Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Character Removal Leaves Staff in Tears

in Disney Parks, Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World

Jack Sparrow animatronic looking at a woman animatronic.

Credit: Disney

Disney has many iconic rides, some of which have lived at the Disney parks for 50+ years.

When Walt Disney created Disneyland, in 1955, rides like Autopia, the Disneyland Railroad, Jungle Cruise, King Arthur Carrousel, Mad Tea Party, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and more were available to guests. But, as Walt famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

Opening Day parade at Disneyland
Credit: D23

This is something that has grown to be true on a grand scale.

Regrettably, Walt Disney is no longer with us to witness the expansion of his legacy, but if he were, he would undoubtedly be delighted to witness his initial visions for Disneyland being realized. Walt was aware of the development of Disney World, including the Magic Kingdom and his aspirations for EPCOT, but he could not have foreseen the addition of more than 25 resorts.

However, before he did pass, he was able to help Disneyland expand past its look on July 17, 1955.

In 1967, Walt added Pirates of the Caribbean to Disneyland Park.

Pirates of the Caribbean Jack Sparrow on ride
Credit: Disney

The Disneyland version of Pirates of the Caribbean was the final attraction that Walt Disney participated in designing. It made its debut three months after his passing. The ride is located in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square (home of the best beignets at Disney), and it stands as one of the park’s enduring and beloved attractions. Unlike many of today’s new rides, which are based on popular movies (for example, the new Frozen-themed lands coming to multiple Disney parks across the globe), Pirates of the Caribbean originally featured an original storyline.

Initially conceived as a walk-through wax museum, its design changed following the success of the boat ride concept employed in “it’s a small world” at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. This inspired Disney to use a similar ride system for Pirates of the Caribbean.

The ride commences in the midst of a bayou in Louisiana, illuminated by fireflies during the evening. Visitors board their boats at Laffite’s Landing and embark on a journey through the heart of bayou country.

Throughout the attraction, guests encounter several scenes, including Dead Man’s Cove, The Captain’s Quarters, an intense ship battle, a city engulfed in flames, and more.

pirates of the caribbean
Credit: Disney

One scene which takes place in the town square features a group of pirates has taken the mayor, Carlos, hostage. They threaten to submerge him in a well unless he discloses the treasure’s location. From an upstairs window, Carlos’ wife urges him to remain steadfast and not reveal anything.

While the other captive city officials watch, Carlos is repeatedly dunked in the water. This sequence is followed by an auction, where a pirate auctioneer attempts to sell local women with the banner reading “Take a Wench for a Bride!” The bidders eagerly request the “redhead,” bidding on a woman, placing the red head character as an object, as opposed to a person — which is fitting (historically) for the era that the ride is set in.

This was the same scene that was found, and changed, in the Walt Disney World attraction in Magic Kingdom.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Credit: Disney

As reported by Disney Wiki, “This incarnation of the scene was removed in 2017 due to its misogyny, fat-shaming, glamorized light-hearted portrayal of human trafficking, and implications that the Redhead enjoyed being objectified while ultimately advantaging from being the victim of sex-crimes.” This is years after Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow was added to the ride following the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

The red head then became Redd, a pirate herself, which is something that was recently discussed on an episode of the Disney+ series, Behind the Attraction.

Yahoo revealed, “Jeanette Lomboy, the Walt Disney Imagineering Vice President, is featured frequently, as she says that Pirates was her favorite ride during those classic childhood trips to Disneyland.”

During an interview, Lomboy was brought to tears when thinking about her involvement in this monumental change on the attraction.

“When I was going through the process of us, adding Pirate Redd, which is the first female pirate to any of our Pirates Of the Car Caribbean attractions worldwide. It was like a very emotional moment for me to say. ‘I am touching the classic attraction that I knew and loved as a little girl, as a child, and I’m making it better.’ I get. I get to be part of the team that is putting in a female pirate. So from this day forward every little girl or any child or anyone coming through here will see themselves and say, ‘I can be a pirate.’”

Pirates in jail on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World
Credit: Disney

Lomboy clearly took pride in the inclusivity she was able to help add to the attraction. While the original scene may have been historically accurate, considering the theme park caters to families and shares their stories with young kids, the Walt Disney Company likely prioritized the teaching moment that they could instil into the ride, by taking away a scene which degraded women.

This is something we are seeing more and more within the Disney parks. Splash Mountain is currently being converted into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Disneyland Park and Magic Kingdom following the exposure of the racial undertones in Song of the South. We also saw changes come to Jungle Cruise in an attempt to avoid negative cultural appropriation views. “it’s a small world” has even added characters in wheelchairs to represent more guests in the ride that is meant to represent the world.

A close-up of the Tiana's Bayou Adventure exterior model at night
Credit: Disney

Disney has been working hard to be more inclusive, both in parks and in their entertainment, and it seems that this change may have been spearheaded with the change of Redd in Pirates of the Caribbean, which took place years earlier.

Do you think Disney should have left Pirates of the Caribbean alone? Or was this scene change necessary? 

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