Checking References

Throughout the Disney parks are references to animated features–little details that serve as themed decor and also nods to a specific movie or character. For example, this sign in Liberty Square:

Ichabod Crane sign

Ichabod Crane was the main character in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” story, which Disney turned into an animated short for the 1949 film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Side note: the Headless Horseman song in that feature is probably one of my favorite pieces of Disney music ever.

Disney is pretty well known for their animated films (I’m shooting for “understatement of the year” with that one), and they’ve made a handful of them, so it makes sense that they’d reference some of these great films in Walt Disney World. They’ve also made a whole lot of live-action movies over the years, many of which can be truly considered classics. Some of these films may not be as well known, especially to modern audiences, but that hasn’t stopped clever Imagineers from hiding some nods to them in the parks as well.

What follows here is a short list of some of these references, though please be aware that this is by no means all of them. Also, while I’ve tried to include photos where I can, I haven’t been able to get shots of everything. So some will just be written descriptions, and I apologize for that (and it just means that I need to take even more photos the next time I’m at the parks).

The Apple Dumpling Gang

Starring Don Knotts and Tim Conway as hapless outlaws in the Old West, The Apple Dumpling Gang came out in 1975. The slapstick comedy was one of Disney’s most successful films in the ’70s, spawning a much less successful sequel and even a short-lived (and also unsuccessful) TV series. Given the popularity of the first one, though, it’s makes sense that there’d be some mention of it in the parks!

As far as I’m aware, all of the references to the movie can be found in the queue for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.


This notice shows sketches of Don Knotts and Tim Conway as their outlaw characters from The Apple Dumpling Gang. Plus, here’s some bonus trivia to impress your friends with: T.W. Bullion, the “owner” of the Big Thunder Mountain Mine, just happens to share his initials with Tony Wayne Baxter–the Imagineer who helped create it. What a coincidence!


Quake City is the small Western gold rush town where The Apple Dumpling Gang takes place, and the Hard Times Cafe (famous for their apple dumplings) is also a part of the film’s story. This is perhaps the most “obvious” of the nods to the film, since it mentions apple dumplings right on the sign.


Theodore and Amos are the characters that Knotts and Conway play in the movie, and the “Hash Knife Outfit” is the tough-sounding name they try to use for their gang. I’ll admit, it does sound a fair bit more intimidating than the “Apple Dumpling Gang”.

As an aside: I recently watched The Apple Dumpling Gang, after not having seen it in probably a few decades, and it really does hold up. It’s full of goofy comedy that’s really fun, plus it’s just got a campy-but-innocent “classic Disney movie” feel. It’s entertaining, and it’s worth seeing again (or for the first time). As an aside to that aside: I don’t think I’ve ever actually had an apple dumpling, but I like both apples and dumplings. So I think I should really try one someday.

Summer Magic

Summer Magic, a 1963 musical film starring Hayley Mills and Burl Ives, tells the story of the Carey family (a widow and her three children) as they move from Boston to the tiny town of Beulah, Maine. Ives plays Osh Popham, the owner of the local hardware store, and Hayley Mills plays young Nancy Carey, one of the three children. Osh helps the family get back on their feet in what is a sweet (if a little aimless) story.

There are a couple of references to the movie on Main Street USA.


At the main entrance to the Emporium (on the corner facing the Walt Disney World Railroad) is a sign that, at the bottom, lists Osh Popham as the store’s proprietor. Quite a step up from a small town hardware store!


The Chapeau shop, according to the Main Street USA story, is owned by sisters Nancy and Julia Carey from Summer Magic. The store’s address, No. 63, is a reference to the year the movie was released.

There is (or at least there used to be — things change often at Walt Disney World) a photo behind the counter of The Chapeau. The two women in the picture are said to be Nancy and Julia Carey, all grown up and now the proprietors of the store.


This isn’t a movie reference, but this phone can be found in The Chapeau. Pick it up, and you can hear the chatter of a “party line” from around the turn of the 20th century. That’s when Summer Magic takes place, so this seemingly random detail adds a little extra to the shop’s story.

