Yo Ho Ho, A Pirates Life at 50!
By Craig Barton (@disnerdcraig)
“We’re rascals and scoundrels, we’re villains and knaves, Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho. We’re devils and black sheep, we’re really bad eggs, drink up me ‘earties, yo ho!”
When viewers sat down by their televisions to watch the latest episode of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” on January 3rd, 1965, they were treated to a celebration of Disneyland’s “Tencennial.” The 10th anniversary of Walt Disney’s “Happiest Place on Earth” included a Disney all-star celebration, with everyone from Mickey and Minnie Mouse to the newest addition to the Disney family, Mary Poppins, on hand to ring in Disneyland’s tenth year. With great pomp and ceremony, viewers at home were invited to join in the celebration (complete with dancing cake pieces and candles!), and were also given a sneak peek of projects that lay in store for the future of the park.
As Walt and “Miss Disneyland Tencennial” (Disneyland ambassador) Julie Reihm visited Walt’s Imagineers, they previewed upcoming attractions, such as “it’s a small world,” a Museum of the Weird (this project would evolve into The Haunted Mansion), and Pirates of the Caribbean. As Walt walked Julie through a miniaturized model of Pirates, he would tell her the story of how guests would ride down a waterfall and visit the world of the pirates. Pirates who were up to their shenanigans, raiding towns, looting, and “things.” “Things” was a big word for Walt Disney. As many of his Imagineers and others who worked closely with him often noted, there was a connotation to that word – when Walt said “Things,” you knew there was excitement and untold imagination in store. You never knew what those things might be, but you couldn’t wait to find out!
The public would see exactly what mysteries and “things” were in store with Pirates on March 18th, 1967. Sadly, Walt would never get to see his completed vision, as he passed away in December of 1966. However, as one of the last attractions he personally worked on, Pirates of the Caribbean has stood the test of time as a monument to his imagination, as well as the hard work and brilliance of the Imagineering department of the Walt Disney Company.
50 years later, Pirates still captivates. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, and you’ll hear other riders clapping and singing along to X Atencio’s masterful “Yo Ho, a Pirate’s Life For Me!” They’ll be reminding each other that “Dead Men Tell no Tales” before plunging down a waterfall into caverns below. Although variations have been made to the attraction throughout the years (In 1997, pirates started chasing women for their food instead of chasing them because they were pirates chasing women. Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbossa, and Davy Jones were added to the story following the success of the Pirates movie franchise in 2006.), the pirates still want the redhead, and Carlos’s wife still implores him not to be “cheeken.” Not to mention, there’s many a DisNerd out there that still can’t resist the smell of Pirate Water.
I’d like to take a moment to say thank you, Walt. Thank you for your vision, leadership, and imagination in not just this attraction, but so many others that have stood the test of time. Thank you to the Imagineers that put so much love and skill into Pirates – Claude Coats, Blaine Gibson, Marc Davis, Alice Davis – just to name a very few. You are all the reason this attraction is still loved fifty years later. Between you and Walt, there are some amazing “things” to experience here.
And Happy 50th anniversary, Pirates of the Caribbean. The masterful work put into this attraction has made it beloved by fans worldwide. You’ve inspired attractions in five different theme parks, launched a cinematic franchise spanning five different movies, and left many a generation singing about how they’re loved by their mommies and dads…
Drink up, me ‘earties, Yo Ho!