The attraction was originally conceived as a wax museum and a walk-through adventure. But following the success of Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress and It's a Small World at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers decided that Audio-Animatronics, his latest animation technology, was the most imaginative way to tell a rousing pirate story.
On April 19, 1967, Pirates of the Caribbean opened at Disneyland. Thanks to the many highly detailed environments, lavish special effects, and memorable characters, it earned rave reviews and has remained a beloved classic ride ever since.
Further duplicates of the attraction opened in the Adventureland section at Tokyo Disneyland on April 15, 1983 and Disneyland Paris on April 12, 1992.
In the early 2000s, the classic attraction spawned a blockbuster film series starring Johnny Depp. In 2006, elements of the films were integrated into the ride and have been since.
Wander a meandering alleyway within a Spanish fortress and board a small barge for a spellbinding high-seas adventure. Escape through a shadowy grotto past the ghostly catacombs of fallen pirates and swoop down a small rushing waterfall—your passageway to the Golden Age of Piracy.
Behold boisterous buccaneers drunk on the spoils of plundering during a 9-minute cruise amid the Old World. Sing along as windswept pirates serenade you with their classic anthem, "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)". And even spy a sly Captain Jack Sparrow from the film series along the way!
Take off on a treacherous voyage to the 17th century, when rowdy rogues and rapscallions ruled seaport towns along the Spanish Main under the watchful eye of the “Jolly Roger”.
Popular sites you will encounter include:
Pirates Grotto - Home to Dead Man’s Cove and Hurricane Lagoon, this haunted realm recalls the struggles pirates endured on the open seas.
The Fort - Navigate through a shadowy bay, where a foggy Caribbean fort and a striking 12-gun galleon, helmed by Captain Barbossa, are locked in battle.
Town Square - Sail straight past a crowded marketplace of rambunctious scalawags, gleefully bidding in an auction for a bride.
Burning City - Looters and buccaneers sing a song of jubilation as flames engulf a seaside town.
The Dungeon - Trapped in a jail cell, freebooters attempt to lure a confused dog within reach to nab the prison keys he has in his mouth.
Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland
The ride begins amid glimmering fireflies during an evening abuzz with the croaking of a bullfrog in a quaint Louisiana bayou. Daring adventurers board their boats at Lafitte's Landing and are at once afloat in the heart of bayou country. On one side is an actual restaurant, Blue Bayou, made to look like the backyard dinner party of a southern plantation. Once past several rickety houseboats, the soft strumming of banjo melodies (including "Oh! Susanna" and "Camptown Races") can be heard over the peaceful symphony of nature as guests pass by one houseboat, on the porch of which an old man calmly rocks back and forth in his rocking chair. But then a talking skull and crossbones, voiced by Xavier Atencio, above an archway provides this taunting warning:
“Psst! Avast there! It be too late to alter course, mateys. And there be plundering pirates lurking in every cove, waiting 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 seeking adventure with 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.”
Then a more chilling sound becomes audible: the thundering of a waterfall, down which guests plunge. When they reach the bottom of the waterfall guests then get to enjoy the theme for the ride briefly. Then they hear the frightening echo of: "Dead men tell no tales!" After a second plunge (absent at Tokyo) further into the depths of an underground grotto, guests behold the skeleton remains of an unfortunate band of pirates, guarding their loot and treasure with macabre delight. The boats glide gently past a thunderstorm tossing an old pirate ship about, piloted by a mere skeleton. The boats pass through the Crews Quarters, complete with skeletal pirates playing chess, the captain looking up treasure on a map, an old Harpsichord playing the theme, and a huge amount of treasure being guarded by another skeleton pirate. The Aztec chest from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl sits in the corner of the Treasure Room and is the last thing guests see before entering a dark tunnel.
In the Disneyland version, a ghostly voice warns guests about what lies ahead. In the Tokyo Disneyland version, a misty waterfall with a projection of Davy Jones appears, and he invites guests to proceed if "they be brave or fool enough to face a pirate's curse".
