Monday, May 22, 2017

This 1967 Pirates of the Caribbean Radio Commercial Is Delightful

By Keith Mahne

This past March, Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction turned 50 years old – and what a ride it’s been. It's unique, unconventional, uncharacteristically dark and  – without a doubt  –  one of the most iconic theme park rides of all time. Launched on March 18, 1967, the original "Pirates" ride featured a 1,838-foot flume with a 12-minute running time, making it one of the longest theme park rides in existence. The attraction quickly became a fan favorite and an icon for the park that had opened only twelve years earlier. The ride was one of the first to combine multiple elements for users to enjoy: audio animatronics, a double drop, theatrical effects and more. Join us today as we celebrate 50 years of plundering fun with this delightful 1967 Pirates of the Caribbean radio commercial that you have got to hear...

Marc Davis working on concept art for Pirates

Who could have guessed that Pirates would have such an impact when it opened on March 18, 1967? Certainly not its creators. "You always hope that anything you build will be a big hit," the late Imagineering legend Marc Davis, who was principal designer of Pirates, once recalled. "And I think we had a feeling that this one would be a success. But to be as popular now as when it opened? That was too much to hope for back then."

Walt Disney sits among sculpted models that were the basis of the moving figures in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. The ride debuted March 18, 1967, three months after Disney died.

When Pirates opened in the spring of 1967, it featured the latest in audio-animatronic technology. It was also the last attraction personally supervised by Walt Disney, who passed away three months before it opened following a brief battle with lung cancer. "Walt saw bits and pieces of it being built," Marc Davis once stated. "I did some walk throughs with him down at Disneyland, but he died before we got very far." Still, Davis felt Pirates is something Walt would have been very proud of.

Marc Davis, Walt Disney, and Blaine Gibson working on some audio-animatronics for Pirates of the Caribbean.

As opening day approached, Disneyland guests couldn't wait to see Pirates of the Caribbean for themselves. Disney had been generating excitement for the new attraction for awhile up to that point. One marketing campaign Disney executives utilized, aside from Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, was radio advertisements. Take a listen to one of those vintage radio ads below...

(For your listening pleasure, be sure to pause the Disney Avenue Music Player at the top, left-hand corner of the page prior to playing the video below if you are on a desktop computer.)

Since that opening day in 1967, more than 400 million people have ridden the boat ride down the dark rapids, through spooky caverns and past the shores of Puerto Dorado, where drunken pirates shop for brides and ultimately set the town on fire.

Guests wait in line to ride the new Pirates of the Caribbean, 1968

Here are some Pirates of the Caribbean fun facts:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean was originally envisioned as a New Orleans-themed Blue Bayou Mart featuring a pirate wax museum, housed in a 70-foot deep basement. The basement now serves as the grotto section of the attraction.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean was loosely inspired by films like “Captain Blood,” “The Sea Hawk” and “The Buccaneer,” plus Disney’s “Treasure Island,” “Kidnapped” and “Swiss Family Robinson.”
  • It cost $15 million to build New Orleans Square, the home for Pirates of the Caribbean, which is the same price the United States paid for the 530,000,000 acres of territory in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
  • The facade for Pirates was partly inspired by the Cabildo building in Jackson Square in New Orleans, which was the seat of the Spanish colonial government in 1799.
  • Guests ride through the attraction in a 1,838-foot canal.
  • Approximately 120 audio animatronic characters (including nine different types of animals) are featured throughout the attraction.
  • Disney Imagineer X Atencio, who wrote the attraction’s memorable tune, “Yo-Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me),” was the voice of the Jolly Roger skull and crossbones featured in the original attraction.
  • In the lyrics of the song “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me),” the phrase “Yo Ho” is uttered 18 times.
  • Guests ride through the attraction for approximately 15 minutes, making it one of the longest rides at Disneyland.
  • In 1997, Pirates of the Caribbean won the Thea Classic Award from the Themed Entertainment Association. The Thea Classic Award is given to an outstanding “compelling place and experience” which has been in operation for a minimum of 20 years.
  • Approximately 400,000 pieces of gold coins and set pieces were added to the attraction during a long refurbishment in 2006 when some of the film characters were added to the storyline.


Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four. Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.

You can find all of Keith's articles here.

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