Pirates of the Caribbean

Disney at Work Podcast #5: Celebrating Pirates of the Caribbean Around the World

Pirates of the Caribbean opened this week fifty years ago.  We are celebrating this amazing attraction by visiting its counterparts around the world, and looking at the lessons learned from each. Join us on this podcast as we celebrate Pirates of the Caribbean around the world.  You can find the link on iTunes, SoundCloud, or TuneIn.

Disneyland Resort, California

The original Pirates attraction is a testament to Walt Disney taking all of the tricks of the trade, and putting them together to create one superior attraction. He spent more money on it and New Orleans Square than he did on the whole of Disneyland when it was built. He used the talents of so many Imagineers to help shape the attraction. And while Walt would pass away before opening day, some 400 million people have visited this attraction at Disneyland alone. It continues to be one of  the most popular attractions today.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean, Disneyland Resort. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Walt Disney World

You would have thought that with Pirates of the Caribbean being so popular in California, that management would have installed the attraction when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. But the thought was that Walt Disney World was too close to the Caribbean and New Orleans to include an attraction themed to such nearby locations.  Moreover, another similar type of boat attraction was being planned for Frontierland as part of phase II in the construction of the Magic Kingdom. But guests complained after the park opened, and soon they gave in to building the attraction, setting it in a Caribbean fortress.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

In recent years, the attractions at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland have added a Jack Sparrow and company element, without robbing the original attraction of its charm. At Walt Disney World, they have added additional adventures based on Jack Sparrow such as a scavenger hunt throughout Adventureland and even a pirate makeover experience known as Pirates League. Beyond the gates of the Magic Kingdom, other pirate offerings can be found such as DisneyQuest’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold, and pirate night aboard the Disney Cruise Line–complete with fireworks. Meanwhile, back at Disneyland, Tom Sawyer Island has been re-themed to become Pirate’s Lair.

Pirates of the Caribbean
A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasure of the Seven Seas. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Makeovers await all scallywags who visit The Pirate's League. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Makeovers await all scallywags who visit The Pirate’s League. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Pirates's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Pirates’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Tokyo Disneyland

The experience in Tokyo is parallel to the experience at Disneyland. While they don’t have as many drops, they do have a Blue Bayou Restaurant. The difference is that their attention to detail is so perfected, that you feel like the attraction just opened the day before. The following is a shot of Pirates of the Caribbean in Tokyo Disneyland:

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean, Tokyo Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Just as a simple example of how park operations pays attention to the detail; look at how pristine the walkway is. That is a hint of how amazing the details become when you actually enter the building and ride the attraction.

Disneyland Paris

A new generation of Imagineers had a hand in Disneyland Paris’ version. They set up the attraction in a different order, making in many ways better sense of the experience. Moreover, they connected it better to the Adventureland area. Note the map below of Adventure Isle, which plays off of Peter Pan, Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island–all a part of the greater pirating experience. This island sits just across the water from the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. And Pirates sits adjacent to Peter Pan’s Flight. A totally better fit.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Adventure Isle, Disneyland Paris. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland offers nothing regarding Pirates of the Caribbean. For that matter, it didn’t open with a Haunted Mansion or a Big Thunder Railroad. “it’s a small world” was not even present at opening. Small wonder that the park earned the reputation of not having much to offer. Decades later, they are still fighting that perception. Other attractions like Mystic Manor and Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars have made up for not having a Haunted Mansion or a Big Thunder Mountain. But there is still no equivalent to Pirates of the Caribbean.

Shanghai Disneyland

The most recent Magic Kingdom across the globe almost over-compensated for the lack of attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland by adding not just an attraction, but an entire themed land based on pirates. New characters, new stories, and new adventures await guests visiting this park.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Treasure Cove. Shanghai Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

A big show is part of the offering at Treasure Cove, one that is easily on par with the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

Pirates of the Caribbean
Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

And then there is the attraction itself–Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure. Here, they have completely re-designed the attraction for a Chinese audience who only know Pirates by way of Jack Sparrow. New film technology, ride systems, animatronics and special effects create a Pirates experience unlike any other. Clearly Pirates of the Caribbean will be around for years to come.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure, at Shanghai Disneyland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Clearly, there is no end to the possibilities laid out 60 years ago when Walt Disney created the original Pirates of the Caribbean. This genre–this brand–is a big part of the Walt Disney company today.

Pirates of the Caribbean Souvenirs

So what are the souvenirs you can take home to your business that we get to glean from as we consider the last 50 years of  Pirates of the Caribbean?

  1. Apply All You Know. Combine all the strengths you have to build your products and services.
  2. Listen to Your Customer. Don’t always presume you know more than they do about what interests them.
  3. Maintain the Gold Standard. Building it is one thing, preserving its perfection is another.
  4. Let the Next Generation In. Your products and services will evolve. So should the people who help shape them.
  5. Don’t Create an Offering Without Your Crown Jewels. Don’t go offering something subpar, when people are expecting the best.
  6. Evolve the Offering. Keep taking it to the next level.

By every measurement, Pirates of the Caribbean has become a success unlike any other Disney offering. By following these ideas, you can create a success of the products and services you offer.

Thanks for joining us. If you like our podcast, please share a positive rating and/or review. And please subscribe, so you know when other podcasts are available.

Leave a Comment