Today wraps up the four-night Pirates “week” portion of Freeform’s 30 Days of Disney with the 2011 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. This film while still part of the PoC Universe took a hard left turn after the original trilogy, leaving behind the love story of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan and choosing instead to explore more of Jack Sparrow's backstory and trying to bring new lore to the Pirates films with mermaids and Blackbeard. But instead of focusing on the film, today I am going to focus on the “Pirates Life” as I look at the evaluation from attraction to films to back to the attraction.
1960s: Walt Wants Pirates
As the story goes, Walt wanted to bring one of his favorite cities, New Orleans, to Disneyland at the bend of the Rivers of America. Construction had started and plans were in place for a wax museum dedicated to (the oh-so-family-friendly topic) pirates. But with the success of ‘it’s a small world’ at the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair, plans were quickly changed it the attraction that we all know and love. Pirates of the Caribbean opened in Disneyland on March 18, 1967. Sadly, Walt never saw the final product as he passed three months before. However, his passion and direction were the reason this attraction has remained a fan favorite that has not only been duplicated at Disney Parks around the world but, in 2003, inspired one of the most successful attraction-based films: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Jack Sparrow Moves In
In 2006, to coincide with the release of the second film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, both the Pirates attractions in Disneyland and at Walt Disney World received enhancements in the form of Jack and some of the crew from the films moving in. These changes were met with mixed reactions from die-hard fans of the attractions but, once Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa from the first film along with a ghostly Davy Jones “waterfall” were in place, most guests assumed they were always there.
As the franchise has continued, both Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland have received enhancements based on the original trilogy, proving that Captain Jack and the crew are known worldwide. One of the highlights of all of these changes has been the visits by Jack himself to surprise park guests with special appearances.
With the addition of fourth film, On Stranger Tides (2011), further enhancements were made to include Blackbeard’s ghostly voice and image to the attractions. Yet by far one of the darkest additions came to to the Magic Kingdom attraction where the songs of the mermaids along with a skeleton of a captured mermaid being taken by pirates to the Fountain of Youth to tie with the storyline of the film. Of course, besides the enhancements to the actual Pirates of the Caribbean attractions, there have been shows, walk-around characters, and even the full retheming of Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland to Pirates Lair. All of this would prove to just be the lead up to the biggest Pirates take over.
Shanghai Disneyland – Treasure Cove
In 2016, the latest Disney Park opened in the form of Shanghai Disneyland. While this park saw many changes to the classic design of a “castle park,” one of the biggest was the omission of an Adventureland (opting for an Adventure Isle instead) and the addition of Treasure Cove — a land designed entirely around the Pirates of the Caribbean films. This area has pirate ships to explore that are integrated into the stories of Jack Sparrow and his crew along with a full indoor stunt show that is all about the legend of Jack in “Eye of The Storm.”
As amazing as the new land is, it wouldn’t be complete without a version of the attraction that started it all. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure takes everything from the over 50 years of pirates in Disney and turns it up to 11.
Pirates of the Future
As Walt once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” We have already seen some of the additions like the “waterfall” effect, voice-overs, and even the mermaids at Magic Kingdom removed over the past few years, so what does the future hold for the parks and films? Only the creative folks at The Walt Disney Company know where we may be going On Stranger Tides and into the future.
Our main correspondent for Walt Disney World and the Orlando area and a heck of a paleontologist if he does say so himself.