Next, cannonballs whistle overhead and explosions throw water into the air — a fierce battle between a marauding pirate galleon and a Caribbean fortress is in full swing. Captain Barbossa leads the assault from the deck of a pirate vessel named the Wicked Wench, while The Medallion Calls also used in the film series. From the deck of the Wicked Wench,Barbossa yells: "Strike your colors ye blooming cockroaches. Surrender Captain Jack Sparrow or by thunder, we'll burn the city to the ground. Fire at will! It's Captain Jack Sparrow we're after and a fortune in gold. Give them a brog side! Pound 'em lads! Pound em'!" When a cannon is shot, guests may feel a powerful blast coming from the cannon, accompanied by a large splash and underwater lighting effect to simulate cannon fire.
After seeing the battle, guests enter the village on the Isla Tesoro which is overrun with pirates in search of the Town Treasure. The first sight is the town square where some pirates have kidnapped the mayor and threatened to drown him in the well if he doesn't say where Captain Jack Sparrow and the treasure is. Carlos' wife tells him to be brave and not listen to them, but the attempts are useless; she is shot at as the mayor continues to repeatedly get dunked in the water, while several other city officials tied up look on. Jack is seen hiding behind some dresses looking to see if anyone sees him.
Further in the area, an auction takes place. In the current Disneyland version, the towns people are forced to surrender their valuables so they can be auctioned off. The Auctioneer is trying to sell a group of hens, but the pirates holler for the rum. The female pirate, Redd, sides with the rum-craving pirates. In the current Tokyo Disneyland version, the town women are being auctioned off to the pirates as brides. The Auctioneer is trying to sell an overweight woman, but the pirates holler for the redhead who is next up for bids. The next scene is where several chases take place: pirates holding stolen goods are chased by women with weapons in the current Disneyland version, while women are being chased by pirates in the current Tokyo Disneyland version. Just beyond is a "pooped pirate" drunkenly waving a map and key to a treasure vault, boasting that Captain Jack Sparrow will never see it. Little does he know, Jack is hiding in a barrel just behind him, popping out and getting a good look at the map over the pirate's shoulder. Next, there is a pirate by the name of "Old Bill", who wants to share rum with terrified cats.
Carefree, tipsy pirates succeed in ravaging the town and setting it aflame, filling the night air with an orange glow. Riders next float past a jail cell where imprisoned pirates are doing their best to escape as flames draw near. A small dog just out of their reach holds the key to their escape in his teeth; he seems all but immune to their pleas trying to coax him closer with a bone. One of them holds a noose, hoping to trap him.
Timbers are smoldering and cracking overhead as riders sail through a storage room filled with gunpowder, cannonballs, and rum-filled, gun-shooting pirates singing "Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me". A shootout between the inebriated crew and captain of the pirate ship in a flaming ammunition warehouse threatens to demolish the entire village.
Finally, Captain Jack Sparrow is seen in a room full of hidden treasure. Slightly drunk (as usual), he is draped over a large throne-like chair and waves his new treasures around happily while chattering to himself (and passing guests). Every once in a while he will sing "Drink up me hearties yo ho!". At Tokyo, Florida, and Paris a small parrot, Beauregard, talks with him. In the Disneyland version, riders return to the area they got on in while passing by Beauregard viewed from the queue. In the Tokyo Disneyland version, riders get off right after the treasure room scene and take a speed-ramp up to the surface.
The Magic Kingdom attraction, guarded by the Caribbean watchtower Torre del Sol, is housed in a golden Spanish fort called Castillo Del Morro, inspired by Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As guests entered the fortress, the sounds of Spanish soldiers mobilizing to fight the pirates invading the village could be heard, though these voices have been muffled out by a louder queue musical score introduced in the 2006 refurbishments. Guests pass by cannons, artillery, supplies, and various dungeons within the fortress complex. There is also a gag of two pirate skeletons that died playing a game of chess in their prison cell. Designer Marc Davis carefully arranged the pieces so that any move will result in a neverending game. The pieces were accidentally moved during a minor refurbishment and were not returned to their proper positions until someone found Marc's original sketches.
