Featured Attractions

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Story of DISNEYLAND: A Pirate's Life for All

The greatest attraction ever built would sadly be one of the last major projects that Walt Disney would oversee. The western edge of Frontierland had always been New Orleans themed, going back to 1955, but it hadn't been fully formed. Since Mr. Disney loved the city of New Orleans, he wanted to build out that section of the park. He already had an idea for one attraction- the Haunted Mansion, but he pondered what else to include in his New Orleans. Originally, his imagineers presented him with an idea for a pirate museum featuring wax figures of famous pirates and replicas of pirate era weapons.

DISNEYLAND began construction on New Orleans Square and the Pirate Museum right before Walt became sold on a different idea. Park operations staff felt that a walk through attraction would be a nightmare to run. Couldn't this pirate attraction be a ride? Walt Disney reconsidered and came up with an amazing idea. What if guests could take a boat through the world of the Pirates? Sophisticated animatronics and special effects would re-create the rough and tumble pirates era. Changing course at this point, however, would mean that DISNEYLAND would have to tear out the existing foundations and replace them with a massive underground complex. Hundreds of thousands of dollars would be wasted, but once Walt saw how much better DISNEYLAND could be with a full fledged ride, nothing else would do. The original New Orleans Square foundations were torn out. The amazing Pirates of the Caribbean began construction.

The new Pirates of the Caribbean complex would feature its own table service restaurant, one of the first fully immersive dining experiences ever built. Walt Disney insisted on marshaling every resource the company could muster in an effort to make an experience like none other.

While the bustling New Orleans Square above was ready to open during the summer of 1966, the pirates below were still not ready for their close-up. DISNEYLAND management pleaded with Imagineering to speed things up and get the attraction ready ASAP. Walt Disney wanted the attraction to open up when it was ready and not a moment before.

The last time Mr. Disney visited his beloved DISNEYLAND, he was given a tour of the amazing new attraction. The flume hadn't been filled with water yet, so Imagineers took Walt through the ride on a dolly that approximated the speed the boats would travel through the attraction. He was asked if he thought the attraction was too noisy and "busy", but Mr. Disney loved it. He knew that filling up the ride with detailed scenes would mean that there would always be something new to discover on each visit. He further emphasized that the ride would not open until it was ready. He would never visit the park again, but a few months later his final masterpiece would be unveiled to the world. An amazing attraction that still delights millions of guests every year in DISNEYLAND.