Orlando/SoCal Theme Park Showdown: Pirates of the Caribbean vs. Pirates of the Caribbean

October 13, 2011, 7:59 AM · Our first match-up on day two of the Theme Park Insider Orlando/Southern California Showdown matches Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean versus the Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean. Which is your favorite between the two versions? Consider whatever details you'd like - setting, decor, ride, narrative, or whatever petty individual bias you'd like to throw into the mix. The vote will be open for 24 hours.

Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean: New Orleans Square

Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean: Adventureland

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom's Pirates of the Caribbean

The differences? Pirates of the Caribbean opened the New Orleans Square expansion of Disneyland park in March 1967, just three months after Walt Disney's death. The ride remains one of the most impressive musical animatronic displays in the theme park industry. And at more than 15 minutes, it's also one of the longest theme park rides in the world. Pirates has spawned an entertainment empire, with four films that have grossed billions of dollars, not to mention video games, books and YouTube parodies (lyrics NSFW, BTW).

Disneyland's original version of the ride sends guests down two waterfalls into a misty realm where "dead men tell no tales." Disney's Imagineers have tweaked the ride several times since its 1967 debut, most recently in 2007, with the addition of characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, including Davy Jones and Johnny Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow. The show's burning city finale features the rousing theme "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me" by X. Atencio and George Bruns, followed by a coda in the city's crumbling prison, where the pirates face their comeuppance. (Except for Jack Sparrow, of course.)

Walt Disney World wasn't supposed to get Pirates. Instead, Disney Imagineers contemplated a massive "Western River Expedition" indoor boat ride through scenes from the American west. (A western-themed coaster that became Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was to be built on top of the Western River Expedition.) But early Disney World visitors demanded their Pirates and Disney rushed an abbreviated version of the ride into the park by Christmas 1973.

Disney World's version of Pirates of the Caribbean offers a much more elaborate queue, themed to a Spanish fortress. Once on board, guests sail immediately into the grotto, then drop down a single waterfall into the battle scene. The Blue Bayou and scenes of cursed treasure that follow the waterfall in Disneyland's version are omitted in Florida, as is about half of the interior of the burning city. Disney World visitors exit the ride after the jail and final treasure scene, and boats are transported up the final lift backstage. At Disneyland, riders stay in the boats for the entire circuit, exiting at the loading station.

Feel free to further break down the match-up in the comments.

Other Showdown winners:

Replies (18)

October 13, 2011 at 8:20 AM · Disneyland's does have that little extra umph. I was more forgiving about Fl's version when I read a while back that it was never meant to be there (which helps explain the incoherent themes of Adventureland) and I love it either way.

There is one thing I do fault DLR for is that there is maybe too much empty cave in the beginning.

One thing I do love about WDW's is that at the end of the drop, bam! you're in the action of cannon fire. It's nice timing effect that Disneyland's doesn't have.

October 13, 2011 at 9:25 AM · I have never been to Disneyland, but I have seen this ride on YouTube; the burning city is half the size? It looks very similar to me.

I am very proud of our version, but I'll say no more because last time I made a comment, everyone in here became a pirate. Urrrrh!

October 13, 2011 at 9:32 AM · IMO, WDW's is better for 3 reasons:

1. Nice queue
2. More detailed scenes
3. You get off underground and dont have to wait a while

October 13, 2011 at 10:30 AM · I went with WDW's because I have a short attention span on these types of rides and felt the Florida version was long enough. For fans of classic thematic rides though, Disneyland's version will win hands down.
October 13, 2011 at 10:37 AM · Seriously, there is no contest here. If the Disneyland version does not win hands down, this competition is a sham.
October 13, 2011 at 11:12 AM · The DL version is much longer and more elaborate

The DL version has more waterfall drops

The DL version has the trip back up a waterfall (yeah, I know its a cheesy excuse to cover the need for a lift hill, but somehow the speedramp a the end of the WDW version really takes me out of the experience).

The city burning scene is much more elaborate in DL (those glowing embers in the rafters always amaze me).

DL still has the talking skull at the start of the ride with X Atencio's original voice work ("Thar be falls ahead!") I had no problem with them adding the Barbosa water screen effect, but why did they have to put it where the talking skull was in Florida?

When boats get backed up at the unloading dock in the DL version, they do so after you have climbed the waterfall. In the WDW version, they tend to back up into the last scene of the ride, leaving you doomed to hear that #%!@#! parrot sing "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A pirate's life for me" over and over and over. Its like being stuck on a Pirate version of Its a Small World.

The only advantage that the WDW Pirates has is its queue, and even that is canceled by the loss of the Blue Bayou. In all other aspects, the Disneyland version is superior