At the load area of Pirates' Cove, guests board boats to escape the fortress under siege through a series of tunnels leading out to the bay. A pirate ship can be seen floating out in the distance from the load area. Only two of the skeleton scenes from Disneyland were brought to the Magic Kingdom: The Treasure Chest Beach and Hurricane Beach. A talking skull on the wall delivers a brief safety warning before flashing its eyes, taking a photo of guests in the process. The boat then heads down a 14-foot drop, passing under the Walt Disney World Railroad in the process and dropping down to ground level (the ride actually begins on a second level, and the surrounding Caribbean Plaza is graded to match the rest of the park).
At the bottom, guests pass through a dark passage and pass a battle between a pirate ship and an island fortress. The ride continues as guests pass through a town being ransacked and see a woman shouting down to her husband who is being dunked multiple times into a well in an attempt to get information from him on the location of Captain Jack Sparrow and the treasure. Guests then see Jack hiding behind some women's clothing looking back over his shoulder at the pirates who are searching for him. The boat next passes a scene where guests see townspeople forced to surrender their loot for an auction. Pirates can be heard yelling, "We wants the rum!" Guests go under a bridge and see pirates stealing a treasure chest, and being chased by angry women. A pirate sitting beside his dog holding a key and a treasure map saying that Jack will not be able to find the treasure without his map and key. Guests then see that Jack is behind him hiding in a barrel and looking right at him. On the right is a drunk pirate drinking rum and talking to cats. Guests then pass under another bridge and see that the town is on fire. There are three singing pirates, a donkey and a dog who are singing along to "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)." Guests see more pirates stealing treasure, singing, and carrying the torches which set the city alight. Guests then begin to pass under a bridge. On the right, there is a pirate on the right passed out and surrounded by pigs and above a pirate dangles his hairy, dirty leg down. As in the Disneyland version, guests see prisoners trying to escape from their jail cell by attempting to lure a dog who has keys in his mouth over to them.
Leaving the jail, guests enter the town's treasure room. Jack Sparrow, having used the key stolen from the Pooped Pirate to open the door, drinks rum and sings "Yo Ho" in victory. The ride then ends as the guests exit by going left, taking a speed-ramp back up to the surface.
The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland Paris was the only installment not to feature any film characters until July 24, 2017, when the ride reopened after a refurbishment period. It is housed in a battle-scarred fortress at the top of Adventureland and is much different than the originals. The ride begins as guests depart on boats from a landing and enter a lush lagoon at nighttime with the thundering of waterfalls everywhere. The boats pass through a shipwreck and enter an old fortress nearby. Inside, gun bangs and sword clanking are heard in the back as the boats climb up a large lift hill used to haul cargo throughout the fort. At the top flames are engulfing the fort and the shadows of fighting pirates and soldiers are seen. Up ahead, the guests see the pirates in jail trying to coax the key out of the naughty guard dog. The boats go down a waterfall in the side of the fort caused by a cannonball and pass the bombarding-the-fort scene, where the soldiers and the pirates fire at guests. Entering the relative safety of the town, guests see all the original scenes from the Disneyland version except for a new pair of sword-fighting men who duel for a girl in the chase scene. After passing the burning town, darkness fills the air and red flashes and hot air appear as the arsenal of the town has blown up sending the guests to Davy Jones' Locker. They pass all the grotto scenes from Disneyland and exit the boats after a parting thought from the talking skull.
On July 24, 2017, the attraction reopened with characters from the film series after it went under renovation in June 2017 when Disney announced that they would be adding Jack Sparrow to two scenes in the ride identical to the Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland versions. Aside from adding Captain Jack Sparrow to the attraction, Captain Barbossa was also added during the Dead Man's Grotto scene before the guests exit the ride as well as images of the mist waterfall scene showing either images of Davy Jones and Blackbeard during the part where the boats climb up a large lift hill to lift cargo before entering the fort.
Spoilers end here.
In the first Disneyland and Magic Kingdom versions of the ride, there was a scene where pirates chased women and a "pooped pirate" was seen talking to himself and the riders about a woman he was chasing (holding her shoe and undergarments) while said woman was hiding in a barrel close by. The Magic Kingdom version's scene was changed in 1994; the women now chased pirates fleeing with stolen goods, the pooped pirate looked at a map to find treasure, and the nearby barrel housed a blonde woman holding a treasure chest. The Disneyland version's scene was changed in 1997; in this one, the women carried food while being chased by pirates (suggesting the pirates were after the food instead), the pooped pirate rambled about his pursuit of food and held a chicken leg, and the nearby barrel housed a cat holding a fish in its mouth. Both scenes were changed again in 2006; the "pooped pirate" was changed into a treasure hunter, the nearby barrel was now occupied by Captain Jack Sparrow, and the women in the Disneyland version now chased the pirates carrying stolen goods like in the Magic Kingdom version.