At one point in time, music from Summer Magic could be heard as a part of the Main Street USA loop. I haven’t been able to hear it personally, and I’ve read conflicting reports as to whether or not any of the film’s songs are still included in the loop. So the music may very well still be there, or it may have been taken out.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of my favorite films. Released in 1954, and starring Kirk Douglas, this adaptation of the Jules Verne novel tells the tale of Professor Pierre Aronnax and his assistant as they try to solve the mystery of a “sea monster” that’s destroying ships. Over the course of their adventure they team up with sailor Ned Land (Douglas), and they meet the mysterious Captain Nemo. There’s also a cool submarine, a giant squid, and a pet seal named Esmerelda–honestly, I don’t see how it’s not one of everyone’s favorite films!

There aren’t too many references to the movie in the parks themselves, and of course the ride directly based on it is long gone, but there’s some 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea love happening on property nonetheless.


This isn’t technically a movie reference, but rather a nod to the defunct attraction. It’s also really hard to find. If you go into the treehouse in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh queue, and look over the door, you may be able to see this carving shaped like the Nautilus submarine.

In the movie, there’s a small scene about a penal labor island called Rura Penthe. Supposedly, somewhere in the Agrabah Bazaar shop in Adventureland, there is (or was) a reference to this. It’s said to be high up on a shelf, mixed in with the various boxes and such that make up the decor. I’ve seen pictures of it, and the item looks to be a dark-colored urn with a shipping tag that states delivery is to be made to the “colony of Rura Penthe”. The urn’s tag also includes some cremation jokes, as it’s apparently addressed to “Sirius Burns” at the “Ashes to Ashes Mortuary”. However, no matter how hard I’ve searched (and I have done so multiple times now) I haven’t been able to see the item for myself. Perhaps I just don’t know quite where to look, though it’s also entirely possible that this nod to the film has long since been removed.

Outside of Magic Kingdom, at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto (in the Polynesian Resort), you can find multiple references to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Trader Sams

On the left you can see a giant squid’s tentacle, which may or may not be the squid from the movie (it’s good that he’s found work). If you look up and slightly to the right of the ceiling’s center, you can see the neck of a guitar–the same guitar that Ned Land played in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I’m not sure if it’s a replica or an original prop, but either way it’s a cool nod to the great film.

TS helmet

Behind the bar, amid a variety of odd objects, is a diving helmet. It’s one of the same types used by the crew of the Nautilus. Whether this is an original prop or a replica, I can’t say for sure, but it’s definitely a film reference (and also a neat bubble lamp).


On one wall you can find a picture of the Nautilus submarine. Like many other things in Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, this picture lights up when certain drinks are ordered.

Near the picture of the Nautilus (and I apologize for not being able to take a pic, but the lighting was terrible) is a framed photograph of Walt Disney himself holding one of the giant squid tentacle props from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So that’s not just a reference to the movie, but an actual photo from its filming.

All of this is making me realize that I need to sit down and watch 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea again (and again, and again). Also, and I don’t know about you, but I have a sudden craving for calamari…


The movie Tomorrowland wasn’t exactly a huge hit, though I rank it as one of my personal favorites (you’d be surprised how often “not a huge hit” and “one of my personal faves” coincides). Even though it didn’t do well at the box office, though, there’s still a reference to it at Magic Kingdom. If you happen to see the new robot character iCan wandering around Tomorrowland, check out the logo down by his feet (or wheels, in this case). The word “Tomorrowland” is printed on a plaque there, and it looks exactly like the way the movie’s title was presented. The font, and the “O” being an atom, is the same. So the movie was based on the land, but in this case a bit of the land was then influenced by the movie. It’s like the circle of life, but with a robot.

Note: Unfortunately, while I have seen plenty of photos online, I have not personally encountered iCan and as such have not been able to get a photo of the logo. I’m hanging my head in shame even as we speak. 