October 13, 2011 at 6:46 PM · One of the main reasons that I wish to visit Disneyland one day is to ride their version of Pirates of the Caribbean. I have read about it, listened to comments, and watched the videos on Youtube. As much as I love the one at the Magic Kingdom, I just know that the one at Disneyland would blow me away.
October 13, 2011 at 11:57 AM · The lackluster Pirates is one reason why I mostly skip the Magic Kingdom when I visit Orlando. It is just disappointing. With all the land available, why couldn't they do a decent Pirates ride. If they aren't thinking about it now, why not completely redo the whole thing. Start over again. Other examples of Orlando fail is Small World and Fantasyland. I'm disapointed the Fantasyland renovation won't fix the puny dark rides. Disneyland is clearly superior here and I include Buzz Lightyear. Where the Magic Kingdom is superior is Splash Mountain and Big Thunder. Based on the previous comments, I guess the Haunted Mansion is a draw. The thing is Disneyland on the whole is much better, while the Magic Kingdom can only benefit from its size, which wasn't used to its advantage. I wouldn't mind if the Magic Kingdom is better, but I do mind it being worse. Why is spending all that money to visit a WDW Resort worth it? Perhaps it isn't worth it.
October 13, 2011 at 1:57 PM · For most of these attractions, I don't have very strong feelings one way or the other as to which is superior; I can choose a favorite, but I can see the good parts of each, and I love experiences the differences between DLR and WDW. However.......for Pirates of the Caribbean? DLR is FAR, FAR superior. No contest. For me, it doesn't even come close. After experiences PotC in California, I barely want to ride it at WDW anymore! I am surprised at how many votes the WDW version has gotten- I think most of those votes have to be from people who haven't experienced the DLR version.
October 13, 2011 at 3:32 PM · No contest. DL's Pirates is a world class attraction. WDW's Pirates is a good "Reader's Digest condensed version".
October 13, 2011 at 4:40 PM · Disneyland is far superior. I attend both parks every year and although I ride at WDW, I am always left feeling like the story is incomplete. DLR sends you into the story so much more smoothly and I always miss the Bayou. I understand that with the proximity of New Orleans, why would you go to a theme park for that feeling? The west doesn't have it so it makes sense. I also absolutely love the caves. You can hear the ships battling in the distance and I would feel bereft if I did not get to see the treasure room! Those cave scenes are the ultimate! I also agree that the end of the ride in WDW is just...bleh. At DLR, you are even spit out into the streets of New Orleans when the ride is over. I really miss New Orleans Square not being in Florida. Pirates feels like it is stuck in a corner. Sometimes I think it would have been better to put the original attraction in.
October 13, 2011 at 4:44 PM · Definitely Disneyland. The one in Disney world is sooooo short. And it doesn't have the fun drops. And the Disneyland one is a classic. So Disneyland's got my vote.
October 13, 2011 at 10:24 PM · This was is easily won by the West Coast version. The only thing the East coast version has better is its queue area. Not even close, but the East Coast will certainly get its revenge when the Tower of Terror's compete.
October 14, 2011 at 12:01 AM · Disneyland is and will forever be the definitive Pirates of the Caribbean. The pacing is flawless, and it is all the little extras that make the ride. One can not overstate the importance of the buildup on the ride, from the idyllic bayou scene as we pass the Blue Bayou restaurant, through the transition of the canals (with the skull and crossbones!), the drops, and then the huge caves that set the tone for the ride to come. It builds, I can not emphasize that enough, it builds mood upon mood as you venture further into the story. In Florida the pacing seems rushed and incoherent.
One of my few complaints was the recent overlay of Blackbeard to the mist screen effect. Sorry, but Blackbeard simply doesn't have the same gravitas, the same mythical proportions that Davy Jones does, and just doesn't work. I hope that they return to Davy sooner rather than later.
And the only addition to the storyline, would be if there was some way to incorporate the cursed treasure from the first movie into the ride. It would be a VERY cool effect if there could be a transition of a pirate from skeleton to pirate or vice versa, which would serve as a good transitioning piece from the pre-show to the first act, withe bombardment of the fortress.
October 14, 2011 at 12:37 AM · I heard for my whole life how I was missing out never seeing the Disneyland version, so when I finally was able to see it last year I was extremely excited. And then, not so much.

People point to the length of the experience as the big indicator that it's better, but much of the extended length at Disneyland is long empty bits of nothing, and the fact the boats go slower.

I honestly prefer WDW's, because it makes sense - Caribbean Plaza, Pirate Bunker, Cave, Pirate Ride. Disneyland's is the one that makes little sense - New Orleans, enter fancy pants mansion, a bayou...then, a Pirate Ride? The NO connection is light, at best, and unknown to most who weren't born in the 1800's.

It's a great ride at both parks - but the myth that somehow Disneyland's is a far better experience is just that, a myth. WDW's is faster, and more exciting - Disneyland's is like the "directors cut", but when you see a lot of "directors cuts" with "deleted scenes", you realize why they were cut in the first place. They bog down the ride. I'm all for slow attractions (SpaceShip Earth and Great Movie Ride are my favorites), but Disneyland's isn't superior, if anything, they are equal. They both have +'s and -'s, and end up being (pun intended) a wash.

October 14, 2011 at 6:08 AM · I've ridden both of these countless times........well maybe not countless but lots anyway and Disneyland's version is, in my opinion, much better than WDW's offering. It makes me wonder if Disney actually tried to improve upon the original and failed or if they had other constraints that prevented them from replicating it wholesale. Either way the West has the edge for Pirates.
Oh and I'm not that keen on the introduction of characters from the movie , no matter how good they are. It smacks of the tail wagging the dog to me.
The original concept is good enough as it is so leave it be.
October 14, 2011 at 8:01 AM · WDW's version of Pirates would be akin to editing a great horror movie just to get to the scare scenes. It just wouldn't be the same. You need the suspense and build-up to effectively create the mood and pay-off. Florida has the poor Cliff Note's edition.
October 17, 2011 at 3:48 PM · I dunno Adam, Pirates did exist in New Orleans and in the bayous. The queue is superior in Orlando for sure, but I would argue that the attraction itself is better in SoCal. The Blue Bayou is an organic addition to the theme. And the two drops are great for the ride, as well as introducing young ones to thrill rides. Burning embers as mentioned earlier, the talking skull, and unloading back at the dock is better overall.

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