Pirates of the Caribbean: 50th Anniversary of “the Original”

Pirates of the Caribbean attraction poster. (Photo Credit: Disney)

“Ahoy mateys! For a safe voyage, remember to stay seated with your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the boat—and watch your children. And remember, no flash pictures! Now off with ya!”

Fifty years ago today, on March 18, 1967 the Pirates of the Caribbean ride took its first voyagers down into the depths and realms of pirates at Disneyland. Through the years, the ride has transported approximately four hundred thousand passengers through the waters of the bayou and into the life of pirates and is arguably one of the greatest rides to be built at Disneyland. It was one of the last rides/attractions whose construction was overseen by Walt Disney and first major ride to open after his death. He died on December 15, 1966, just a little over three months shy of the Pirates of the Caribbean opening.

Original Pirates of the Caribbean entrance. (Photo Credit: Disney)

Originally conceived as a walk-through wax museum type of attraction, which had been discussed as far back as the late ’50s. That idea was scrapped even though there was some construction that was started on a pirated themed attraction in the early ’60s. With the success of “it’s a small world” and “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the 1964-65 New York’s World Fair they had the know-how to replace the walk through to a slow-moving boat ride with real pirates, well Audio-Animatronic pirates. A 1965 souvenir book teased Disneyland guests by describing how these Audio Animatronic pirates would “come to life” and “attack, burn and loot a city.” Walt Disney introduced the whole world to his new land New Orleans Square and the “Blue Bayou Lagoon” which later would be called the Pirates of the Caribbean during a Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color special celebrating Disneyland’s 10th Anniversary:

Some early concept art developed by Disney Imagineer and Disney Legend Marc Davis:

Laffite’s Landing in the early days. (Photo Credit: Disney)

After boarding boats at Laffite’s Landing and taking a trip through the bayou, guests encounter two waterfalls to get them down into the realm of the pirates. Once down the waterfalls, guests encounter a pirates grotto, a raging storm, a fort and a life-sized pirate ship in battle, town square, a city engulfed in flames, and a dungeon before going back up a waterfall to join the real world. Before the first drop guests receive a warning of what is to come:

“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 and 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.”

The “Pooped Pirate” (Photo Credit: Disney)

Although the basic concept of the ride has stayed intact for 50 years there have been a few changes along the way, some welcomed and some not so welcomed. The first came in 1987 when the entrance was modified and a bridge built to ease traffic in the area. In 1997, it was closed for a few months to replace the pirates-chasing-women scenes, now the women chase the pirates and replace the “Pooped Pirate” for a “Gluttonous Pirate” searching for food. In 2006, it was shut down to incorporate a new soundtrack and new characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise such as Captain Jack Sparrow. During the 1997 renovation/refurbishment a 30th anniversary plaque was placed in the queue honoring “the Original” and Walt Disney’s Buccaneer Crew.

30th Anniversary Pirates of the Caribbean Plaque (Photo Credit: Disney)

The plaque reads:

30th Anniversary
Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean
“the Original”
1967 – 1997
Honoring Walt Disney’s Buccaneer Crew
X Atencio – Buddy Baker – Roger Broggie –
George Bruns – Harriet Burns – Collin Campbell –
Claude Coats – Alice Davis – Marc Davis – Don Edgren –
Blaine Gibson – Yale Gracey – John Hench – Fred Joerger
Bill Justice – Bill Martin – Mathel Rodgers –
Herbert Ryman – Lee Tombs
“Yo ho, Yo ho a Pirates Life for Me”

March 7, 1997
New Orleans Square

The theme song for the ride was a collaboration between first time song writer X Atencio and veteran studio composer Beirge Bruns. “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life foe Me)” came about after X Atencio pitched the song to Walt Disney and he liked it, suggesting he get Bruns to do the music. According to X Atencio Walt was a little worried about how guests would react to some of the pirates behavior and he suggested a sea chantey would be a great way for the guests to like the pirates. His approach was to come up with something that pirates would actually say and was influenced by the phrase, Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum from Louis Stevenson’s 1881 novel Treasure Island.

For the past approximately six weeks, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride has been closed for routine refurbishment which was also a great opportunity to get it ready for its 50th Anniversary today. It re-opened on March 16th with guests waiting as long as two hours in some cases to ride their favorite ride once more.

Check out this amazing ride video by the guys over at LMGVids:


  • Five Disney theme parks (Disneyland in 1967, Magic Kingdom in 1973, Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, Disneyland Paris in 1992, and Shanghai Disneyland in in 2016) have a Pirates of the Caribbean ride, with Disneyland’s version being the original
  • The cost to create the ride in the ’60s was eight million dollars, almost half of what it cost to build the entire Disneyland theme park in 1955.
  • The life-size pirate ship is called the Wicked Wench.
  • Nine 9 different kinds of animals represented (can you name them all?)
  • There are currently approximately one hundred and twenty audio-animatronic figures.
  • There were approximately 400,000 gold coins and set pieces added during the 2006 renovation.
  • Captain Jack Sparrow is in three different scenes.

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