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes

Over at EPCOT, Journey Into Imagination has a couple of hidden (and obvious) references to live-action movies. For example, early on you’ll see portraits of some “inventors of the year”. One of these is Wayne Szalinski, the scientist who shrunk his kids (and later himself) in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise. Next to him is a portrait of Phillip Brainard–who created the substance known as “flubber” in the film of the same name. Both portraits are of the actors who portrayed them: Rick Moranis as Szalinski, and the late Robin Williams as Brainard (from the 1997 remake of the original 1961 Absent Minded Professor). At the beginning of the ride, too, you can see doors with these same names printed on them, suggesting that these scientists are now working on new experiments at the Imagination Institute.

A little further into the ride, there’s a room full of computers, and if you look at the floor to the right of the door you may see a pair of red sneakers. There’s also a sign in the window, warning visitors that there are “no tennis shoes allowed” inside this computer lab. These are both references to a 1969 Disney comedy film called The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, starring Kurt Russell as a college kid who accidentally gains the processing power of a computer.

Note: Through a combination of lack of foresight (I didn’t know I was going to write this post when I was last at EPCOT) and just failed photography skill (I tried to get some shots on the attraction, and they didn’t come out) I don’t have any photos to share of these particular references. Sorry.

As I said at the start, these are by no means all of the live-action film references hidden around the parks. I’m sure that there are plenty more that I’m not aware of (and if you know of one I missed, please politely let me know here in the comments), but these are at least some examples of the neat ways that Imagineers have payed tribute to classic Disney movies. It’s cool to see that even as they create exciting new films and franchises, they’ll still offer nods to what came before.




Posted in Attractions, Magic, Random Fun | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Take On The D23 Expo 2017 Parks & Resorts Panel

OK, folks, it happened–Bob Chapek and a few other people got up in front of a huge audience at the D23 Expo in Anaheim and talked about some of what we can expect for the Disney parks. Some rumors were confirmed, others were disproven, a couple weren’t mentioned at all, and there were a few surprises thrown in as well. While I wasn’t there personally, I did watch a stream of the event as it happened. Additionally, the Disney Parks Blog was posting frequent updates, offering a bit more info on each announcement.

So let’s take a quick look at some of what was presented in the panel (complete with my personal commentary on each).

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

There had been a lot about the upcoming “Star Wars Land” already at the D23 Expo, with a model of the new area being unveiled and lots of stuff being shown in an booth dedicated to it. So we already knew that it was going to be a big, immersive experience and that everything–from the shops to the restaurants to the characters–would be themed to fit into the world they were creating. Two attractions will be a part of the land, one that takes guests through a Star Destroyer and into a battle between the Resistance and the First Order (which also seems to confirm that the land’s story is set during the new movies) and another that allows guests to fly the Millennium Falcon. This second attraction was described as something like Mission: SPACE in that a group of guests would work together to fly the ship. Unlike the EPCOT attraction, though, you can actually crash the ship (you can’t in Mission: SPACE, I tried).

Supposedly, anything you do in the Star Wars land can have repercussions. Fly a successful mission and creatures in the cantina may show you some respect. Crash the Falcon, though, and you may hear around the cantina that there’s a price on your head. No details were given on exactly how all this would work, though my guess is that MagicBands will be involved.

The biggest announcement in the Parks & Resorts panel was actually the name of this new project: Galaxy’s Edge. While social media seemed split on whether or not this was a good name for the land, personally I really like it. I could see that as a name for some Outer Rim spaceport in the Star Wars universe, and it even evokes the “outer rim” concept as well that plays into many Star Wars stories.

It was also announced earlier that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge would be opening in the first half of 2019, and in the Parks & Resorts panel it was added that the one in Disneyland would be opening first. No mention was made on how far after that the Hollywood Studios version would open, they just stated that the two would be staggered.

Personally, I’m super excited for all of this. I’ve dreamed about being in the Star Wars galaxy since I was a child, and it’s looking like Disney is going to finally give me that chance. There’ll probably be more strollers, angry parents, and lines than I had imagined as a kid, but at least there’ll probably also be churros (or whatever they’ll call them in Galaxy’s Edge).

