirates holds a noose, hoping to trap the dog.

Timbers are smoldering and cracking overhead as riders sail through a storage room filled with gunpowder, cannonballs, and rum-filled, gun-shooting pirates singing "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me". A shootout between the inebriated crew and captain of the pirate ship in a flaming ammunition warehouse threatens to demolish the entire village.

Finally, Jack Sparrow is seen in a room full of the hidden treasure (the treasure vault as mentioned by the Pooped Pirate). He is draped over a large throne-like chair and waves his new treasures around happily while chattering to himself and to passing guests. Every once in a while he sings, "Drink up, me hearties. Yo ho!". The boats proceed up a lift hill, and Davy Jones' and Blackbeard's voices are alternatively heard once more, encouraging riders to come back soon. The boats reach the top of the hill and spill back into the sleepy bayou where the journey began, passing by a parrot on a sandbar that can be seen from the queue.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean

The attraction, guarded by the Caribbean watchtower Torre del Sol, is housed in a golden Spanish fort called Castillo Del Morro, inspired by Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in the Old San Juan in San Juan.[6] The queue winds through the fort, passing supplies and cannons, and a pair of pirate skeletons sit at a chessboard.

Riders board their boats before entering a cavern that is similar to Dead Man's Cove in the Anaheim version. Guests pass through a mist waterfall with projections of Davy Jones and Blackbeard warning of the dangers ahead, before passing a pirate and mermaid skeleton on a beach. The same ship has run aground in a storm, with the pilot being nothing more than a skeleton. A talking skull takes a ride photo at this point, just before the boats slip into the darkness and down a waterfall.

After this, the ride is almost identical to Anaheim. After passing the locked up pirates trying to coerce the keys from the dog, riders pass by Captain Jack Sparrow sitting in a room full of treasure, singing to himself cheerfully. Guests then exit their boat, and board a speed ramp back to ground level, which drops guests in the gift shop.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris version

The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland Paris is housed in a battle-scarred fortress at the back of the park.

The queuing area winds through several courtyards outside before entering the fortress show building. Inside, the queue passes through the dungeons of the fort, offering glimpses of several skeleton pirates, along with a view of the crew's quarters scene from a balcony looking down. The queue then enters the Blue Lagoon area inside the show building, made to feel as though guests are outside at nighttime. The transport system was manufactured by Intamin. After boarding boats from a dock at the base of the fort, riders are sent under an archway and out into the Blue Lagoon, passing by the dining area on the left side and a jungle setting on the right. The boats pass through a shipwreck and enter an old fortress nearby. Inside the fort, gun noises and swordplay are heard in the back as the boats climb up a large lift hill used to haul cargo throughout the building. At the top, riders are given a brief view of the Wicked Wench pirate ship in the harbor below before entering into the depths of the fort. Inside, flames engulf the fort, and the shadows of fighting pirates and soldiers are seen. Up ahead, riders see the pirates in jail trying to coax the key from a guard dog.

The boats go down a waterfall in the side of the fort caused by a cannonball and pass the 'bombarding the fort' scene, which riders have just previously seen from above, where the soldiers and the pirates fire at guests. Entering the relative safety of the town, riders see all the original scenes from the Disneyland version, as well as a new pair of sword-fighting men who duel for a girl in the chase scene, and a projection effect of two pirates chasing a girl around in an upstairs window. The main dialogue of the scenes is in French, with the minor parts in English. The boats then enter the burning town scene, where the original English vocal tracks are present, singing the attraction's theme song.

The boats pass under an archway and enter the arsenal. The supplies are ignited by the fire and explode. Lights flash as an on-ride photo is taken, and the boats go down another drop into darkness. They emerge into the grotto scenes, passing all the skeleton pirate vintages seen at Disneyland, and a new shipwreck scene. This part of the ride can be seen from the railroad as it passes through the show building (similar to Splash Mountain at the other parks). The skull and crossbones from the original are seen over an archway, issuing a bilingual safety spiel. The boats return to the dock, and riders exit into a themed gift shop where they can purchase their on-ride-photo.[7]

Shanghai Disneyland

The Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean features a ride experience which greatly deviates from the original 1967 version of the ride and all subsequent incarnations. The ride blends digital large-screen projection technology, and traditional set pieces and audio animatronic figures to create an immersive experience.


