Housed in a tiled-roof building based on Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Disney’s technological prowess as of the 1960s is showcased here at its most whimsical. I call this indoor boat float the quintessential Disney ride, so it’s probably no coincidence that it was the last Disneyland attraction Walt had a hand in designing, even though he conceived it as a walk-through wax museum. With 65 Audio-Animatronic figures in motion, Imagineer Marty Sklar said Walt envisioned the experience like a cocktail party: “You hear a little bit, but you don't get it all. You have to ride again.” The more you ride, the more you see: the pirate whose errant gunshot ricochets off a metal sign across the room, the nervous barnyard animals, and the sumptuous theatrical lighting that makes everything look as if it has been imported from Jamaica. (The Johnny Depp robots have a lot more performance discipline than he does.) You’ll see a few familiar scenes, including a slapstick sacking of an island port, a cannonball fight, and much drunken chicanery from ruddy-cheeked buccaneers. (Unsavory? Hey, even Captain Hook was obsessed with murdering a small boy.)
In 2018, the infamous wench auction was revised into something that doesn’t giggle at human trafficking—the voluptuous redhead who for 47 years was daily being sold into slavery has switched sides. She now has a rifle, a name (Redd), and she’s more interested in rum than anything else. There’s a short, pitch-black drop near the beginning but you don’t get wet—the concept, which you’d never grasp unless I told you, is that you’re going back in time to see what killed the skeletons you pass in the first scene. Near the end of the 9-minute journey (almost a drive-thru version compared to Disneyland’s 16-minute original) you’ll see Captain Jack Sparrow, having outlived his compatriots, counting his treasure. The shop at Pirates’ exit is one of the better ones because it’s big on buccaneer booty. Tip: If you have neck issues, be prepared for jolts near the end of the ride as the boats pile up, waiting for the final dock.