AutoMatters & More: 50 Years of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ at Disneyland & ‘Dream Big’

Souvenir anniversary T-shirt (Jan Wagner / C 2017 Jan R. Wagner, AutoMatt)
(Jan Wagner / C 2017 Jan R. Wagner, AutoMatt)

“Pirates of the Caribbean”

Yo-ho-ho and shiver me timbers mateys! We fans – some dressed in pirate costumes – gathered at Disneyland on Saturday, March 18th to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” That was the date of its “soft opening.” The official Grand Opening was a month later, on April 19, 1967.

Disney tells us that within these 50 years, this beloved, iconic theme park attraction has thrilled, amazed and entertained 400 million guests from around the world.

It was and remains a technological marvel. Through the magic of Disney’s Audio-Animatronics (animation of lifelike characters), over 100 characters bring to life scenes of fun-filled pirate lore, rich in colorful details and steeped in tradition. The familiar lyrics of the upbeat theme song – “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirates life for me!” – serenade the wide-eyed passengers, as their boats wind their way through a canal in the Caribbean.

Marketplace scene
Marketplace scene (Jan Wagner / C 2017 Jan R. Wagner, AutoMatt)

The New Orleans-themed, table service Blue Bayou Restaurant overlooks the first dimly lit scene, as fireflies flit on the Louisiana bayou. Here the boats begin their perilous journey down the rapids and then proceed at a leisurely pace through the canal. A ghostlike image of Davy Jones appears on a waterfall. Other scenes reveal plentiful pirates’ treasure, a raging battle with cannons between a pirate ship and the fortified shoreline, mischievous goings-on in a marketplace, and jailed pirates engaged in a futile effort to encourage a tantalizingly nearby dog to bring them the key to their cell.

In the Jan. 3, 1965 episode of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” TV show, Walt built anticipation for “Pirates of the Caribbean” as he discussed models of the attraction. Sadly, this would be the final attraction he supervised before his passing.

This original “Pirates of the Caribbean” is located in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. At $15 million, its cost equals the amount that the United States paid for the real New Orleans in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Dog has key to the jail cell
Dog has key to the jail cell (Jan Wagner / C 2017 Jan R. Wagner, AutoMatt)

Four more “Pirates of the Caribbean” attractions – each with their own distinct features and identity – have opened in other Disney parks around the world: Florida (1973), Tokyo (1983), Paris (1992) and Shanghai (2016) – the anchor for an entire pirate-themed land named “Treasure Cove,” complete with an original story entitled “Eye of the Storm – Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean” – the attraction, inspired “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” – the film, in 2003, which in turn inspired additions to the attraction. The film, starring Johnny Depp as the charming rogue Captain Jack Sparrow, was the first of several films in the franchise. The foreboding “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is set for release in theaters on May 26, 2017.

Other highlights that guests currently enjoy at the parks include Disneyland’s nighttime fireworks and the “Main Street Electrical Parade,” plus the spectacular “World of Color” water and pyrotechnics show at Disney California Adventure.

Captain Jack Sparrow
Captain Jack Sparrow (Jan Wagner / C 2017 Jan R. Wagner, AutoMatt)

“Dream Big: Engineering Our World”

From the imaginations of Disney Imagineers to the innovative work of other creative professionals, engineering is the heart and soul of what builds our world.

Narrated by Jeff Bridges, this awe inspiring MacGillivray Freeman documentary film in IMAX captivates audiences as it travels the globe to showcase some of the many ways that engineering is making our planet a better and more hospitable place.

The unique Falkirk Wheel in Scotland efficiently rotates to move boats between two different levels of canals. The soaring Shanghai Tower twists skyward to reduce the impact of typhoon winds, protecting the 16,000 people who live, work and play within its walls. The brilliant choice of sticky rice as a key component of the enduring mortar has bound together the blocks of the Great Wall of China for thousands of years. In Haiti, engineers provide the necessary expertise to teach locals in impoverished communities to build vital footbridges over dangerous rivers, saving lives. School children learn about the critical role of engineering in the design of roller coasters. An engineer performing a routine inspection confidently walks along the very top of the Golden Gate suspension bridge in San Francisco – engineered in the 1930s.

“Dream Big: Engineering Our World” is now being presented on the giant 76-foot dome theater screen of the Fleet Science Center in San Diego’s Balboa Park. For more information and to watch the trailer, visit

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Copyright © 2017 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #481r2