Pirates of the Caribbean – “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirates Life for Me”

Pirates of the Caribbean ride
Credit: Disney

So, ye think ye can be a pirate do ye? Best be finding out what that means. Before ye take up with the likes of Captain Jack Sparrow ye need to be educated on all things piratey. There be some strange things happenin’ in these parts, talk of ghosts about, and watery holes that swallow ships and talkin’ waterfalls!

Learnin’ to be a pirate with Captain Jack Sparrow – Check yer Times Guide for when Captain Jack Sparrow will be back to teach ye a thing or two about this pirate business. Ye can learn how to fight with a sword, and how to evade the enemy. Learn how to talk proper pirate-ese so your shipmates will understand ye. If ye pass muster, ye may be enlisted by Captain Jack Sparrow himself! Argh you ready?

Avast ye Matey Ye need proper gear so head to the Pirate’s League nearby to get yer best swashbuckling duds to prepare ye for the voyage ahead. Ye will wants a sword, duds, and maybe a scar or two. Aye, the more scars the better the pirate. While swabbing’ the deck ye want to sing the pirate song so learn it! Yo ho, yo ho…

Walk the plank – Take a stride inside, work your way through the line. There be arms and cannons about. Board the ship you are told to or you will be walking the plank back outside.

Shiver me timbers, be that a ghost?  Talk is that there be ghosts in these waters. Be steady at the helm and keep moving forward and they won’t be botherin’ ye. Check out the photo below of the empty grotto, empty except for two ghosts (and a warning sign).  Buccaneers have been seeing these misty appearances for years.

Plunderin’ be dangerous business – so ye see fer yerself what danger ye are in. That is no ordinary skeleton in that boat. See how these former swashbucklers met their fate. First rule: Don’t tell another pirate where ye buried ye treasure. Second rule: leave the mermaids in the sea, they bring ye nothin’ but trouble.  It is too late to turn back now.  The ominous voice ye hear is real and so be his message: dead men tell no tales. You hear a voice in the distance warning you that “dead men tell no tales” in an ominous tone. We see a set of pirate skeletons run through with swords, perhaps for trying to take another pirates treasure, and a skeleton of a mermaid in the small boat.  A pirate’s life is not an easy, care-free one. The iconic image of the pirate skeleton steering the pirate ship with tattered sails and a storm in the distance has been the image set on Pirates of the Caribbean collector pins, t-shirts, etc.

Going ashore – Why does any pirate go ashore? He goes in search of supplies he has run out of on the ship, to spend some of the gold he has found, to find some warm comfort from the cold wet sea. And then there is the plunderin’ of the town of course. If it takes dunking the mayor in the town well until he talks, so be it. Pirate booty includes rum, hats, and the town’s treasure. Be careful of the women, they will beat you for looting their chickens or other food.

No more brides for sale. – “Me wants the redhead!” Well, we still have the redhead, but with the recent updates to the bride auction scene, the redhead is now among the pirates in an auction scene for stolen goods. If ye try to back out, there be a pistol aimed for ye, so think before ye bid! Perhaps ye would be happiest with a bottle of rum and some pigs or kitties or go find a new hat.

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Who be the Captain of this here vessel? – Captains have been spotted but they are not all the same, and some are in multiple places. First in sights is the notorious pirate Captain Blackbeard, warning you that trouble is up ahead. He is speaking from inside a waterfall.  Then you narrowly escape the ill fate of the pirates, who are now just skeletons, by plunging into darkness down a deep watery hole and emerge into times gone by where you spot Captain Barbossa upon his 12-gun galleon. Barbossa is attacking a 17thC Spanish Fort.  He is bent on finding another Captain- that be Captain Jack Sparrow. First Captain Jack is spotted hiding in the shadows among some dress forms, later hiding in a barrel, and lastly sitting atop the town’s riches. Looks like Captain Jack comes out ahead this time. [After the success of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films Imagineers decided to add some characters to the ride, such as the three Captain Jack Sparrow’s, Captain Barbossa onboard the pirate ship attacking the fortress, and Blackbeard in the mist screen you pass through (which used to have Davy Jones projected on the mist) and the mermaids in the water from the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides added more recently.]

“Dead Men Tell No Tales” – ye see the men in the brig? Another rule: Don’t be in a brig when pirates come ashore. They most likely will plunder and burn the place, leaving no one behind that could identify them for their crimes. Always keep a bit of hard tack or dried meat in yer pocket, use it for drawing the jailer’s dog to ye with the cell key. [If fortune smiles on you, you will have brig mates to help you pass the time. Pray that they are not as good at chess as you are. The pirates in the brig, seen from the queue, have stared at their chessboard until death took them. They are in a stalemate at least that is what the attraction story line is supposed to be. Occasionally a piece may be misplaced when cleaning. Marc Davis who designed the attraction was careful to do lengthy research to set the board up this way, but during a refurbishment the pieces were removed from the board and the Imagineers were unsure on how to replace them in their original positions. They searched through Davis’ drawings until they found a small sketch on the back of a larger drawing that showed the correct placement. Pieces were replaced on the board using the drawing as a guide. However, it appears some pieces have been moved and it is no longer a stalemate, a situation where the exact same moves were destined to just keep repeating themselves and no one could win the game.]

