Tony Baxter, Marty Sklar, Kim Irvine, Orlando Ferrante, Luc Mayrand, and Nancy Seruto hosted a panel about the Pirates of the Caribbean’s 50th anniversary. They shared personal stories about the attraction and its development. Mayrand and Seruto also commented on the newly developed Treasure Cove, the Pirates of the Caribbean area at Shanghai Disneyland.
Early concepts for Pirates of the Caribbean had the attraction as a wax museum. Walt was working on a lot of walkthroughs: Edison Square, a showcase about how Edison’s electricity ideas transformed society; Liberty Square, a celebration of American history; the Haunted Mansion, an abandoned home full of ghosts; and the pirates attraction. The plan for Pirates was far enough along that the foundational steel was laid before the Imagineers began work on the 1964 World’s Fair.
Walkthroughs were popular at the time, they don’t have a high rider capacity. There are too many people like me who want to stop so they can look at everything closer. Ride systems literally force the people to move along, increasing capacity. At the World’s Fair, the Imagineers used a boat system for “it’s a Small World,” giving it a capacity over 3000. Walt Disney realized a boat ride was a much better option because it had higher capacity and fit with the theming. The Imagineers had to start over and rip all the steel out.
During the presentation, the moderator brought up the changes coming to the auction scene. Sklar had some great commentary. He explained that when he wrote his first book, Dream it! Do it!, he read a lot of the reviews of Disneyland from its opening day. He was surprised how negative they all were. There were so many complaints about things that needed to change, and he explained that Walt’s response was to start changing the park the next day. Change isn’t new to Disneyland. Sklar said, “I understand you want your kids to see it the way it was when you first saw it, but you don’t want it to be the way it was when I first saw it.” Imagineers want their projects to be perfect, and they’d keep fixing things forever if they could. We need to expect changes, it makes the park and the attractions better.
When the auction changes were first brought up, a few people in the audience booed. After Marty’s answer, there was excited applause.
They also talked about the newest version of Pirates of the Caribbean, Battle for the Sunken Treasure, in Shanghai Disneyland. Mayrand and Seruto both worked on the attraction, and they spoke about the incredible experience of reimagining the classic. The technology for the attraction is spectacular. But they emphasized that story must drive technology; the technology can’t drive the story.
For example, the boats are controlled by a system of underground magnets, but the ride is never about showing off how well the magnets move or creating thrill just from the motion. The magnets are there to put guests where and move them how the story needs them. (Still, they were happy to brag that the system can put a boat in the right position within one thousandth of a second from the target time). Ferrante added that the Imagineers never think of difficult problems as challenges: the Imagineers just do whatever they need to make the show great.