Monday 26 June 2006


Disneyland fans (as devoutly loyal a band of souls one could ever wish to meet) are, according to the ‘Los Angeles Times’ (and several other Californian publications) deeply divided about goings-on at The Magic Kingdom...

The cause of their anxiety, disquiet or downright dismay - depending on which faction you listen to - is the makeover that has recently been completed on the veteran attraction, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

The canal-boat ride-thru, featuring Audio-Animatronic pirates plundering and pillaging their way across the Spanish Main, originally opened at Disneyland in March 1967 and was the last major attraction at the park to have been personally supervised by Walt Disney, who had died three months earlier.

For nigh on forty years, ‘Pirates’ has been one of Disneyland’s most popular rides - as indeed is also the case in Disney’s Florida, Paris and Tokyo theme parks.

And that’s how everything merrily rolled along until 2003, when Disney trawled up a net-load of treasure-trove with a movie inspired by the attraction and called ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl’.

The film’s huge success - due, in no small measure, to Johnny Depp’s high-camp performance as Captain Jack Sparrow and the accompanying eye-candy provided by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley - immediately sent Disney questing after more box-office gold. As a result, it was soon announced that not one, but TWO, sequels were in the offing: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’, opening next month, and the still-to-be-titled ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 3’, due on our cinema screens in 2007.

Then came the problem: visitors to Disneyland - other than those who've been going there since they were tiny tots and therefore understood the lore and history of the park - stood in line for an hour or more to ride ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and came out wondering what in the name of Davy Jones was going on and what the hell had happened to Jack Sparrow?

Disney’s solution? Revamp the ride to incorporate Jack and tie the attraction more securely to what looks like an unsinkable movie franchise.

And thus the fan’s dilemma... Do they sing, “Yo-ho, Yo-ho, they’ve given a much-loved attraction a little more fun and excitement!” or do they whine, “Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, they’re spoiling and ruining our all-time favourite ride!”

Whether you're a Disney theme park fan or not, this is an interesting microcosmic example of how many of us find ourselves feeling when changes and modernisations are carried out at places where memory has caused us to make strong, bindingly emotional investments.

Perhaps we all need reminding that change is part of life and that accepting those changes and adjusting to them is an inevitable part of the challenge of living…

As for Disneyland, well Walt himself would, I suspect, have been far more pragmatic than some of his most devoted followers… After all, he once said: "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world." And I reckon that would have included letting Jack Sparrow into ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’!

Oh, yes, and while on the subject of the outrageous Cap’n Jack, my little friend, Buttons asked me to share this picture of him avast-and-belaying on the deck of ‘The Black Pearl’.

Naturally, he would really like you to believe that he was on intimate buddy-buddy terms with Mr Depp, but the truth is that this encounter actually took place in the Hollywood Wax Museum - although I am happy to confirm that Buttons is most certainly NOT made of candle-grease!

Buttons also points out that some of his exploits “Are, as well worth reading", as he charmingly puts it, "as anything on Brian’s stupid blog!”

I’m afraid, for a rabbit, he’s extremely forthright!

[Poster:; Wax Museum: © Brian Sibley]]


Diva of Deception said...

I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the Blue Bayou! It was my favourite, it was non-scary and didn't have my stomach staying mid-air whilst the rest of me plummeted hundreds of feet downwards.

I hope they haven't ruined it too much; I've done both the Calif. and Florida versions but would be wary about visiting those rides now. And I reckon they've even changed the song. :(

There won't be any non-scary rides left at this rate for wusses like me!

Brian Sibley said...

It's OK! The Diva of Deception need not despair! Recent intelligence received from a reliable source who attended the 'premiere' of the revamped ride says that it's really not all that different, but that Jack Sparrow now pops up in several of the scenes.

As for the song, 'Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a Pirates Life for Me, they wouldn't DARE touch that! Next to 'It's a Small World After All' it's one of Disneyland's most unforgettable ditties!