Everyone has a favorite scene in Pirates of the Caribbean. For 95% of the theme park public, this scene is either Johnny Depp hiding in a barrel or Johnny Depp fondling a dressmaker mannequin. The remaining 5% have a modicum of good taste.
We know the classic iconography. The dog with the keys, the wench auction, Hurricane Lagoon. These are rightly revered for their artistry. But there is one scene that never fails to capture my attention, awakening my adventurous spirit.
It occurs at the very front of the ride in the Magic Kingdom. To my recollection, it does not occur at Disneyland, since it has a very different beginning. It is a small vignette that rates hardly a single mention on any of the fan sites, and yet I find it captivating.
Right after you board your boat, before you round the corner into the caverns, there is a scene off to the right. It depicts a ship at anchor, framed by the natural rock work of the loading area. The moon is high, the seas are calm, and all you hear is the quiet lapping of the waves.
Lanterns flicker aboard the shadowy vessel. The shoreline is dark and silent. There is something about that ship. Compared to the bombast and revelry of all the other pirates in the ride, this one is furtive and mysterious. It’s as if a rival company of buccaneers has decided to slip ashore unnoticed while their counterparts sack the town and get drunk on the local ale.
To what dark purpose to they set their hearts? Are they responsible for the treasure buried in the caves of the ride queue? What secret storyline do they occupy behind all the debauchery?
We’ll never know, but I’m fascinated by this single, solitary glimpse of their ship. I’ve never been able to photograph it, since the real scene is extremely dark, but it’s depicted here in one of Marc Davis’s concept pieces.
Incidentally, while we’re on the subject of Pirates, I encourage you to check out this piece by FoxxFur posted a month back, in case you missed it. It’s one of the best essays on theme parks as art that I’ve read in recent memory.