The ride begins amid glimmering fireflies during an evening abuzz with the croaking of a bullfrog in a quaint Louisiana Bayou. Guests board their boats at Laffite's Landing, and are at once afloat in the heart of bayou country. On one side is an actual working restaurant, The Blue Bayou, made to look like the backyard dinner party of a southern plantation. It takes three days to empty and refill the "bayou" for renovations. There are 630,000 gallons of water on the attraction.
Once past several rickety houseboats, the soft strumming of banjo melodies can be heard over the peaceful symphony of nature as guests pass by one houseboat, on the porch of which an old man calmly rocks back and forth in his rocking chair. But then a talking skull and crossbones, voiced by Xavier Atencio, songwriter, above an archway provides this taunting warning:
- Psst! Avast there! It be too late to alter course, mateys. And there be plundering pirates lurkin' in ev'ry cove, waitin' to board. Sit closer together and keep your ruddy hands in board. That be the best way to repel boarders. And mark well me words, mateys: Dead men tell no tales! Ye come seekin' adventure with salty old pirates, eh? Sure you've come to the proper place. But keep a weather eye open mates, and hold on tight. With both hands, if you please. Thar be squalls ahead, and Davy Jones waiting for them what don't obey.
Then a more chilling sound becomes audible: the thundering of a waterfall, down which guests plunge. When they reach the bottom of the waterfall guests then get to enjoy the theme for the ride briefly. Then they hear the frightening echo of: "Dead men tell no tales!"
After a second hair-raising plunge further into the depths of an underground grotto, guests behold the skeletal remains of an unfortunate band of pirates, guarding their loot and treasure with macabre delight.
The boats glide gently past a thunderstorm tossing an old pirate ship about, though the ship's pilot is nothing more than a skeleton. The boats pass through the Crews Quarters, complete with skeletal pirates playing chess, the captain looking up treasure on his map, an old Harpsichord playing the theme, and a huge amount of treasure being guarded by another skeleton pirate. The Aztec chest from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl sits in the corner of the Treasure Room and is the last thing guests see before entering a dark tunnel. There are 40,000 gold coins in this scene.
A waterfall with a projection of Davy Jones then appears, and the riders seem to float through without getting wet. He invites guests to proceed if "they be brave or fool enough to face a pirate's curse".
Next, Cannonballs whistle overhead and explosions throw water into the air — a fierce battle between a marauding pirate galleon and a Caribbean fortress is in full swing. Captain Barbossa leads the assault from the deck of a pirate vessel named the Wicked Wench. From the deck of the Wicked Wench Barbossa yells:
"Strike yer colors ye bloomin cockroachers. By thunder we'll see you to Davy Jones. They need persuasion mates. Fire at will! Pound 'em lads! Pound em'!"
When a cannon is shot, guests may feel a powerful blast coming from the cannon, accompanied by a large splash and underwater lighting effect to simulate cannon fire.
The village on the Isla Tesoro beyond is overrun with pirates in search of the Town Treasure. The first sight is the town square where some pirates have kidnapped the mayor and threaten to drown him in the well if he doesn't tell where Captain Jack Sparrow and his Town Treasure is. Carlos' wife tells him to be brave and not talk, but the attempts are useless; she is shot at as the mayor continues to repeatedly get dunked in the water, while several other city officials tied up look on. Captain Jack Sparrow is seen hiding behind some dresses looking to see if anyone sees him. Followed by that is the famous auction scene where a pirate Auctioneer auctions off the town women while the drunk bidders hoot and holler for a redhead who is next up for bids.
But unfortunately for them, the only person the Auctioneer wants to sell at the moment is an overweight forty-year-old that seems not to care what the others think of her. There is a pirate by the name of "Old Bill", who wants to share rum with terrified cats. The next scene is the chase where pirates run around holding treasure, chasing girls, and two foolish buccaneers have stolen some snacks and are chased by an angry woman holding a rolling pin. Just beyond is the infamous "pooped pirate" drunkenly waving a map and key to a treasure vault, boasting that Captain Jack Sparrow will never see it. Little does he know, Jack is hiding in a barrel just behind him, popping out and getting a good look at the map over the pirate's shoulder.
Carefree, tipsy pirates succeed in ravaging the town and setting it aflame, filling the night air with an orange glow. Riders next float past a jail where imprisoned pirates are doing their best to escape as flames draw near. A small dog just out of the prisoners' reach holds the key to their escape in his teeth; he seems all but immune to the pleas of the pirates trying to coax him closer. One of the pirates holds a noose, hoping to trap the dog.
Timbers are smoldering and cracking overhead as riders sail through a storage room filled with gunpowder, cannon balls, and rum-filled, gun-shooting pirates singing "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life For Me". A shootout between the inebriated crew and captain of the pirate ship in a flaming ammunition warehouse threatens to demolish the entire village.
Finally, Jack Sparrow is seen in a room full of the hidden treasure. Slightly drunk, he is draped over a large throne-like chair and waves his new treasures around happily while chattering to himself. Every once in a while he will sing "Drink up me hearties yo ho!". Riders then return to the sleepy bayou where the journey began, passing by the parrot, Beauregard, viewed from the queue.
