A group of Disney Imagineers and Legends gathered on stage at the D23 Arena on Friday afternoon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disney’s iconic Pirates of the Caribbean attractions. The conversation ranged from Imagineering Legends Marty Sklar and Orlando Ferrante sharing their stories working on the original Disneyland attraction to Imagineers Tony Baxter and Nancy Seruto talking about their roles bringing Pirates to life in Paris and Shanghai. The conversation danced around the controversial changes coming to the Wench Auction scene, momentarily slipping into boos from an audience of dedicated theme park fans.
Highlights included Marty Sklar and Orlando Ferrante sharing stories on how the original Pirates of the Caribbean became the ride it did today, thanks to technological advancements pioneered in ride systems and Audio Animatronics at the New York World’s Fair
Tony Baxter, meanwhile, shared stories on meeting Imagineer and Pirates set designer Claude Coats, who later became his mentor, who gave a young Tony Baxter a tour of Pirates of the Caribbean before it was finished. Tony also discussed his role in bringing Pirates to life again in the early 1990s in Disneyland Paris, including the development of groundbreaking sword-fighting animatronics, which Tony said quickly became the ride’s big “How did they do that?” moment for the French audience.
Kim Irvine shared an anecdote about how her mother, Imagineer Leota Toombs, who worked on the original Disneyland attraction, would take things from the family home and use them in the WED Imagineering model shop — apparently bobby pins make for great wrought iron details in scale models!
A good portion of the panel included a discussion on the latest iteration of the classic Disney Pirates ride in Shanghai Disneyland. Imagineers Luc Maynard and Nancy Seruto talked about their roles in developing the attraction for Chinese audiences, bringing the ride full circle with a storyline based on the films, and the massive technological advances pioneered for the ride that were in the spirit of the technology developed for the original ride in Anaheim.
Luc also shared that the team that built Shanghai’s attraction held a water ceremony where they christened the waterways with water from every existing Pirates ride from around the world, a moment he said really made the team feel like they were working on a true Disney Pirates ride.
But of course, the panel couldn’t avoid the looming controversy surrounding recent announced changes coming to the classic Disneyland and Walt Disney World versions of the ride. As the panel discussed changes over the years to the ride, the controversial redhead changes were mentioned, prompting the audience erupted on boos and some to chant “We wants the redhead!” The audience reaction quickly forced moderator Michael Singer to quickly interject Walt Disney’s famous “Disneyland will never be completed” quote, a move that has become Walt Disney Imagineering’s trademark in defending controversial changes in the park, regardless of the situation. Marty Sklar continued that he appreciates the enthusiasm and the desire that fans have to bring their kids to experience the parks they experienced growing up, but he quickly followed it up by saying the parks need to change over time. Sklar went on to tell the audience that he’s glad we don’t see the same park he saw on opening day because that park very much needed to change and grow While Sklar’s point is valid, it perhaps ignores some nuance about changing attitudes of the public, political correctness, and the ride’s own thematic threads — a discussion that’s perhaps far too complicated to have in a panel discussion at a fan convention. Kim Irvine ended the controversial topic by saying that they try to remain true to the original ride by referencing original sketches by Imagineer Marc Davis when making changes. She reinforced that Imagineering will always “continue to change and add” to Pirates of the Caribbean and other attractions at its theme parks.
Our friends at MouseInfo have a video clip of the controversial part of the panel
For more from this panel, see our Twitter thread on it where we live Tweeted the panel discussion live from the D23 Arena. Click the Tweet to see the full thread on Twitter.com.
— Dateline Disneyland (@DatelineDisney) July 14, 2017