The Myth of Skull Rock

You remember the classic scene in Peter Pan. It sets the stage for the central conflict of the story. The more I think about it, the more I think it might be based on the historical Battle of Tippecanoe, which was fought in my hometown more than 200 years ago. It has all the touch points: Vaguely imperialistic villains, horrific massacre of the Native American population, an iconic rock formation, an elfin white boy protagonist.

Tippecanoe and Tinkerbell too!

Tippecanoe and Tinkerbell too!

Skull Rock is one of those great, scenic locations that tourists love, because when you’re on spring break, nothing sounds better than coming face to face with a giant death’s head. Peter Pan’s Flight has always had some form of it in the ride, and Disneyland used to have a life-sized version outdoors in Fantasyland. Disneyland Paris still has it. There’s even a cool Skull Rock formation inside one of the caves on Tom Sawyer’s Island.

Recently, a Skull Rock was added to the Pirates of the Caribbean.

I haven’t seen this particular formation talked about much. I think it was added late last year as part of the infamous “mermaid” additions, but it’s just possible it was there earlier. I am completely hypnotized by it, and I can’t understand why it hasn’t been receiving its due. Either I was asleep the week that everyone already talked about it ad infinitum and nobody cares anymore (entirely possible), or I’m the only one in the entire fan community who appreciates just how wicked cool it is (yeah right).

Thanks to Kevin Yee (ultimateorlando.com, miceage.com), I have a picture I can share. It’s been greatly brightened, because that scene is dark (in more ways than one).

That pirate died of crabs.

That pirate died of crabs. Har har.

Not bad, right? it’s a nice little skull shaped rock formation just after the mermaids in the water, but before the mermaid on the beach. I’m diggin’ it all over again.

But you might be asking yourself why I think it’s so awesome. As shown in this picture, it’s sorta nice for some background ambience, but really it’s no big deal. The Skull Rock in Peter Pan’s Flight is much more prominent and graphic. But what may not be obvious is that you are looking at one of the really clever visual effects in the entire ride.

I think Skull doesn’t get noticed, because of the mermaids. At roughly the spot where the above picture is taken, there are glowing mermaids swimming through the water beside your boat. They’re too distracting for anyone to worry about a silly old background rock. And by the time you’re done looking at them, your attention is immediately drawn to the beach, with the skeletons and that snapping animated crab.

But if you would just look to your left as you floated towards the beach, you would experience the thrill of watching that Skull Rock completely vanish.

The whole thing is a Perspective Sculpture. It only takes shape when viewed from a particular angle — in this case, straight on (one might even say dead on, ho ho). It’s almost impossible to see in this picture, but the nasal cavity is a couple formations, the right eye another formation, and the left eye still yet another formation. Even the stones making up the teeth are separate, jutting out of the water.

Worst artist's representation ever

Worst artist’s representation ever

As seen in my stunning graphic above (drawn from memory in photoshop without regard for quality), the whole thing looks positively Dali-esque from the side, and not a single bit like a skull. Even the various eye-holes and things are not always true holes, but a series of concavities and overlays that just happen to line up perfectly from one angle.

Perspective Sculptures can be a lot of fun. You can see a lot of pretty elaborate ones here (warning: One of the images in the slideshow is NSFW). I think it’s cool that the Imagineers added one to the Florida Pirates, and try as I might, I just can’t seem to find hardly any mention of it. Check it out next time you’re complaining about how inferior the Florida Pirates ride is!

 

7 thoughts on “The Myth of Skull Rock

  1. This is extremely awesome, and the first I’ve read about it. Thank you! Can’t wait to see the effect in person. (And your photoshop graphic was quite helpful!) :)

  2. Totally didn’t see that when I rode PotC in December. Then again, as you mention, that area was a lot darker than it had been before. Maybe they’ve tinkered with the lighting since then.

  3. Shane, this is the one time I will disagree with you!

    The rock has been there for awhile…in fact, for as long as I can remember! The lighting in there, due to the mermaids, just make it easier to see.

    I have a photo from my trip 2 years ago, and you can kind of, sort of, make it out in it.

    So, much like New Fantasyland, it’s always been there. The mermaids were just hiding it from us this entire time!

    • Really! To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure myself. When I went looking online for info on this, the only thing I could find was that picture posted by Kevin Yee on his ultimateorlando blog, and the comments there seemed to indicate that it was added with the mermaids.

      I didn’t notice the cool perspectiveness of it until recently, even after the mermaids were added. If it has truly been in the building for longer than that, well, then I am even more in awe of how nobody has ever seemed to mention it. I re-read FoxxFur’s awesome article on Florida Pirates and didn’t see it there. Jason Surrell’s book makes no mention of it.

      Just when did this thing materialize?

      The legend continues to grow…

  4. Even before you mentioned the Dali-esqueness of it, I thought of the same thing. There’s even a painting where a baby/skull is hidden in the center (the teeth are a prominent feature), but I cannot find a link to it right now as I am an utter failure of a human being.

    -ADA

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