Oh, one last exciting tidbit got announced–Rex, the pilot from the original Star Tours attraction, will be returning! In Galaxy’s Edge he’s a DJ at the local cantina, rather than a pilot, but it’s very cool to see this bit of fan service tossed into the mix.

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway

Though the entire Disney empire was “all started with a mouse” there’s never been a ride actually starring Mickey. That’s going to change, though, at Hollywood Studios. A new attraction called “Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway” is coming to the park, and will feature Mickey Mouse as well as his friends. Based upon the new cartoons, Mickey and Minnie will start out on a casual drive and end up on an adventure that involves (obviously) a runaway train.

This attraction will be “2.5D” rather than 3D, which was explained to be a new technology that will have flat “cartoons” come to life in a seemingly 3D way without the need for wearing special glasses.

All of this sounds pretty cool, but there is a downside–this new attraction will be taking over the space currently occupied by the Great Movie Ride. That classic will be closing for good on August 13, 2017 to make way for its replacement. While I’ll admit that the Great Movie Ride was showing its age, it’s a bit sad to see the attraction go away completely. I’m also a bit surprised by what the Mickey attraction turned out to actually be. I had thought that it would be something that had to do with Mickey movies (since the park has a cinematic theme and all) and not the cartoons, and shortly before the D23 Expo I had even heard a rumor that it would be a ride featuring scenes from a bunch of Disney animated musicals. Obviously, none of that is true. Still, I’m excited to see this new ride and I’m intrigued by the new technology they’re creating for it. Even if I am a bit sad to say goodbye to the Great Movie Ride.


I literally held my wife’s hand when Bob Chapek said that it was time to talk about EPCOT, I was so concerned about what was to come. As it turns out, I was partially upset and partially excited about what I heard.

First, the stuff that I liked: it’s official that the Ratatouille ride (popular at Disneyland Paris) is coming to the France pavilion in World Showcase. It also sounds like this is going to be in a new part of the pavilion, as there was no mention of the Impressions de France film going away (it’s a fan fave, and I’m guessing a lot of folks would be upset about that if it happened). They talked a bit about wanting to not only highlight the cultures in the countries, but also the stories they’ve inspired. While on the one hand it sounds like an excuse to shove Frozen into Norway, at the same time I sort of get it. If Ratatouille draws a family to the World Showcase, and they get to experience a bit of the “country” in the process, it’s probably a win. Plus, I’ll admit, I’m excited to ride it myself!

They also announced a new movie coming to the China pavilion, using new camera technology (similar to what was used in Soarin’) in a new Circle-Vision 360 presentation. This is pretty cool, as in this case it does retain the original “show the country” aspect of the World Showcase.

Over in Future World, Mission: SPACE will be getting a new mission. The attraction actually closed down recently for renovation, though nobody (outside of Disney) was quite sure what that was going to entail. Well, as it turns out the less intense “green” side will be getting a new mission that’s supposedly meant more for younger guests who want to experience the attraction. Rather than going to Mars, the new mission will send astronauts into orbit around the Earth. They sort of suggested that this was meant for kids, but honestly I’m pretty stoked to try it myself. I’m not good on spin rides, and while I can handle the green side of Mission: SPACE it’s pretty much at the edge of my comfort level (I tried the orange side once, and will never do so again). So an even more gentle mission sounds just about my speed. On the other hand, Mission: SPACE is a really cool attraction and it would be a shame to lose the excitement of the experience for a more family-friendly approach. I guess we’ll see, but as long as the ride lets me pretend to pilot a spaceship and push buttons I think I’m happy.

Speaking of outer space, a new table service restaurant is going in that’s going to be themed like you’re dining far above the Earth. Part of the Mission: SPACE area, the concept art seems to suggest that the establishment is on a space station and windows are looking out to the planet and the stars beyond. No opening date, menu, or anything else was announced. I’m still excited for it, though.