That be the Jolly Roger? – adventuring pirates will be flying a black flag with a white skull and cross bones. This be the sign of the Jolly Roger. [Check out that pirate flag. It shows a white skull and two crossed white swords on a black field. It is based on actual flags that were spotted on pirate frigates during the 1500’s through the early 1800’s. It wasn’t until sometime in the 1700’s that we began to see the pirates expand to having swords with flames, hourglasses, and skeleton/bones. The one who became the most famous appears to be the Jolly Roger which is the white skull and crossbones, again on the black field.]

Background on the attraction: The Disneyland attraction was the last one to be personally overseen by Walt Disney himself, and opened 3 months after his death. Walt was very much involved in the design of this attraction. Originally the attraction was slated to be a walk through wax museum, but due in part to the high interest in Audio Animatronic figures at the 1964 World’s Fair, Walt decided to use AA’s to tell the story here.

The story is that a pirate ship arrived and is taking over the seacoast town. We see Carlos, the town Magistrate, being dunked in the well in between saying he will not talk when repeatedly asked where the town’s treasure is.  There is canon fire being exchanged between the fortress (based on Castillo de San Felipe Del Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico) and the pirate ship carrying Captain Barbossa.   You may remember the original ride had several pirates chasing after the towns women.  It has changed over time and now the women are chasing the pirates hitting them with brooms.  The Bride Auction Scene remains unchanged.  The Burning City presents a pretty realistic fire scene made by pieces of fabric, fans and lights.

The catchy tune “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” was composed by George Bruns, famous for co-writing The Ballad of Davy Crockett as well as other Disney film scores; lyrics by Francis Xavier Atencio who also wrote the original story for the ride, and the theme song for Haunted Mansion. Francis Xavier Atencio was rumored to refer to the more politically and socially correct version of Pirates of the Caribbean as Boy Scouts of the Caribbean.

Attraction Details:

·       No height requirement

·       9-minutes

·       The boats seat about 23 guests, four to a row except for row 6 that only holds 3

Attraction Timeline:

·       Disneyland, original ride, opened March 18, 1967, 3 months after Walt Disney’s death

·       Magic Kingdom ride, opened in 1973

·       PotC films began in 2003 with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End;

·       2005-major overhaul where Davy Jones was added to a mist screen,

·       2006-outside changes: talking parrot removed, attraction sign replaced with mast holding new sail with attraction name, placed to the left side so it faces the rest of Adventureland. A Pirate skeleton appears in the crow’s nest.

·       2006-outside changes: talking parrot removed, attraction sign replaced with mast holding new sail with attraction name, placed to the left side so it faces the rest of Adventureland. A Pirate skeleton appears in the crow’s nest.

·       2006-Characters from the films are incorporated into the ride: Captain Jack Sparrow(3- hiding near alley, hiding in barrel, drinking and singing in Treasure scene), Davy Jones-later replaced with Captain Blackbeard in Mist Screen, Barbossa on pirate ship; 3 pirates in jail scene; scenery and script changes

·       May 20, 2011-release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

·       “Mermaids” appearing in opening grotto as light up shapes swimming in the water

·       2014-British tourist loses tips of two fingers on ride; a child’s hand was also injured on the ride, both individuals having hand outside the boats

·       2017-release of another film: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

TIP: This is a FP+ ride, but the queue is one of the most interesting so don’t avoid it because you don’t have a FP+. The ride is indoors, so it is not closed due to weather as many other rides do when lighting shows up in the area. Head here if you see a thunderstorm pop up. The queue is inside, and usually has a nice breeze blowing through it and the section inside the doors is well themed. If you have children you can tell them to see how many animals they can spot and that may take their minds off of what may be causing them to be afraid. There are no Rider Switch passes given on Pirates, or any other ride that everyone can ride. If your child is afraid, don’t make him/her ride it, wait until a future visit when they may want to ride.

Characters: Captain Jack Sparrow Pirate Tutorial is a live show that takes place across the plaza from the entrance to Pirates. Check your Times Guide for times for the show the day you are there. Captain Jack interacts with the audience, especially the children.

Restaurants: There are only counter service restaurants in this area. Across the plaza is Tortuga Tavern (Mexican), next to the Pirates Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas is a food stand, Golden Oaks Outpost that is opened seasonally with changing menus, and across from that is Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café (Taco Salad, Burgers, Sandwiches).

Gift Shop: the ride empties into a gift shop, a real Pirates bazaar, where you will find many themed apparel choices, glassware, swords, books, hats, costumes, spy glasses, pins, home décor snacks, wooden guns, and even some Jack Skellington themed merchandise. This was the first attraction to empty into a gift shop and it did so well that more have been added.


About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.