the eerie grotto, the boats find themselves thrust through
a blinding mist into the smoky middle of a battle. Pirates
aboard their ship, "The Wicked Wench," are lobbing
cannonballs across the lagoon at a spanish fort, which is
returning fire. Caught in the middle between splashing cannonballs
are the innocent guests aboard their boats, proceeding heedlessly
through the smoky melee.
"Strike yer colors, you bloomin' cockroachers!"
screams the crazed captain as the cannonballs screech toward
The audio soundtrack
from the battle portrays the evil pirates aboard
the "Wicked Wench" preparing to sack an unsuspecting
each splash of each apparent errant cannonball, the water
glows orange as the red hot projectile cools.
At left: a rare photo of one of the Wicked Wench's crew
preparing to fire a cannon at the fort. The audio-animatronic
character moves up and down to peek out from behind the
ship, and the cannon moves forward and backward with the
force of the "blast."
Of course, there are no real projectiles.
Each cannonball splashdown is actually created by a flash
of light mixed with an upward blast of air from under the
water surface. This set is one of the most majestic large-scale
scenes in the ride, but even so, it uses lighting and forced
perspective to create the appearance of a much larger space.
By creating a ship with top sails that are much smaller
than they would be on a real ship (and, likewise, a fortress
with smaller upper levels), the effect of a larger scale
As part of Disneyland's 50th anniversary enhancements
in 2005, the cannon fire and resulting blasts were amped
up, with much larger splashes and blasts from an air cannon
whooshing through guests' hair. Pictured below: the fort
upon which the pirates are firing their cannons.
Sacking the Town
Carlos, the town's
magistrate, is tortured by the pirates who are
seeking the spoils of their raid by attempting to steal
the town's riches.
through the gates of the sacked town, guests see the first
of a number of incredibly detailed scenes of mayhem. First,
Carlos, the magistrate of the town is seen being tortured
by being dunked in the town well by a group of pirates asking
for the location of the treasure. "I weel not talk!"
he replies bravely in a Spanish accent, before being dunked
A line of other town officials stand in a
line, bound as prisoners, perhaps waiting their turn at
The captives are being held at the gates of
the Mayor's home, which has been battered open and ransacked.
His proud wife occasionally peeks out of an upstairs window,
admonishing her husband "Don't tell him, Carlos! Don't
be chee-ken!" A pirate's pot shot at the window sill
quickly causes the wife to duck back inside, but she'll
peek out again before long...
Floating on, the next scene that guests come to is
the ride's infamous "auction scene," in
which drunken pirates are encouraged to bid on the
local women, and a banner advises the men to "Take
a Wench for a Bride!" In an interview with "E
Ticket" Magazine, Imagineer Claude Coats recalls
Walt's apprehension at the idea of the scene. "He
came in one time and even said, 'This will be all
right, won't it?' He was a little doubtful of auctioning
off the girls. Was that quite 'Disney' or not?"
Pirates will be pirates, though, so the scene was
included... though some humor was added to the scene,
to give it a comic lift. While the auctioneer (pictured,
right) is trying to sell off one on the typical "stout-hearted
and cornfed" women of the town, the bidders cry
out for the "redhead," a flirtatious woman
waiting in the wings for her turn to go to the highest
bidder, with apparent delight.
An audio loop
from the Auction scene demonstrates more of "X"
Atencio's great script and deft sense of humor.
Pictured at left is the "redhead," a "wench"
who needs no cajoling to strut her wares for the randy
pirates. This scene is one of the most complex, with
Audio-Animatronic magic everywhere. The intricate
"auctioneer" pirate moves and speaks with
amazing realism, and the drunk bidders respond to
him with merry glee. When one of them shoots his gun,
props across the waterway respond as if hit by the
shot, and Audio-Animatronic chickens and goats respond
with alarm. And, of course, the dialogue pulls everything
The auctioneer: "Do I hear Six? Who'll
make it six? The drunken bidder: "Six it be... Six
bottles of rum!" The auctioneer: "I'm not spongin' for
rum! It be gold I'm after..."
Pictured above: Some of the pirates take a
break to enjoy a bit of rum. Pictured during a ride rehab,
the audio-animatronic figures above can be seen without
Drifting onward, we see that many of
the women of the town didn't take kindly to being
sold off, as many of them have apparently escaped,
and are being chased through town by their pirate
suitors. This scene (accomplished by placing the frozen
"chasing" characters on rapidly spinning
carousels) has since been removed, and now features
pirates chasing after food. One infamous tableau from
this scene featured a "pooped" pirate reminiscing
about the "lively lassie" he wished to "hoist
his colors" upon. Holding her slip as he prattles
on, the innocent victim peers out from inside an oak
barrel behind the pirate's back as he keeps boasting,
Judging this scene to be a bit over
the top in today's social climate, Disney changed
An audio loop
of the '90s era "pooped pirate" demonstrates
his less-controversial intentions, as he hunts food,
rather than lively lassies.
the setting is the same, the scenewas altered to feature
the "pooped" pirate reminiscing about the culinary
wonders of the town, as hunger seems to have taken the place
of a lusty libdo in these pirates' minds. Rather than a
frightened maiden peeking out of the barrel, now an alley
cat would peek out, trying to steal a meal off of the gluttonous
With the 2005 rehab of the attraction, pirate
Jack Sparrow from the film franchise was added to the attraction
in three scenes: once near the magistrate-dunking sequence,
once at the very end of the ride, and once right here, again
altering the "pooped pirate" scene. Now, Sparrow
hides in the barrel, peeking out as he tries to discover
where the town's loot is hidden.
An audio loop
of the drunken arsonists as they hoist their torches
in the air and set the town ablaze.
As the boats drift further into the heart
of the town, the pirates get more frantic and the mayhem
gets more dangerous as the town is set ablaze. Meanwhile,
the pirates have become too drunk to care, as they sing
the theme song blissfully and go about their looting of
the village, unaware of the threat that the flaming town