OK, now for the not-so-good: an attraction based on the Guardians of the Galaxy films will be coming to Future World. Replacing Ellen’s Energy Adventure (which will close on August 13, 2017) the new ride will feature characters from the movie franchise. Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald, who was heading up this part of the presentation, did try to say that it will fit within the theme of EPCOT, and even said that part of the ride’s story is that Peter Quill (one of the main characters) went to EPCOT Center when he was a boy and is coming back as an adult. I’m dubious, as I simply don’t see how an action-based comic book movie can possibly fit within the EPCOT themes of inspiration and education. Then again, I have lots of thoughts about those themes and why I think they shouldn’t be messed with (see my recent EPCOT post for more on that). Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I’ll just go ahead and remain unsure about it until then.

Interestingly, that was pretty much it for EPCOT announcements. They did say that there would be more coming over time, and a lot of rumors were left unresolved (neither confirmed nor denied). It’s been suggested a bunch lately that a new country pavilion, most likely Brazil, would be coming to the World Showcase, and that wasn’t mentioned at all. Neither was anything that had to do with Figment and/or Journey Into Imagination (which is rumored to be replaced with Inside Out). So while these announcements may still come in the future, they weren’t addressed (for better or worse) at this panel.

Tron Coming to Magic Kingdom, And A New Theatre

The big Magic Kingdom announcement was one that has been rumored for a while now: the Tron roller coaster, Shanghai Disneyland’s most popular attraction, will be coming to Walt Disney World! It’s being put in Tomorrowland, and will occupy a new spot next to Space Mountain. Previously, the rumors had suggested that it would be replacing the Tomorrowland Speedway, but this now seems to not be the case.

So here’s the thing: I’m super excited about this. I’ve drooled over photos and videos of the Tron coaster in Shanghai, and was sort of sad that I’d probably never get to ride it. I’m a huge Tron fan, and the fact that I will now get to experience this cool attraction at Walt Disney World very much works for me. I suppose there’s a small nostalgic part of me that laments such a drastic change in Tomorrowland, and wonders how this big and flashy new thing will affect the fun retro-future style there (which very much influenced my personal aesthetic growing up). Though, I also really like high-tech Tron circuitry (which also influenced my personal aesthetic growing up). Ultimately, I’ll get to ride the Tron coaster, and I think that’s really a net win. Plus, I’m happy that they’re still using the Tron franchise at all. Maybe this will pave the way for a new Tron movie!

No release date was given, other than that it will be opening in time for the Walt Disney World 50th anniversary in 2021.

On Main Street USA, a new theater is going to be constructed. Based upon the Willis Wood Theater in Kansas City, MO, the building will be based upon how the theater looked in the 1920s when Walt Disney lived there. What will occupy this new theater was not announced, nor was a firm release date (other than “in time for the 50th anniversary” like the Tron coaster).

New Transportation Options

A couple of new Walt Disney World transportation options were unveiled during the presentation.

The first is a gondola-like system, similar to the old Skyway attraction in Magic Kingdom, called the Skyline. Connecting EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation, the new system will take guests over the property to their destination. The cars, at least in the concept art, will be decorated with Disney characters. This whole thing sounds really neat to me, and I’m guessing that you’ll get a great view as you travel. I also loved the Skyway, so getting a chance to sort of ride it again is pretty cool. No launch date was given, though I’m guessing it’s a ways off yet. It also adds to the “lots of ways to get around” thing that’s a cool part of staying at Walt Disney World.

The second way to get around the property will be point-to-point vehicles, similar to Uber or Lyft. Called “Minnie Vans”, these will offer guests direct transport from one spot on property to another. The concept shown in the presentation was of a bright pink car with white polka dots. I’ve actually used Lyft on property to get around a few times, so a Disney version seems like a great idea. Though I wonder if they’ll then prohibit other ride-sharing services from operating there.

Also, I love “Minnie Vans”. I dig it when they use puns like that.

