In what is surely a sign of the times, Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris will all soon remove the “Auction” scene where pirates can buy a bride. The scene is iconic for its sultry redhead, voluptuous “Show us your larboard side” bride, and the spectacularly mobile and well dressed Auctioneer himself.

The scene also contains many elements which the fans no doubt love, but which are at odds with modern sensibilities. This is beyond a “Politically Correct” issue, it’s an issue about what Disney feels it may be inadvertently teaching its youngest guests when they see images of women being sexualized and sold at auction.

Years ago, Disney took their first step at taming their pirates’ lusty desires when they changed the “chase” scene so instead of aggressively pursuing wenches (it was essentially a rape story), they were chasing after plates of food. One desire replaced with another – lust for gluttony.

It’s the derogatory sexual nature of those two scenes which are problematic for modern Disney and to today’s guests. Theme park rides don’t have an MPAA rating in the way movies do. Pirates is the most tame of attractions and suitable for riders of all ages. Therefore, there is a need to make sure the subject matter is appropriate for those ages as well.

It’s a catch 22 for Disney as the fans are likely to be outraged, at least at first. But not acting also continues to perpetuate themes which are unacceptable for many of today’s guests. Disney has clearly decided they need to act on the moral issue over sentimentality.

Here’s some additional information we were able to obtain about this breaking news. Disney Imagineering bigwigs Marty Sklar and Kathy Mangum weigh in on the alterations:

“To me, the Imagineers are simply reflecting what Walt started the day Disneyland opened – making changes that create exciting new experiences for our guests. I can’t think of a single attraction that has not been enhanced and improved, some over and over again. Change is a ‘tradition’ at Disneyland that today’s Imagineers practice – they learned it from their mentors, many of them Walt’s original team of storytellers and designers – the Disney Legends.” – Marty Sklar, Imagineer Legend. Marty continues, “Pirates of the Caribbean has always represented great Disney Park storytelling; it has set the standard for the theme park industry for half a century! But it’s a story you can continue to add fun to, with great characters in new ‘performances.’ That’s what the Imagineers have done with this new auction scene – it’s like a theatre show with a new act.”

Kathy Mangum, Sr. VP Imagineering stated, “Our team thought long and hard about how to best update this scene. Given the redhead has long been a fan favorite, we wanted to keep her as a pivotal part of the story, so we made her a plundering pirate!  We think this keeps to the original vision of the attraction as envisioned by Marc Davis, X Atencio and the other Disney legends who first brought this classic to life.”

Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland) – Artist Concept of revised scene

Taking a look at the new concept art, you can see that they clearly are attempting to maintain as much of the old look and characters as possible. With the Redhead seemingly more prominent than ever. Instead of brides being auctioned, it’s now pirate loot. So the scene remains, but loses it’s problematic connotations, while accentuating the fan favorite Redhead whom we understand will have an expanded role.

While I’m personally sad to see a beloved old scene change. I also understand the need for these alterations and very encouraged by the concept art, which maintains much of the look of what was there before. Times change and that’s always hard for me. But I’ve been riding this attraction for nearly as long as it has been around. Amazing that it’s still here at all. And that’s a testament to Disney’s rich story telling. It certainly appears that this scene matches well with the rest of the attraction.

Well folks, I know this catches you off guard, as it did me. I cycled through the 7 stages of grief and have settled on acceptance. What about you?

 

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