Monday, June 27, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean-The RIDE

DISCLAIMER: I'm no expert.  Other than first hand accounts from my own ride experiences at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disney, I owe all I know about the POTC attractions to others far more talented than myself. Jason Surrell, author of several good books on Disney including Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies is one such person.  Chef Mayhem, whose excellent website Tell No Tales ( is another.  Without these people and the many others like them across the e-World, I'd be all at sea on this topic.
Totally stole it from the official Disney website
I first went to Walt Disney World (very near Orlando, Florida) in the summer of 1982 (maybe 81...I'm not sure, it was a long time ago, but it was WDW's Tencennial).  As a VERY YOUNG tyke I wanted to spend my time in Fantasyland and Tommorrowland because that is the sort of thing kids do.  My parents were good enough to force me to ride other things.  I want to tell you that my lifelong love of pirates was born on that trip when I rode The Pirates of the Caribbean, but I suspect that would be a lie.  I'm pretty sure it was my next trip to WDW that made me a POTC fan (also a fan of The Haunted Mansion and the no longer with us, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride...damn you, WDW, you took away my Toad!), but no matter for a lifelong POTC and pirates in general fan I became.

You will hear and read many different opinions about it, but I personally think it is one of the greatest dark rides of all time.  Technical excellence in form and presentation.  I also feel, and this might come as a surprise, that it is somehow spiritually inseparable from The Haunted Mansion.
Again, totally stolen from Disney website
What's that you say?  I'm psycho?  That's not nice.  
The original POTC opened in California in 1967 and the original HM opened in California in 1969.  The WDW POTC opened in 1973 and the WDW HM opened in 1971.  At DL the POTC and HM are both in New Orleans square and may or may not share a history, depending on your sources.
That's not what I'm talking about today.  I am speaking of a connection that the fans themselves seem to notice.  Both POTC and HM are dark rides.  Both POTC and HM were originally set to be museums and then walk-through attractions before their final forms.  Both use audio animatronics, which is nothing special now, but was in the 60s and both feature a loose collection of sight gags held together by a catchy tune.  The dichotomy is found in the technology.  POTC was state-of-the-art, or I suppose better than state-of-the-art as WED was all about innovation.  The detail work on the pirate AAs, the set design, the attention to detail was all superb and made use of all the technology WED had developed up to that point.  By comparison HM uses smoke and mirrors, stage tricks from a century before and classic 'dark ride' techniques.  It is almost 'retro' at its time of launch.
I loved them both equally and would find myself running from one section of the park to the other (again, WDW, shown on the map below, not Disneyland) since the park designers did not feel the need to put the two very close together.
The circled areas are the two most important attractions in the whole damn park
I especially enjoy doing this after dark as there is something magical, to me at least, about going into a dark ride in the dark and coming back out of it in the dark.  Plus, as the image above shows, the WDW HM looks great in the dark.
In a future post I want to address just how related POTC and HM are in the hearts and minds of fans.  For now let it suffice to say that lovers of dark rides tend to love them both but not always equally.  I can't decide which I love more, which leads to the breathless 'last hour, last call' runs between the two before the park closes.  I'm not sure which I'd like to live in more, you see.
I do love the POTC ride.  I was hurt every time a change was made to appease some whinging group that felt it's personal rights were infringed upon, such as when the pirates had to start chasing the women for food instead of sex, which is obviously what they were after.  Keep selling women on the block, but for the love of the goddess don't let pirates chase booty!
I have not been to the parks since the POTC updates that added film specific characters.  I can't say if it is a good or bad thing.  I know I like the films and I love the ride, so I imagine I will be okay with it if I ever get to visit again.  Still, dammit, stop changing things.  Some things are better unchanged, standing as shining examples of how things once were.  After all, they haven't changed the Pepper's Ghost effects in the HM and when they do it will all be shot to Hell.
Stay tuned for more POTC/HM fun as I explore the real and imagined links between these two stalwarts of the WED art.

And as always, keep yer ruddy pumpkins lit, maties.

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