50 years ago today, the greatest theme park attraction ever built opened its doors in Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom- Pirates of the Caribbean.
The idea for a pirate attraction began when Walt Disney decided to build New Orleans Square. Originally, he wanted to build a pirate museum that guests would walk through, filled with wax pirates who would tell the history of piracy in the Caribbean and in the bayous of Louisiana. Construction on the pirate museum had begun when Mr. Disney had a spark of inspiration. A mere museum wouldn't do- he wanted an entire attraction that would transport his guests back in time to the days of pirates. The existing building was demolished and construction on a new world was begun to build the elaborate attraction underground, as shown in the center of this picture:
Mr. Disney put together a dream team of Imagineers that would create something special that still entertains millions of guests to this day. Walt's dream team featured Xavier Atencio, who would, in addition to working on the attraction, get tasked with writing the ride's theme song. Mr. Atencio had never written a song before, but Walt had full confidence in him. He would produce a song that would become a classic- still enjoyed by millions around the world.
Everything about the attraction would be top notch. Walt insisted on it. His guests deserved nothing less.
Some thought that the ride might have too much going on, but Walt wanted to stack the attraction with intricate details and elaborate settings so that guests would see something new every time. He likened it to a dinner party where it would be impossible to hear everything that was said, but one could choose to concentrate on what might interest him or her.
Careful attention would be paid to things that most guests might never notice but would add to the ambience nonetheless. For example, famed Disney artist Marc Davis would paint the saucy picture of a red headed piratess that hangs behind the ghostly pirate bar. Called A Portrait of Things To Come, the painting depicts the redhead from the auction scene. Freeing herself, we can assume that she took on the pirates life herself, enjoying all the spoils. The title of the painting references both the things to come in the attraction and the things to come in her life. Details the average guest might not notice, but which were important to Mr. Disney.
Walt Disney would never see the fully completed attraction; he passed away three months before it opened. But he could always see the attraction in his head and his Imagineers wouldn't disappoint in bringing his vision to life. That's why it endures even today. Other versions were built around the world, but the greatest one remains the original one built by Walt Disney in his Magic Kingdom. It is just like he dreamed it- as good as good can be for over fifty years.