New Resorts

The previously rumored Star Wars resort experience is going to become a reality. Guests will stay in a themed resort, and interact with Star Wars characters, and everything they do during their stay will revolve around this theme. The room windows will even “look out” into the stars rather than the Florida sky. The multi-day experience will immerse guests in Star Wars, complete with dressing up in appropriate costumes and “leaving Earth” for a starship resort as the story gets incorporated into every aspect of their stay. There was no word on which resort would be modified to incorporate this, though it’s believed to be one of the deluxe offerings (with a price to match, no doubt). I’m guessing that this whole experience is going to be pretty pricey, though I’m also thinking that I should start saving now because I really want to do it once it becomes a real thing.

Disneyland Paris is getting an overlay to their Hotel New York. Redubbed “Hotel New York-The Art of Marvel” the resort will incorporate characters from the movies and comics. Not much else was explained, though it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be an immersive thing like the Star Wars experience at Walt Disney World. Which is kind of too bad–checking into the hotel and becoming a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, teaming up with Marvel heroes for your stay, would be pretty cool.

A new Disney Vacation Club resort was announced for Walt Disney World, called Riviera Resort. Near EPCOT, the new resort will be included in the new Skyline gondola transportation system and will feature a rooftop restaurant that promises to offer great views of nighttime fireworks shows in the park.

Disneyland News

We already knew about the upcoming Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios, and while they showed a bit of video at the presentation they didn’t really offer much by way of new information about it (though there was a cool shot of the Slinky Dog roller coaster track). They did say, though, that the new area will be opening in Summer of 2018!

However, there were a lot of announcements about Pixar coming to Disneyland! One of the biggest announcements was the retheming of Paradise Pier at Disney’s California Adventure. The new “Pixar Pier” will feature attractions based on the studio’s various movie franchises, though whether this means a true renovation of the attractions or just a re-skinning to feature Pixar characters remains to be seen. This will be opening in 2018, to coincide with a new limited-time event dubbed “Pixar Fest”. A new themed fireworks show will be a part of the celebration, as well as the return of the Pixar Play Parade. There will also be other themed events around the parks as a part of Pixar Fest.

Disney’s California Adventure will be getting a lot more Marvel soon, with the announcement that Spider-Man and the Avengers will be coming to the park in a new immersive themed area. That was pretty much the entire announcement, really, with no real details being offered. More information will no doubt get revealed sooner or later, but it didn’t happen today. Also, they didn’t mention where the new area will be located within the park. There’s speculation about it replacing the kid-focused Bug’s Land, but that hasn’t been confirmed. Personally, I’d be a little sad to lose the silly-yet-fun Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train ride if that turns out to be true (I’m maybe half kidding here), but I do think the idea of meeting Spider-Man is pretty cool.

Cars Land will be getting a Halloween makeover this year. The area has previously been decorated for Christmas, but this will be its first Halloween theme. The concept art they showed looked neat, with a big scary face that looked to be made up of hubcap eyes and traffic cone teeth. I love Halloween, so I’m a big fan of more decorations for the holiday.

The popular Paint the Night parade, that had been running at Disneyland prior to the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade, will be moved to Disney’s California Adventure. They also hinted at a new float being added when it starts running there. I loved this parade when I saw it, and I’m glad that it’s going to keep happening. I was sort of hoping that they’d announce it as a new nighttime parade for Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World (or, y’know, announce any new nighttime parade for Magic Kingdom) but if I do get back out to DCA it makes me happy to know that I can see this one again.

Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Cruise Line is adding to their fleet, and while they had previously announced two new ships (bringing the total to six) they now plan to roll out another over the next few years and bring it up to seven. Each ship will have different events and entertainment options, making each Disney Cruise unique. I’ve never done one, though I really want to, and of course more ships will mean more options to choose from. I’d love to think that more ships also means lower rates across the board, but I’ll accept that this is just wishful thinking. Still, I’m hoping to get the chance to do a Disney Cruise someday.

So that’s my basic rundown of what I saw and read during the presentation. A lot of questions were answered, and there’s some exciting stuff coming (as well as some things I’m just not sure about yet). Either way, it seems like the folks at the Disney Parks & Resorts have a lot of new content planned over the next few years and they’ll be bringing a bunch of new experiences to guests at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland.


Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life For… The Redhead

So if you haven’t heard by now, Disney recently made some pretty big announcements about changes coming to the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland (also the foreign parks, but we’re going to focus on the domestic ones for this). In addition to some technical upgrades–audio, lighting, animatronics, etc– the biggest bombshell had to do with… well, the ride’s bombshell. That is to say, the famous redhead.

The iconic auction scene, in which a pirate captain attempts to sell off some of the captured female townsfolk to a surly group of scallywags, will be reimagined at some point in 2018. This means that the sultry redhead, the star of the scene, will no longer be for sale. As such, it’s likely that the classic “we wants the redhead!” line will also be taken out. The popular character isn’t being removed entirely, though, and in fact her entire persona is being redesigned in a new take on the scene. When the ride reopens the redhead will now be a fearsome pirate herself, armed with a rifle, encouraging the townsfolk to “donate” their possessions to her crew. Disney hasn’t given a real reason for this move, but there’s been plenty of speculation, and the biggest suspected cause for the change? The company wanted to get away from a scenario depicting what’s basically human trafficking. Sure, it’s meant to be a cute part of a family attraction, but if you stop and think about it for a second it really is about women being sold to pirates in what’s undoubtedly sex slavery. So it’s strongly believed by fans that this is why the ride is undergoing this particular renovation.

The debate across social media has been a bit insane (it’s social media, though, so this is hardly a surprise). A large number of fans were outraged by the announcement, fuming over what they perceive as Disney caving in to political correctness. Arguments for keeping the popular scene as-is included “it’s historically accurate to actual pirates” as well as “it was one of the last scenes Walt himself worked on”. People begged the company not to mess with the classics, and some people suggested that this was the beginning of a slippery slope in which anything deemed potentially offensive could be removed. While some of the Tweets about it were actually pretty funny and many were well thought out, there was also a lot of anger and vitriol aimed at Disney and at people who defended the change.


People against the change wonder what’s next. Will the pirates start helping little old folks across streets, and sing a song encouraging kiddies to finish their vegetables?

On the other side were folks who agreed with taking out the scene. Some felt that, while people may not have thought the gag was a big deal back in the 1960s when it was created, the scenario is uncomfortable and should absolutely be removed in these more socially aware times. Proponents of the change also argued that a strong female pirate character would be pretty cool, and of course Walt’s words about how the Disney parks will “never be finished” have been tossed about quite a bit as well. Again, because it’s Twitter, there was (of course) a fair bit of anger and name-calling from this side as well amid the genuinely good points that were being made.


If you’re genuinely upset that Disney has decided to change a scene that promotes sex slavery, you may want to stop and think about that for a moment.

Since the announcement, I’ve had discussions about it on both the Magic & Misadventures Facebook page and Twitter feed. I’ve spent time talking with my wife and daughter (both big Disney fans) about it. I’ve read what many others have had to say about it on Twitter, diving into a rabbit hole of Tweets from the entertaining to the disturbing.

When I first heard the news, I was outraged. Pirates of the Caribbean is one of my favorite Disney attractions, so the fact that they were making such a big change to such a beloved ride was upsetting. The scene (and the line) have been there and have been a popular part of the attraction for decades, and how dare they mess with it! It’s just a silly scene in a silly theme park ride about pirates, after all!

However, that rage lasted… maybe a half hour tops. Once I really started thinking about it, I realized I was OK with the change. The more I considered it, the more I actually got excited about it.

Here’s the thing: the scene does depict women being sold. Sugar-coat (or pixie dust) it all you want, but at the end of the day that’s what’s going on there. It may be presented as a gag, and it may be the fun Disney-fied version of a human auction, but there’s no denying that the pirate captain is selling women to other pirates. That’s not even getting into the not-so-subtle fat shaming that’s happening, with larger women in the background as the buccaneers call out for the “attractive” one. The scene never offended me personally, true, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more socially conscious and I’ll admit that the whole auction thing does have problems. I also understand that just because the scene didn’t bother me doesn’t mean that it didn’t bother other people. The parks are about entertaining all people of all ages from all cultures, so I’ll accept that my adult-white-American-male viewpoint isn’t necessarily the only (or the correct) one out there, and kudos for Disney for thinking about everyone.

