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Kim's Corner
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by Kim Petersen (archives)
March 13, 2003
Kim looks at the new Pirates of the Caribbean exhibit at Disneyland's Disney Gallery.

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The dreaded skull & crossbones flies above the entrance - daring all who enter to experience the latest Disney Gallery show celebrating the art that inspired the Pirates of the Caribbean.
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“Yo-Ho - A Pirate’s Life for Me?
Celebrating the Art and Imagineering of the Quintessential Disney Attraction

Kim Petersen
Brea, CA

“No fear have ye of evil curses says you, arrrrrrgh. Properly warned ye be says I.? I just love that line. Well, to be completely honest with you, I love the whole attraction - I am a Pirates of the Caribbean fan. And so, when the new Disney Gallery exhibit “Yo Ho - A Pirate’s Life for Me? opened on March 1 st, I had to be there. From the first time I rode amongst the Pirates in 1970 I felt that it was the perfect Disney attraction - and after riding it at the Magic Kingdom and at Disneyland Paris, I still do. It has everything - story, music, action, imagery, character, comedy, suspense, adventure, special effects and a great chase scene. What more could you possibly ask from a few minutes entertainment?

I’m also a great fan of that “Golden? generation of Imagineers whose talents and vision worked - all under the direction of Walt Disney himself - to make my favorite attraction a reality. Of those whose contributions have given me my favorite “ne’er-do-well cads? Marc Davis, Herb Ryman, Claude Coats, Blaine Gibson, X. Atencio, Joe Kaba, Collin Campbell, Joyce Eddington and others are featured here. The collector in me also likes the idea of a full-fledged art gallery at Disneyland and I’ve been really impressed by the last two Disney Gallery exhibitions, Eric Robison’s “One-Hundred Mickeys? and “Grim Grinning Ghosts? the Haunted Mansion/A Nightmare Before Christmas exhibit. Add the technology of the Print on Demand system to the merchandise mix and I’m a happy little swashbuckler.

“Yo Ho - A Pirate’s Life for Me?, like the Gallery’s previous show, is broken into three parts to take advantage of the layout of the exhibit space. Although each room carries a separate theme, each uses the same elements to create their own identity. You’ll find art, renderings, sketches, sculptures and maquettes throughout. It’s part of what I enjoy most about this kind of show - especially for an attraction that I love - the ability to look at the original concepts. Where else could I be inches from Marc Davis’ original concepts for the Captain’s Quarters or the Impaled Pirate? Or Herb Ryman’s 1963 charcoal early concept for the Jail Scene? Or Blaine Gibson’s maquettes of the Pirate in Pigsty? To be so close to genius?

As you enter the gallery you become part of the From Sketchpad to Reality - Evolution of a Dream you’ll notice that the Gallery Cast Members are dressed in Pirates costume. This room outlines the evolution of the attraction through architectural renderings, maquettes and character sketches. We find that, “Pirates of the Caribbean was not the product of a single, grand inspiration but of a long-term creative evolution.? We learn that the attraction was originally going to be a wax museum, then a walk through, but that “beginning in late 1963, a boat ride.? And that, “Like so many Disney dreams of the time, the concepts for Pirates of the Caribbean exceeded the technology needed to create them.? As with any opening chapter, the theme of the exhibit is simplified and then illuminated.

It seems that the turning point in the evolution of the ride came after the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, “With the Audio-Animatronics system, the skills to create life-like human and animal figures, special effects and an array of new show technologies. Combined, these made possible the creation of the grandest and most spectacular theme park attraction the world had ever seen - Pirates of the Caribbean.? The art featured includes Herb Ryman’s concept visualization for Up the Waterfall and an architectural rendering of the village waterfront. There is also a wonderful Claude Coats chalk, pastel and gauche concept of The Well Scene that establishes the staging between the characters and the show sets. There are also several Marc Davis character studies to be found here.

“At Walt Disney Imagineering, a story is explored and interpreted through many talents. The drawings of Imagineering’s artists serve as a visual guidepost for the creation of the entire attraction and are used by other Imagineers in a complex collaborative effort. These drawings becomes the basis for storyboards… ride layouts… scale models… special effects development… sculptural maquettes… costuming… lighting… show set design…and even inspire the music and dialog.? Through these relationships, guests learn that, “When Pirates of the Caribbean opened, it was the most ambitious and technically advanced attraction ever attempted. It integrated foreground action with rich background environments and used emerging technologies as a means to achieve a creative vision placing guests in the middle of a three-dimensional story.?