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How Disney transformed the Pirates of the Caribbean ride after the movies

The iconic Disney attraction has had many rebuffs throughout the years

jack sparrow in the pirates of the caribbean ride Image: Barry King/WireImage/Getty Images
Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

With the Pirates of the Caribbean movies more accessible than ever, and a summer season void of blockbusters, this month we’re diving deep into Disney’s swashbuckling series. Grab your cutlass and hoist the colors: here be Polygon’s take on all things PotC.

Contrary to what some may believe, the Disney theme park attraction Pirates of the Caribbean came before the movie franchise.

The first version opened up in Disneyland in 1967, and today, the attraction is in every single park, usually in some variation of Adventureland (though in Disneyland proper, it’s in New Orleans Square).

After the success of the movies, elements of the film franchise were slowly added to the attractions, including a very uncanny Jack Sparrow audio animatronic that moves almost as fluidly as its human counterpart. Where he appears in the attraction depends on which park you’re in, but in each instance he’s rum-soaked and quippy (and if you were at Disneyland in one day in April 2017, the actual Johnny Depp replaced it). A revamped intro to the ride included Davy Jones, but was eventually swapped out for Ian McShane’s Blackbeard after the release of On Stranger Tides. Most recently, in Anaheim only, the ride replaced the intro narration with the original narrator from 1967.

Disneyland Paris also gets Barbossa in the ride.

Meanwhile, the Disney Shanghai version — since it was built after the blockbuster franchise — incorporates more intricate elements of the movies into the ride, creepy Davy Jones crewman and all.

In addition to the movie-themed updated, the attraction has gotten some modern rebuffs over the years. Most notably, a scene which previously depicted women being auctioned off was updated to be a fearless pirate lass shooting at some men. Even before this, however, back in 1997, a scene where male pirates chased after women was changed to make it so that the pirates were explicitly chasing after the food that the women held.

Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the most popular attractions at Disney, and the original ride in Anaheim was one of the last projects Walt Disney worked on. It’s a testament of what Disney park attractions do best: creating atmosphere and whisking park goers away to an entirely new world — in this case, one full of swashbuckling pirates, cursed treasure, and naval battles.

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