Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Souvenirs: Pirate Treasure

With less than four months until the much anticipated release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, buccaneers and swashbucklers seem to be plundering the media and invading all aspects of our popular culture. In this spirit, I would like to make my own contribution to this potential over saturation, by revisiting a favorite souvenir from one of my early Walt Disney World vacations.

I experienced Walt Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction for the first time during the summer of 1976. I returned home with two very special mementos of the voyage—a wooden toy replica of a flintlock pistol (which if there ever was a Disney Souvenir Hall of Fame, it would likely be one of the first inductees), and the souvenir booklet Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Story of Robust Adventure in Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Pirates of the Caribbean almost instantaneously became my favorite Disney attraction, and some thirty years later still retains that distinction. That souvenir booklet became the tangible piece of the experience I was able to bring home with me that year. Pouring over its contents repeatedly, it inspired me to seek out more information on the both the history of piracy, and the methods by which the Disney Company created its theme park entertainment.

It included the following time capsule description of Walt Disney World's Caribbean Plaza where the east coast version of the attraction came to be located:

"Here you can browse leisurely before and after your voyage on the high seas with the Pirates of the Caribbean. Wander through the shops —"La Princesa de Cristal," "The Golden Galleon," the "House of Treasure." Stop for a cool refreshment at "El Pirata y El Perico" (the Pirate and the Parrot). Enjoy the cool fountains — "Fuente de la Fortuna," "La Fuente Serena," "Fuente
Cielo Azul."

"This is yesterday, today... the delightful Caribbean Plaza in Adventureland at Walt Disney World... the boarding place for a voyage on the high seas with the Pirates of the Caribbean."

With an informative history of the “Golden Age of Piracy” serving as an introduction, the booklet provides a behind the scenes record of the making of the attraction, and then ends with an illustrated ride-through via production art and photographs. It was my first real exposure to the Imagineering division, then still known as WED Enterprises. At the time, I was just fifteen years old and knew little of the creative talent behind the Walt Disney brand. Hence, I had no idea that the production artwork featured extensively throughout the booklet came from the hand of Marc Davis, alumnus of the Nine Old Men and one of Walt’s early Imagineers. Davis himself is pictured within the pages, but sadly, is never identified by name.

One particular paragraph near the book’s beginning summed up Pirates of the Caribbean in a context absent of Johnny Depp, DVDs and MMOGs, but still exceptionally relevant to today’s Disney enthusiasts:

"All of Disneyland and Walt Disney World, of course, is a "living legacy" to the life and works of Walt Disney. But even in these magic kingdoms, where creative concepts and mechanical marvels are combined in ways never before envisioned, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is an extraordinary achievement."


Daveland said...

I also still have this POTC booklet; it was a treasure to me then, and it still is. Thanks for posting this today and reminding me!

DisneyDave said...

I concur...Pirates is my favorite attraction. Always has been.

I remember going on that ride for the first time when our family went to Disneyland for the first time in 1977. I still vividly recall the talking skeleton head at the entrance and the first two drops down the waterway...what a thrill!

I wanted to hop out and play with the animatronics in all the different tableaus - heck, I still want to!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I too had that booklet after my first trip to WDW in 1977 when I was 2! It eventually was lost, but I remember it so well. In fact, I've tried to bid on it several times on Ebay!

Anonymous said...

Pirates is one of my faves as well, and I was dreading seeing the new version with Jack Sparrow included. I was really pleasantly surprised. The additions (and other changes) were done with taste and tact, which is more than can be said for the heavy-handed changes in the pirate chase scenes from a few years back. Long live Pirates!

Anonymous said...

First saw the POC the year it opened also. My souvenir (which miraculously I still have) from that attraction is a skull that at one time glowed in the dark! The thing has some weight to it too - they don't make souvenirs like that anymore.