DISNEYLANDIA Celebran medio siglo los Piratas del caribe




ANAHEIM – A half-century ago today, Pirates of the Caribbean opened at Disneyland with great fanfare, and Ron Hanford was there. “It lived up to everything,” he recalled, now 71 and living in Rancho Cucamonga. This week, like so so many times over the years, he was back enjoying Disneyland – and Pirates. “I can’t believe it’s been 50 years,” said his wife, Linda. “It’s fun every single time. It doesn’t get old.” And that’s the key – Pirates of the Caribbean isn’t tired, a ride past its prime. It has outlasted the PeopleMover, the Skyway‘s open-air gondolas that trundled above the theme park, and the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. 

 Pirates remains one of Disneyand’s most popular attractions. “You feel the excitement,” said Anne Fields, here from Austin, Texas with her husband and their two children. “You feel like you’re someplace else, somewhere so far away.” To get there was a long, winding journey. It was the last attraction overseen by Walt Disney, opening three months after his death.

What is now a 15-minute journey in a boat that bobs past fireflies, pirates firing off cannons, drinking pirates and those trying to escape a jail cell – with that catchy tune as a backdrop much of the way – was originally going to be a walk-through wax museum. Just two years after Disneyland opened in 1955, Sam McKim, one of Disney’s early imagineers, completed concept paintings and sketches for New Orleans Square, said Tom Morris, a Disney imagineer from 1979 until last year.

 Those plans included restaurants, shops and a small wax museum about pirates. Walt Disney knew he needed more on the park’s west side. So the vision for New Orleans Square expanded, more than doubling in size. In early 1961, construction started, with the walk-through wax exhibit the centerpiece.

 Later that year a memo, which Morris would unearth, changed Pirates of the Caribbean’s course. In it, Dick Nunis, a key operations manager at the park, told Admiral Joe Fowler, who built the park, that guest surveys showed that “walk-thru attractions have a low appeal.” Nunis pushed for “changing the Pirates of the Caribbean Wax Museum into a ride.” Construction continued along on New Orleans Square’s basic structural steel. A year after that memo, Disney chimed in that he agreed – Pirates should be a ride. Arrow Development, which designed and built many ride vehicles for Disneyland, was working at the time on the canal boats for It’s a Small World and coming up with the design for boats that could get pulled upward and race downward. The Pirates building was expanded to handle the boat’s turning radius. Sets started being designed for 120-plus audio-animatronic figures.

 Because her mom worked at Disney’s WED Enterprises in Glendale, Kim Irvine, now Disneyland’s art director, was able to view models and full-size mockups of Pirates built to gain Walt Disney’s approval. “To see it completely put together with the lighting and the soundtrack and all of it at once is absolutely overwhelming,” Irvine said about the completed project. “The cinematic details; all the elements there pull it together in such a strong, storytelling masterpiece.” 

The pirates would sing. Marty Sklar, the eventual head of Walt Disney Imagineering, wrote up the first version of the song’s lyrics. “I guess Walt liked X (Xavier) Atencio’s approach better than mine, because that’s what was chosen,” Sklar recalled. Atencio, now 97, who had worked on “Fantasia” and other animated film projects at Disney Studios, not only wrote all of the dialog for Pirates of the Caribbean, he wrote the lyrics for the song that would hold together the entire attraction. “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.” Atencio’s daughter, Tori McCullough, who would become an imagineer herself, remembers riding Pirates and hearing her dad’s voice, the original voice of the skull just above the first waterfall drop. “I would go with all my friends in grade school and we all thought that was cool,” she recalled. “Everyone would say, ‘Thanks, Mr. Atencio,’ before the drop.” A young Tom Morris, who would grow up and become a longtime Disney imagineer and dig up documents on Pirates of the Caribbean’s history, was smitten: “For an 8-year-old, it was a magical thing that grown men and women had put this thing together, and I always wanted to know more about how it came together and was built.”

 Before Disney died, in December 1966, he approved all of the final set and character designs. When Pirates first opened, many thought the flames in the ransacked town were real. “There is no real fire in the attraction,” said Jerry Meirowsky, a retired machinist who helped maintain the ride. “It is done with cellophane, Mylar, lights and little fan blowers.” From the 1967 opening until 1997, little changed on Pirates of the Caribbean.

Then Disney imagineers made changes to the scene where pirates chased women. Now, the buccaneers chase women holding food and rum. Nearly a decade later, in concert with the still-thriving film franchise starring Johnny Depp based on the ride, his character, Capt. Jack Sparrow, and others were added to the ride. These days, there are Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland, with that version using newfangled technology that creates the illusion of guests thinking they are going underwater. Still, Disneyland’s remains vibrant. 

 This week, to celebrate Pirates’ 50th birthday, buddies Jason Diffendal of Philadelphia and Tom Corless of Orlando showed up in Anaheim to hop aboard. “It’s Walt’s last attraction, the last one he personally supervised,” said Diffendal, 42. “That’s a big deal.” Said Corless, 28, “It’s the best theme park ride of all time.” Staff writer Brian Whitehead contributed to this report. 

 Contact the writer: meades@scng.com or follow on twitter @markaeades

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/pirates-746890-disney-disneyland.html
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