In its original form, the Disneyland attraction contained a scene in which pirates were shown chasing attractive females in circles, along with a comical reversal in which an overweight woman was seen chasing a pirate. Some guests were offended by this depiction, and in response Disney initially changed the woman chasing the pirate by having her try to hit him with a rolling pin. In 1997, this sequence was changed so that the pirates pursued women holding pies, and the large woman is chasing a pirate with a stolen ham. However, the audio of the women's giggles while being chased remained despite the complaints. Sometime after this the audio was also removed.
Originally, one overweight pirate (sometimes known as the "Pooped Pirate") was shown exhausted from his pursuit of an unwilling teenaged female. He brandished a petticoat as guests floated past, and uttered suggestive dialogue, including: "It's sore I be to hoist me colors upon the likes of that shy little wench," and "I be willing to share, I be." Behind him, the woman he had been pursuing would peer out from her hiding place inside a barrel. In the 1997 refurbishment, the "Pooped Pirate" was recast as the Gluttonous Pirate, a rogue in search of food. His dialogue included lines such as: "Me belly be feeling like galleon with a load of treasure," and "I be looking for a fine pork loin, I be." The woman hiding in the barrel was replaced by a cat.
In 2006, Walt Disney Imagineering debuted refurbishments at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean feature films to coincide with the release of the second movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. With the recent revisions of the ride to incorporate features from the movie, Disney completely got rid of the sequence of women being chased by pirates. Instead, one turntable features two pirates running in a circle, each holding one end of a treasure chest (taken from the aforementioned Magic Kingdom modification). In another, a woman is chasing a pirate who is making off with some stolen pies. In the third, a woman is chasing a pirate while menacing him with a weapon. The "Pooped Pirate" character is now brandishing a map and the key to the town's Treasure Room, while Captain Jack Sparrow stealthily observes him from inside the barrel.
The refurbishments also included other Audio-Animatronic figures of Captain Jack Sparrow, and one of Hector Barbossa (who replaced the original captain of the Wicked Wench ship), along with new special effects, improved lighting and audio, and an appearance by the films' supernatural character Davy Jones, all voiced by the original actors. The skeleton beach and hurricane scenes are now accompanied by a quiet, mysterious instrumental version of "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)". The Disneyland version also features a new final "lift scene". When the boats are being lifted back to ground level, guests pass by an Audio-Animatronic figure of a tipsy Jack Sparrow relaxing and humming bits of the theme song amongst a collection of treasure.
Smaller modifications have been made to coincide with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. In the first treasure room, in the pirate's grotto, the chest of cursed Aztec gold from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl can be seen at the far right. In the skeletal bar room, in the very back of the room, Elizabeth Swann's discarded dress from Dead Man's Chest is visible. Also, portraits of Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa have been added to the pirate portraits that line the inside walls of the lobby at the Disneyland attraction.
In addition, the outdoor portion queue has been substantially changed since the Disneyland attraction's opening. The queue was originally all indoors, beginning at the doors that enter the ride's first show building. Lines of people frequently spread out into the entire walkway, creating a human barrier separating New Orleans Square, Tom Sawyer Island and Critter Country from the remainder of Disneyland, the walkway in front of Pirates of the Caribbean being the only access to these areas except for the Disneyland Railroad. In 1987, Disney decided that the ride's popularity necessitated a reorganized, permanent collection of switchbacks outside. A hole was dug in the original walkway, forming a lower patio for the queue's switchbacks. A bridge was then built over the patio so that passersby could continue past the attraction without having to fight their way through people in line on crowded days. Today, guests in line for the attraction walk through an archway beneath the bridge, through switchbacks in the patio, and eventually continue up curved ramps that lead back up to ground level and the building entrance itself. Severe crowding can result in the queue being rerouted into the small courtyard east of the main entrance, adjacent to the jungles of Adventureland, and/or into additional temporary switchbacks along the front of the bridge on the Haunted Mansion side of the arch. During the 1997 refurbishment, a 30th anniversary plaque and decorative fountain were installed against the back wall of the courtyard.
Onto the Pictures and Pins!
Let’s begin with some of the various attraction poster pins, all from Walt Disney Imagineering.
Various logos for the attraction, celebrating various anniversaries.
Pirates of the Caribbean Plaque.
A series of pins featuring famous scenes from the attraction, including the Prisoners, the Auctioneer, and the Town Square Well, among others.
Special pins for the attraction’s 35th Anniversary.
Just a few pins, featuring famous scenes, including Drunken Pirate with Pigs and the Well.
For the attraction’s anniversary, WDI released a Marc Davis series featuring original sketches from the attraction, by Marc Davis.
Marc Davis inspired diorama of the Prisoner scene with dog and keys.
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary, the set features various pins and scenes from the famous attraction.
A few more diorama pins, from WDI, with various scenes from the attraction.
The only pin released with Captain Jack Sparrow refurbishment, featuring Jack with “Pooped Pirate”.
More Walt Disney Imagineering pins, featuring some of the famous figures in the attraction.