At the Magic Kingdom version in 2006, numerous changes took place. The original attraction sign was changed, the building exterior was slightly altered, the cannon fire that could once be heard outside was removed, and the barker parrot explaining the various adventures to be found within was removed. The barker parrot was eventually moved to the Pirates of the Caribbean section of the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney. A new sign was placed on the outside corner of the fort facing towards the entrance of Adventureland. The design of the new sign is the mast of a ship with the attraction name written in its black sails, and a skeleton of a pirate up in its crow's nest. Additional changes included the removal of the talking skull from the grotto and the original ending involving pirates in the treasure room with tied up guards, drunkenly shooting their guns in the air in triumph, being changed. The latter was replaced by Jack Sparrow having used the key stolen from the Pooped Pirate to open the door, drinking rum and singing "Yo Ho" in victory. A new talking skull was introduced in 2017 to serve as an on-ride photo cameraman, with the flash of his eyes preceding the ride's drop.
The auction scene was modified in Disneyland Paris in 2017 and in Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom in 2018. It was changed from a group of tied-up women being sold to pirates as brides to townspeople being forced to give up their valuables. In addition to this, the Redhead was made part of the pirate crew. In the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom versions, she is named Redd and has dialogue bits voiced by Grey DeLisle. This change received backlash from some and praise from others. Conversely, the mist screen in the tunnel before the fort battle was removed in the Disneyland version, and replaced with a pirate in a cage who turns into a skeleton via an optical trick as well as an octopus playing with some medallions, along with the original 1967 narration about cursed treasure being restored.
On July 10, 2014, a 12-year-old boy lost the tips of his fingers when dangling his hand over the back of the boat. At the end when the boats line up, one of them hit his hand. A similar accident happened to a 40-year-old man.
Ron Gilbert has often been quoted for having said that his inspiration for making Monkey Island came from the ride (this has since been refuted to 'merely' being a source of ambiance ). The ride has left its mark, however; the best example of this being the prison scene in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge with the key-carrying dog, who is named Walt (after Walt Disney).
Movie tie-ins to the attraction
The Disneyland version reopened after a lengthy refurbishment on June 26, 2006. In addition to the restoration of the original chase scene story and the removal of figures added during the 1997 change, the attraction now boasts a new audio system, upgraded solid-state lighting, additional treasure, and tie-ins with the two movies to date. Extremely realistic Audio-Animatronic figures of Captain Jack Sparrow appear in the dunking scene, the chase scene, and in a new finale. Another realistic AA of Captain Barbossa now captains the Wicked Wench in the fort scene and a digital Davy Jones from the latest film now appears on a mist screen. The attraction received the benefits of actual film props from Dead Man's Chest including the actual Aztec treasure chest. Engineers intended to re-theme the Wicked Wench into the Black Pearl, but permission was denied by producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The Magic Kingdom version has additional scenes as well, but not on the level of Disneyland's.
There is a hidden Mickey at the beginning of the ride. Once guests pass the seating area for the Blue Bayou, three lily pads are placed in its shape.
In the Magic Kingdom version, there were mermaids at one point. Currently, it is only a skeleton and a singing voice, but for a brief period, there were projections and pumps in the water to simulate mermaids swimming alongside the boats. These were eliminated due to multiple technical issues, including reported instances of what appeared to be Windows dialogue boxes showing Panasonic exception errors.
Despite being a mild boat ride, it has a brief waterfall drop, similar to Splash Mountain.
During the final episode of Battle Athletes Restart, the committee of the solar system were put behind bars in a similar fashion to the jail scene on the ride itself.
The jail scene was once referenced in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Escape from Beneath Glove World." In the episode, 3 fish pirates are seen in "Glove World Jail" trying to lure a worm (dog) into giving them the key to their cell.