Park: Magic Kingdom
Park Rank: 14
I mentioned earlier that there is an album I enjoy listening to with songs from the park attractions. Though the album is from Disneyland, most of the attractions are present in WDW, and mostly at Magic Kingdom.
We come up to our next attraction that is true of that list, the Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates has the unforgettable tune "Yo Ho! A Pirate's Life for Me" as its featured selection, which has subsequently found itself in just about any pirate-themed movie or show Disney has to offer. This was the last ride designed by Walt Disney himself, opening in Disneyland 3 months after his death. And of course, it is the ride that has an actual human skull in among all its fake skulls (not to gross you out or anything).
The ride itself is a slow boat ride, and happens to be a pretty dark ride for most of the way. There is one small drop in the ride, but it doesn't qualify to make it a thrill. The ride features animatronics of pirates in different scenes, including a cannonball fight (with "explosions" coming pretty close to your boat), the raiding of the pirate-town Tortuga, pirates stuck in jail, and a few other favorites. The ride itself is fairly uneventful, and would probably be in the "Imagination with Figment" wing of popular WDW items (read: no one riding it) if the movies had not come along.
But, come along they did, and the extremely successful movie franchise brought more visitors to the ride, as well as the placement of new characters from the movie. Davy Jones, Blackbeard, Barbosa, and of course, Captain Jack Sparrow all are now seen in the ride, thus making this ride a favorite for 8-12 year old boys.
Pirates of the Caribbean brings up the question of animatronics, those animated "wax-sculpture" like figures made to move in limited movement, over and over. When a person moves past a display of these characters, it recreates the storyline, which probably was pretty novel back in the 1950s. But, with the advent of better video displays and 3d technology, it looks really old. Contrast the new Ariel ride in Fantasyland with the Harry Potter Journey into the Forbidden Forest ride. Yes, the latter has quite a bit of motion and simulation in it, but the ride cleverly sprinkles in animation at key points in the ride, whereas relying on it. It is a much more immersive experience.
Disney will probably be the last stand on animatronics, as it hearkens back to the glory days of the parks. I have difficulty imagining Pirates of the Caribbean or any of the animatronics rides (Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh) as being immersive or intense. So, in my opinion, there's really only two ways to look at rides like that: 1) a nostolgic trip back to when amusement parks were simpler times, or 2) an eyesore that you simply want to avoid.
Pirates is one of the few rides I put into that first camp, and the movies help put it there for others as well. I enjoy an educational sight-seeing ride like Living With the Land more than Pirates of the Caribbean, but Pirates is definitely more nostalgic.
One interesting thing to consider is how big "pirates" have become within the Disney magical experience. We know about the magic of "princesses" and "fairy tales" for girls. Boys have been treated to different magical experiences, be them spacemen (Tomorrowland), cowboys (Frontierland) or pirates (Adventureland). In fact, the area of Adventureland itself was supposed to bring to life the adventurous feel of South Pacific islands as well as jungle areas, but the pirate motif has taken over. There are seminars on how to act like a pirate there every day, as well as the opportunity to do a male makeover into becoming a pirate. Pirates were just a Peter Pan thing at one time, but now they are big on the cruiselines in addition to other parks. For that reason, a ride that has no close connection to classic Disney characters becomes one of the most nostalgic rides in the land.
Our next item features pirates, as well as skeletons, ghosts, and quite a few different things. But this seasonal event is not scary in the least.