The Magic of Disney Parks Storytelling: Pirates of the Caribbean

Erin Glover

by , Director, Publicity, Walt Disney Animation Studios

One of the characteristics that distinguishes a Disney Parks attraction is storytelling. When developing a new land or attraction, Walt Disney always challenged his Imagineers to create a unique story that guests could only experience at Disneyland, and to transport them into that story – an idea that has lived on at Disney parks around the world. This new Disney Parks Blog series will take us inside these stories – giving you the story behind each attraction and maybe even some details you haven’t noticed before.
Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Park

Pirates of the Caribbean marked its 46th anniversary last month, and so, as one of the classic examples of original Disney Parks storytelling, it’s the perfect place to begin this series. And as the pirate skull warns: “Ye come seeking adventure and salty old pirates, aye? Sure ye’ve come to the proper place.”

The story begins …

After boarding a small boat at Lafitte’s Landing on the outskirts of New Orleans, you pass an old shack with an elderly man playing a banjo on his porch. The strums of the banjo are intended to give a feeling of isolation in this remote backwater area. Soon, your boat plunges down two waterfalls – the second taking you back in time.
Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Park

You enter Dead Man’s Cove, where you meet pirates who died long ago and seem to be frozen in time. Your boat then journeys into the Ghostly Grotto, where you are transported further back in time to the days when the very pirates you met in Dead Man’s Cove are invading a small Caribbean seaport village in search of the town’s treasure and the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow. As you wind through the town, you find Captain Jack lurking around in search of the treasure himself. The boat passes an auction, where the pirates bid for a bride (go ahead – you know the line), as more pirates ransack every nook and cranny of the village just around the corner.

To escape the burning village, you float past the town jail and into the arsenal where pirates take target practice all around your boat, completely oblivious to the dangers all around them (including the barrels of gunpowder). When you find Captain Jack Sparrow at the town’s treasure vault, he offers you – his shipmates – a share of the booty (after he takes his cut … of course).

As you venture up the waterfall at the end of your voyage, you return to the time and place where your journey began, but with some words of warning in case you decide to visit again …

If you love the story of Pirates of the Caribbean as much as I do, let me know your favorite detail in the comments. Ye get bonus doubloons if ye leave yer comment in pirate speak, me hearties!

Read more about Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland park in the post below:


  • “Don’t tell him Carlos, don’t be chicken.” Love it!

  • So if the second waterfall takes you back in time, the first one takes you under the Disneyland Railroad.

  • #2 – Ron

    Didn’t know “me hearties” drink mint juleps. (Well written!).

  • I was told once that the old man on the porch playing the banjo was an old pirate, and the ride was him reminiscing on his old life as a pirate. I am not sure the validity of the story, but kind of an interesting perspective.

  • One of the things I love most about Disneyland is that no matter how many times I go (and I go a lot), there is always something new I see or learn. The time travel aspect of POTC is something I had no idea about, so I am super stoked to go on the ride and look at it with this new perspective. Looking forward to this new series. It sounds like a lot of fun. And, oh yes, the pirate with the dirty feet is probably my favorite too.

  • This post is for Valerie/#10: I have the boook “POTC: From the MK to the Movies” by Imagineer Jason Surrell, and he does state that the painting of the red-headed female pirate over the bar in the skeleton grotto is indeed the Redhead in the auction. The painting implies that the Redhead enjoyed a life of piracy. 🙂 Jason also wrote a similar book for the Haunted Mansion, and also one for the Disney Mountains.

  • I love the picture of the bride-to-bes! I must have seen hundreds of “Pirates” photos over the years, and I’ve never seen one from that angle.

  • I am so excited for this series!! I never thought of the Waterfalls as a journey through time! How did I miss that part of the story? I can’t wait to ride Pirates again with this new perspective. Thanks. Keep them coming! arrr

  • I absolutely love this ride, one of the best memories I have from going to Disney World as a young kid. This idea for a blog series is outstanding! The stories these attractions tell are so diverse, unique, and interesting that it’s difficult not to marvel in the creativity and imagination Walt and his Imagineers showed when creating all of them. I can’t wait to hear more about the stories behind the attractions, the most important part that ensures the attraction will stick in the minds of the rider well after the ride is over.

