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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Real Pirates of the Caribbean

I come back to this topic every so often simply because, in my personal opinion, Pirates of the Caribbean is the best attraction in either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure. The great Disneyland and Southern California videographer asianjma123 (YouTube) has come up yet another high definition Pirates ride through video and this is his best effort yet. The Disneyland version of POTC is long, coming it at a little over 12 minutes (almost twice the length of the WDW version), but its a journey well worth the time for any fan of the ride.

The purpose of a real life pirate was to accumulate riches and that is the perfect word to describe Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean - rich. The attraction is rich in theming, rich in character, rich in atmosphere, rich in story, rich in fun - over the top rich, a Disney treasure beyond belief and it came directly from the man himself, Walt Disney. The construction of POTC was Walt's last major Disneyland project at the time of his death. He didn't live long enough to take that first ride as the huge attraction opened about 6 months after Walt's passing but he was involved with the ride long enough through its development and initial construction that Walt knew the joy and thrills the attraction would bring to the visitors of his park.

I'm a student of history. I studied history in high school and college, love to read about history, watch the History Channel when they actually broadcast programs about history instead of pawn shops (the programming direction that the History Channel has taken the last 2 years is an embarrassment). As a student of history, as much as I admire Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, I have to admit it's something of a guilty pleasure. Much was written when several years ago POTC was made "politically correct" by having the "wenches" chase the sad-sack pirates instead of the other way around as was shown with the original attraction. But when you really think about it - the whole Pirates of the Caribbean attraction (and movies) can probably be considered "politically incorrect" in these times.

The changing of the ride from pirates chasing women to women chasing pirates was something that had to be done because what Walt and company left out was what would a drunken pirate do to that woman if he ever caught her. Imagine the worst and you probably have it right. In the heyday of pirating in the 17th and 18th centuries as depicted in the ride, a true pirate is not someone you would want to cross paths with. They were murderers, and rapists, and drunkards, and thieves, and purveyors of assorted methods of horrendous torture. Go out on the internet and find out what it means to be "drawn and quartered". And the assaults weren't just directed at other sailors or pirates, pirates attacked towns and all inhabitants, including women and children. Go read the exploits of the real Blackbeard or Captain Morgan. It's a far cry from what is depicted in the movies or what Disney magic seeks to romanticize and gloss over. A typical pirates life was quite short. Those that weren't killed were usually ravaged by some disease at a very young age. And quite to the contrary, a pirate usually didn't make a whole lot of money.

But Disney is in the business of sometimes obscuring the facts in order to cash in on the illusion. They have no issue charging premium prices to dress up young boys as swash-buckling pirates. Even now as a young man, my son has a Pirates of the Caribbean spread hanging on his wall. He has POTC pins, and t-shirst, and caps. It's easy to get caught up in Disney's world of pirates. But I've also encouraged him to look at the world of pirating at it really existed (and still exists) and not the illusion that Disney gives you. A real pirate and a Disney pirate? Two completely different things.

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