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Real World Gothic

Ye come seekin’ adventure and salty ol’ pirates, eh? Sure ye come to the proper place. But keep a weather eye open, mates, and hold on tight, with both hands if you please.” – Talking Pirates of the Caribbean Skull

Before Pirates of the Caribbean became a worldwide blockbuster starring Johnny Depp, it was a ride that made its first appearance at Disneyland on March 18, 1967. Due to immense popularity, the ride spread to Walt Disney World in Florida, Disneyland Tokyo, and Disneyland Paris. Millions of tourist flock to these destinations each year to experience the magic of the Disney Parks, and the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is one of the most popular stops at each of the parks. For this reason, when Disney filmmakers were looking for a new inspiration of a live action movie, they inevitably turned to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Though the ride has gone through several changes throughout the years, its popularity is unwavering, bolstered by the release of the movies made in its honor.

Here is a video of the original ride that opened in 1967. Characters such as Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbossa, and Elizabeth Turner that have become ubiquitous with the Pirates of the Caribbean brand are not featured as they did not exist yet. It does, however, feature a boat ride, a catchy song, troublesome pirates, and a sense of adventure.





For an attraction at a theme park mostly targeted at children, Pirates of the Caribbean is decidedly dark. It is a real-life plunge into the gothic that features skeletons left over from misadventures, burning villages, and some violence. Considering that the beloved characters featured in the movies were not an original draw for the ride, happy park goers must have been attracted to something else. It could be that pirates have always had universal appeal, but the equally universal appeal of the gothic is also probably responsible for its continued popularity.





When Pirates of the Caribbean was being adapted into a movie, filmmakers were careful to make as many nods to the ride as possible. By appealing to fans of the ride, Disney had a preset fan base to draw upon. That, and the promise of many more new fans drawn by its gothic appeal, ensured that the movie would be one of Disney’s greatest recent successes.

According to IMDB, references to the Disneyland attractions include (but are not limited to):

  • three uses of the song “(Yo Ho, Yo Ho) A Pirate’s Life for Me” by Xavier Atencio and George Bruns in the opening scene (sung by young Elizabeth), when Jack and Elizabeth are marooned on the island, and in the end by Jack.
  • The jail scenes, in which the prisoners try to tempt the dog who holds the key to their cell. Jack says, “That dog is never going to move” – although the movie dog eventually does, the one in the ride doesn’t. Jack later tries to tempt it with a bone, as does one of the audio-animatronic pirates in the ride.
  • The “burning town” sequence, and within it, the redheaded prostitute (who slaps Jack), and the “stuffed pirate” drinking the rum spurting out of a barrel
  • Jack’s initial discovery of Gibbs sleeping with the pigs
  • The line “Dead men tell no tales”, said by the macaw, which is repeated throughout the ride’s narration
  • A quick shot of a skeleton sprawled on the beach of the Isla de Muerta, with a crab nearby
  • During the raid on the town, seen is a man being dunked into a well.
  • A skeletal Barbossa drinks wine, which trickles through his exposed ribcage, as one of the skeletal pirates do.
  • During the battle scene between the two ships, Black Pearl and the Interceptor Captain Barbossa refers to his crew as “bloomin cockroaches” just like the captain in the ride does when his ship attacks a local town fort.
  • In Tortuga, we see a pirate drinking rum on top of two barrels and is wobbling just like in the ride.
  • There are references to cursed treasure in the ride: old pirates speak of cursed treasure and how you probably don’t believe in it, and the line “Who knows when that evil curse will strike the greedy beholders of this bewitched treasure.”
  • The woman wearing a red dress at Tortuga island that slaps Jack and he wonders if he deserved it is a character in the ride.
  • Part of the Caribbean Beach Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is called “Port Royal”
After the monumental success of the movies, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was reimagined to include characters and scenes from the movies. The new ride’s popularity exploded, and it was one of the most visited attractions of all of the Disney Parks for several years.

Ride after the movies:



                          Park guests are even able to meet Jack Sparrow! (sometimes)

The Pirates of the Caribbean ride and movie experience allows people to               interact with the gothic in a way that would have been impossible during the times of popular gothic literature. It is unique opportunity for fans of the gothic to step into a truly gothic world. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride and movies’ popularity is a testament to the true, unwavering appeal of the gothic even to modern audiences. Whereas original fans of the gothic were limited to experiencing the gothic through books, today’s fans are able to enjoy a much more interactive experience.


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