    • Thanks, Dylan. I’m looking forward to the next ones in the series, myself!

  • This ride just never gets old! And as crazy as it is, I love the pirate on the bridge with the dirty feet 🙂

    • That’s my favorite pirate too, Brittney! And also the one napping with the piggies. 😀

  • Yar! Dead man tell no tale! i went to WDW the year POTC was being reimaged w/Capt Jack. My Bro and i be 2 sad sea dogs that we didn’t get to ride the favorite family ride! Looking forward to hopefully taking my niece for her first trip in December (she be a pirate-lover, too, yar!)

  • It’s funny because as I read the line about bidding for a bride, the moment before I got to your parenthetical aside the line just popped right into my head.

    • ‘Tis only natural fer a true pirate, yarr.

  • I’ve heard the Redhead in the painting (behind the skeleton pirates drinking wine) is the Redhead from the auction. Since the chronology of the ride is flip-flopped, could this be true?

    • Great question! I don’t know for sure, but considering the story line and time-travel, it could be! Now I have to go ride Pirates of the Caribbean again today and look for her. Thanks for the heads-up!

  • “Dead Man Tells No Tale”

  • Salty Old Pirates, Salty Old Pirates….This be the place! Psst!….Avast there! It be too late to alter course, Mateys….and there be plundering Pirates lurking in every cove….waitin to board! Sit closer together….and keep yer ruddy hands inboards….that be the best way to repel boarders! And mark well me words mateys…..Dead Men Tell No tales! X.

  • The fact that the storyline of the ride transports you back in time is what really gets me excited and emotional because while im on that ride and in that world, it transports me to a time when i would ride this exact attraction with my loved ones 20 years ago over the course of my life. It really makes this magical. On a side note, is there any plans of special events or merchandise seeing as how its the anniversary? Id be in heaven if there was

  • On the extras for the Pirates 1 DVD/Blu-ray, there’s a copy of the vintage 60’s Wonderful World TV episode where the ride first grand-opened at Disneyland, and the show features a full ride-through of the story (the classic pre-Depp original), with closeups of all the events in story sequence, and no distractions.
    Showed that to the kids before watching the movie, just to get the classic key-dog and redhead references, since they’d been too young to go on the ride the first time.

    (And yes, more classic-attraction stories! 🙂 It’s the the one thing that makes a good attraction memorable, and most folk today just don’t pay attention.)

  • Best. Ride. Ever. (Really). There are so many great details to choose from, but my favorite would be the forced perspective of the background buildings combined with the special effects that make the buildings look on fire. You truly feel like you’re immersed in a Caribbean town, smack in the middle of a raging battle!

    Also, Erin– this is an excellent idea for a blog series. I would love posts on the Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, Indiana Jones and Haunted Mansion, just to name a few…

    • Thanks, Dustin! Stay tuned, more to come …

  • I love Pirates of the Caribbean, and I love how all of the recent enhancements blend in with everything else.

    I always love how imagineers will keep a reference to the past. As an example;
    even though the narration (that Matthew from CA quoted) is no longer part of the attraction, at the end of the ride (as the boats go up the lift) one of the things that Davy Jones says is “Ye may not survive to past this way again!” This of course, being a reference to the original narration.

  • I had no idea!

    That’s awesome!

  • Aye Mateys. I set sail every chance I get. Once I have completed my journey, it leaves me bung up and bilge free. We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, we loot, drink up mint juleps, yo ho.

  • Perhaps ye knows too much. Ye’ve seen the cursed treasure. Ye knows where it be hidden. Now proceed at your own risk. These be the last friendly words you hear. You may not survive to pass this way again!

    • Arr, ye right now yer old school pirate speak, me hearty. Doubloons fer ye! Yo ho!

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