Magic Kingdom's "Take a Wench for a Bride" auction scene, in which women were offered for sale by the invading pirates.

In the 1997 refurbishment, the "Pooped Pirate" was recast as the "Gluttonous Pirate", a rogue in search of food. The woman hiding in the barrel was replaced by a cat.

At the Magic Kingdom, the chase scene was altered to show the pirates making off with various treasure as the formerly "chased" women attempt to thwart them or to show pirates chasing women for food. The "Pooped Pirate" here holds a treasure map in his lap and a magnifying glass in one hand. The woman in the barrel remains, although this time she is hiding a small treasure chest in the barrel with her. Previously, the entire scene was pirates chasing women.[8]

In Jason Surrell's book Pirates of the Caribbean: From The Magic Kingdom to the Movies, showwriter Francis Xavier "X" Atencio referred to these "softening" touches as "Boy Scouts of the Caribbean".[citation needed]

Blackbeard projection at the Magic Kingdom ride

To coincide with the release of the 2011 film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, a projection of Captain Blackbeard from the film (portrayed by original actor Ian McShane) temporarily replaced the 2006 projection of Davy Jones in the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom version of the attraction beginning on May 20, 2011.[9]

On April 26, 2017, the Disneyland attraction closed during the afternoon in order to temporarily remove the first Jack Sparrow animatronic hiding behind the dresses, with Johnny Depp taking its place, interacting with guests as they passed by. This was part of a promotion for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.[10]

In June 2017, Disney announced that animatronics of Jack Sparrow would be added to two scenes in the Disneyland Paris attraction.[11] Later that month, Disney announced a change to the auction scene at Disneyland Paris, Disneyland California, and Magic Kingdom in which the town's women are auctioned off to the pirates, including the scarlet-clothed redheaded damsel. Instead, the new scene will show the redhead as a pirate helping the auctioneer sell off loot from the townspeople. The Disneyland Paris version reopened on July 24, 2017 with the changes, while the Magic Kingdom version received the new auction scene in March 2018 and Disneyland's version will receive it in summer 2018 after scheduled refurbishments.[12][13][14]

In addition to the inclusion of Jack Sparrow, the Disneyland Paris attraction included an animatronic of Captain Barbossa and images of Davy Jones and Blackbeard when it reopened on July 24.[15][16] In June 2017, Disney added back the talking skull to Magic Kingdom version.


In 2003, Disney released Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, a feature film inspired by the attraction starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in an Oscar-nominated performance. It has been followed by four sequels: Dead Man's Chest (2006), At World's End (2007), On Stranger Tides (2011), and Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), with the second installment winning an Oscar for Best Special Effects in 2007. The series has grossed over US$3.7 billion worldwide. These films included numerous allusions to the ride, most notably the attack on the fort, the famous jail scene, the namesake song, and a few lines from the characters.

At Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom Park of Walt Disney World, the character of Captain Jack Sparrow is occasionally available for photos and autographs, and is further featured in the short show Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial based loosely on the film series. The show is presented in front of or adjacent to the respective park's Pirates of the Caribbean attractions and features Captain Jack holding court and enlisting budding pirates to join his crew. Alongside Captain Jack is Mack, his faithful crewman; together they teach the audience how to be a pirate.

A video game by Akella, loosely connected to the first movie's plot, was released to coincide with the film. Port Royal, a world based on the Pirates of the Caribbean films, appears in the Square Enix game Kingdom Hearts II.

In 2000, Pirates of the Caribbean II: Battle for Buccaneer Gold opened at DisneyQuest at Florida's Walt Disney World Resort. On this attraction, up to five players board a virtual pirate ship to sail around a small 3-D world. Players may fire cannons at other virtual pirate ships; if opposing ships are sunk, their treasure will be "stolen".

