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"Pirates" gets Depp-utized: Familiar faces add new fun to an old Disneyland favorite

"Pirates" gets Depp-utized: Familiar faces add new fun to an old Disneyland favorite

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Photo courtesy of Disneyland

By now, you've undoubtedly heard the news that some changes have been made to that classic Disneyland attraction, "Pirates of the Caribbean." For the past few months now, the Web has been awash with rumors about what exactly guests are going to see once they board their bateaux and head out across Blue Bayou. And depending on who was telling the tale .. well, the changes that were being made were either the best thing that ever could have happened or the complete desecration of this New Orleans Square favorite.

Imagineer Marc Davis and Walt Disney discuss the scene with the dunking of the mayor at the town well
Photo courtesy of Disneyland

Of course, there are always going to be those who are resistant to change. But you have to remember that Walt Disney himself thought of his Anaheim theme park as almost a living thing. Which is why he once stated that ...

"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."

So -- if you use that Walt quote as your jumping-off point -- it's easier to embrace the idea that it's okay that Disneyland's attractions can grow and change over time.

And in the case of this recent "Pirates of the Caribbean" upgrade ... Given that these changes involved the Imagineers collaborating with the talented film-makers that created "The Curse of the Black Pe" and "Dead Man's Chest," you're talking about some very talented people who obviously have great love & affection for the original attraction. Which is why the goal here was never to destroy or damage what was already there. But -- rather -- just enhance the existing ride.

Okay. Enough with the explanation of why they did what they did. You want details, right?

Well, I am more than happy to share what I know about the additions that have been made to Disneyland's "Pirates" attraction.

But before I do ... Let me tell you a bit about the reactions of folks who have already had a chance to experience the newly enhanced version of this New Orleans Square favorite.

Take -- for example -- the media. Those reporters & photographers who were on hand to cover the premiere got a chance to ride "Pirates" on Saturday afternoon before snagging their places along the Red Carpet. And I watched more than a few of these guys go for a second and third trip, just so they could take it all in.

Then there were the invited guests for the "Dead Man's Chest" premiere. They got the chance to ride "Pirates" (the ride) before "Pirates" (the sequel) got underway on Saturday night. Like this couple:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, were all smiles after their ride through the newly enhanced version of "Pirates"
Photo courtesy of Disneyland

The following morning, members of the local media & their families were invited to visit Disneyland. Specifically to take in the updated version of "Pirates" as well as sample all of the new dining & shopping experiences there were to be had in New Orleans Square. And while all this was going on, Disneyland guests were also allowed to get on line at the enhanced attraction. So that they could then see for themselves what sort of changes had been made.

Clearly, a lot of people had come to Disneyland on Sunday with that hope in mind. That they'd get the chance to check out the new version of "Pirates." Which is why -- at one point -- the line twisted & turned all the way from the attraction's entrance all the way out to Frontierland, and then back out onto Main Street U.S.A.

Properly warned, ye be …
Photo by Roger Colton.

Due to some minor mechanical problems, Disneyland was forced to shut down this "Pirates" preview at around 2 p.m. on Sunday. But happily, later that same afternoon, the ride was re-opened. So a good portion of the guests who came out to the park that day got the chance to experience this "plussed" version of "Pirates of Caribbean."

"But what exactly is the new version of this old New Orleans Square favorite like?," you ask. From here in, thar be spoilers …

Photo courtesy of Disneyland

The first noticable change is a new map (featuring the Isla Tesaro from "The Curse of the Black Pearl" and a spiffy new parrot in the attraction's queue area.

Photo by Roger Colton

Once you board your bateaux, it's off across the Blue Bayou. Though now it's a somewhat darker and appropriately more mysterious bayou than the one you'll see in the vintage Disneyland Panavue slide that I've posted below.

 Roger Colton Collection

Darkness is also apparent as you float along heading for that first waterfall. I mean, coal black, dark. As in no light. Well maybe just enough to see the favorite talking skull. Heed his warning, especially the part about Davey Jones …

Sharp eyes will note some updated items along the way from the second waterfall as you float along. It looks like that cursed treasure has had a few additions since we last saw it. Especially noteworthy is that chest of Inca gold medallions that's close to the shore.

Where once you heard how "Dead Men Tell No Tales," now a different voice calls out. A ghostly apparition of Davey Jones appears ahead warning of fate to be met. (And well done it is, too! Especially as the bateau ahead of you disappears after passing it.)

Photo courtesy of Disneyland

Ahead the fog of war covers the harbor as the Wicked Wench fires on the fortress guarding the town. But wait! It's Captain Barbossa calling out to his men to shell the town. He's after Captain Jack Sparrow and won't be stopped by the likes of them "cockaroaches"!

Photo courtesy of Disneyland.

Sailing into the town, the crew has the alcalde (mayor) in the well for a good dunking as they try to find out where Jack Sparrow is hiding.

And here he is! Captain Jack Sparrow, hiding amongst some of the plunder!

Always a ladies man, the Captain …
Photo courtesy of Disneyland

Across the way, an auction for a bride is under way. And yes, that brazen redhead is still exposing her super structure. One wonders how many dedicated fans she has after all this time?

Photo courtesy of Disneyland

Under the bridge, it's pirating at it's best with wenches being chased about the town. One swag-bellied pirate is offering his opinions as to where that scalliwag Jack Sparrow has gotten off to. If he only was paying attention to that dog.

Photo courtesy of Disneyland

Moving along, the pirate trio is singing that song again. Is it just me or do they sound better than ever?

Oh dear... It looks like the town is aflame. A careless citizen fleeing ahead of the pirates, no doubt. Looks rather serious though. Flames seem to be a bit brighter than the last voyage passing here.

Photo courtesy of Disneyland

On ahead? That dog has never moved. Yes, the boys behind bars are still dangling that bone & rope in hopes of getting those keys. And the fire seems to be still at work ahead as timbers show off hot coals and flickering flames ahead.

Passing through the gunplay ahead, keep an eye off to port as Captain Jack Sparrow makes a final appearance with a few words of note as the bateaux climbs the waterfall. (Oh and fans of the little green eyes will be happy to see more than a few!) And heed the words of Davey Jones as you approach still waters for the voyage back to the landing…

So there you have it. A glimpse at the "plussed" version of "Pirates of the Caribbean." A bit of the old favorite updated. Yet this work was obviously done with great respect for the efforts of those Imagineers who originally brought this attraction to life back in 1967. In my opinion, it's a job well done.

And it seems that there was someone else who took a liking to the revamped version of this New Orleans favorite  …

Johnny Depp meets Captain Jack Sparrow.
Or is it the other way around?
Photo courtesy of Disneyland

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  • Thank you so much!  It's been 17 years since I've been to Disneyland, and my sister and I are heading there this August.  Your article made me excited to see the new pirates, and not dreading what they may have done.
  • Those reporters & photographers who were on hand to cover the premiere got a chance to ride "Pirates" on Saturday afternoon before snagging their places along the Red Carpet. And I watched more than a few of these guys go for a second and third trip, just so they could take it all in.

  • Pirates is one of my favorite movie of all time.

  • Pirates is one of my favorite movie of all time.

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