Originally envisioned in the late 1950s as a walk-through wax museum featuring historical pirates, the attraction concept evolved into a boat ride through complex show scenes filled with Audio-Animatronics characters after the 1964 New York World's Fair brought about several advances in Disney's theme park technologies. Ultimately, humorous sketches of fictional pirates by Imagineer Marc Davis inspired the animatronic dioramas seen throughout the final attraction.
The portrait of the female pirate above the bar in the Crews Quarters scene is an original work by Davis. The pirate captain in the scene where captured women are auctioned as brides is a test figure for updated developments in Audio-Animatronic technology; many innovations are tried on him first. Consequently, his movements are far more lifelike and expressive than any other Audio-Animatronics figure at Disneyland.
The ride never was intended to be part of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort because of concerns that it would not be exotic enough due to Florida's geographic proximity to the Caribbean and New Orleans, the settings of the Disneyland attraction. Instead, Imagineers developed plans for a similar attraction called the Western River Expedition. After many Walt Disney World guests complained about the lack of Disney's celebrated pirate attraction, an abbreviated version opened in Florida on December 15, 1973.
Take a look at some of original concept art from the attraction’s showscenes and figures.
Walt Disney himself "cast" the roles of the pirates to live actors and workers whom the WED engineers would replicate in clay to create the full-sized pirates and buccaneers. The actors would perform the action that the pirate was to follow, and this action would be filmed. WED programmers then used the film as reference material to animate the Audio-Animatronics
Pictures and Information from Tell No Tales