Video game developer Ron Gilbert has often said[17] that the ambience for the Monkey Island video game series was partially inspired by the Disney attraction. One obvious homage is the prison scene in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, in which the player needs to retrieve the cell key from a dog using a bone. Although the dog in the scene is named Walt, it is named after game artist Steve Purcell's dog and not after Walt Disney.

On May 25, 2007, Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island opened at Disneyland park on the existing Tom Sawyer's Island section of the park. It features include new additions to the caves. The island also featured a 20-minute stunt show featuring character Captain Jack Sparrow when it first opened.



  • The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Epcot Center "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)"
  • Classic Disney Volume 5
  • Walt Disney World Resort: The Official Album (1999) "Overture" and "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)"
  • Walt Disney World Resort: Official Album (2000) "Overture" and "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)"
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (2000) 16-minute "float through," many audio elements from the attraction, plus unused music and dialogue
  • Walt Disney World Resort Celebrating 100 Years of Magic (2001) "Overture" and "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)"
  • A Musical History of Disneyland (2005) 16-minute "float through"
  • The Official Album of the Disneyland Resort (2005) 5:45
  • Disney Sing-Along Songs series

A version of "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" can be heard in several Disney theme park fireworks shows:

See also


  1. ^ a b "Disney history: Pirates of the Caribbean opens". The Orange County Register. March 14, 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Jim Fanning (2009). Disneyland Challenge. Disney Editions. p. 28. ISBN 978-14231-0675-3. 
  3. ^ Gurr, Bob (27 November 2013). "DESIGN: Those Were The Times – No.23 1955 Arrow Development – Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon". MiceChat. Retrieved 28 November 2013. 
  4. ^ US patent D204282, Morgan, Edgar A., "Passenger-carrying amusement boat", published April 5, 1966, assigned to The Walt Disney Company 
  5. ^ O'Brien, Tim (November 30, 1998). "Pioneers share Living Legend Award". Amusement Business. 110 (48): 20. 
  6. ^ Puerto Rico "Pirates of the Caribbean" Disney Reporter – Where the Magic Lives
  7. ^ "Strange & Frightening Sounds Blog: Pirates at Disneyland Paris". Strange and Frightening Sounds. 2011-12-25. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  8. ^ POV Ride on Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Paris (YouTube). Attractions Magazine. 24 June 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2016. 
  9. ^ Fitzgerald, Tom (May 6, 2011). "Blackbeard Comes Aboard at Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom Park May 20". Disney Parks Blog. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Johnny Depp Surprises Disneyland Guests Inside Pirates of the Caribbean Ride". Laughing Place Disney Newsdesk. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  11. ^ Stovall, Charles (June 13, 2017). "Disneyland Paris Update: Johnny Depp Visits His New Audio-Animatronics Counterpart in Re-Imagined Attraction". Disney Parks Blog. Retrieved July 1, 2017. 
  12. ^ "Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean ride will stop auctioning brides". The Orange County Register. June 29, 2017. Retrieved June 30, 2017. 
  13. ^ Cox, Danny (February 26, 2018). "Full Details About Changes Coming To Pirates Of The Caribbean Ride – What's Leaving? What Will Be New?". Inquisiter. Retrieved March 18, 2018. 
  14. ^ Ridgely, Charlie (March 14, 2018). "Disneyland Removing Controversial Section of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Ride". comicbook.com. Retrieved March 18, 2018. 
  15. ^ Libbey, Dirk (June 30, 2017). "Disneyland Is Making Another Big Change To The Pirates Of The Caribbean Ride". Cinemablend.com. Retrieved June 30, 2017. 
  16. ^ Nyren, Erin (June 30, 2017). "Disneyland's 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Ride to Replace Bride Auction Scene". Variety. Retrieved June 30, 2017. 
  17. ^ Scumm Bar (March 7, 2003). "Monkey Island – The Revelation". Retrieved October 30, 2012. 

Further reading

External links