“It’s part of the original ride” people say, as well as “Walt worked on it.” Some have stated that it seems wrong to change something that these Imagineers created. I get that. The work of the people who helped craft these attractions should absolutely be respected. At the same time, they knew that their work could and probably would be changed as the parks changed. Walt said that the parks would never be finished, and this is hardly the first thing that an original Imagineer made that’s been altered. I’d also like to point out too that, in some cases, changing the original vision isn’t a bad thing. Does anybody remember the awful bride that used to live in the attic of the Haunted Mansion? It was a static figure in a dress with no face (just red glowing eyes) and a beating heart, holding a candelabra. The attic itself was uninteresting. Then new Imagineers came along, with new ideas and new technology, and transformed it all into the vastly superior Constance Hatchaway and the story of her many husbands. It’s these beloved classic attractions that keep us coming back to the parks, sure, but seeing new ideas brought to life in them can be exciting (and a reason to ride them again) as well.

In that vein, Disney Legend Marty Sklar had this to say in a recent statement released to various news outlets: “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. 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.”

Basically, I figure that if an original Imagineer is OK with it, there’s no reason that I (or anyone else) shouldn’t be.


I saw a tweet that more or less stated “if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go on the ride” in reference to the auction scene. I would say that, if you’re that upset about this alteration, the same option is available. There’ll be less of a line for those of us who want to give the new version a chance.

Another argument that’s come up in the controversy is that pirates really did sell off women, so historically it’s fine and we shouldn’t be erasing it. My rebuttal is fairly straightforward here: Pirates of the Caribbean is not going for historical accuracy. It’s a Disney ride featuring a fictionalized view of pirates, and not a museum. Also, just because something really happened doesn’t mean we need to celebrate that fact (we shouldn’t forget it, we just don’t need to showcase it for entertainment purposes). Besides, women pirates really did exist. There was Anne Bonny and Mary Read, as well as Ching Shih–one of the most feared and successful pirates in history. So, if accuracy really is a concern, adding in a female swashbuckler still works with that. In fact, from my (admittedly brief) research, records from the time of pirates state that Anne Bonny did in fact have red hair. So it’s still history, just a different take on it.

Ultimately, what made me decide that I was OK with the renovation (aside from the obvious “human trafficking is bad and shouldn’t be glorified” thing) is simply this: the addition of a badass redheaded female pirate who’s terrorizing the townsfolk sounds really cool. Like Constance Hatchaway before her, I see this as a way to reintroduce the redhead as a “new” character, and I’m hoping that it will turn out just as well as it did for the Haunted Mansion’s bride. I’m excited, rather than upset.

Pirate skeleton closeup

I applaud Disney for taking a hard look at a scene that has some really negative connotations, and rather than just shrugging and saying “it’s a classic” they’re taking the time to reimagine it in what sounds like a really cool new way for future (and hopefully more socially conscious) generations to enjoy.

Consider this, too: the arguments against the change are coming from adults. They’re being posted by people who love Disney and have grown up with the parks, and who have emotional attachments to the experience. Much of the backlash is simply because they don’t want something they’ve cherished for so long to be altered. A lot of the (more rational) argument is coming from a place of nostalgia, and I absolutely get that. I’m really going to miss the scene, I’ve grown up seeing and hearing it and to me it’s always been a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean experience. I totally understand the desire not to see classic moments like that get altered. If they had announced that they were majorly overhauling the ride to be all projections rather than animatronics, or that they were turning the whole thing into a ride based on the films and ditching the current story, I’d be right there at the forefront of the outrage. The thing is, though, personally I never gave the scene much deep thought. It was one funny moment in a ride that I really enjoyed, it had some funny lines and characters, and that was it. Step back from that, however, and the scene does have serious issues. As I said in a recent tweet: “accepting change to an iconic ride is tough for adults who grew up with it. But little girls seeing this new badass pirate may be thrilled”. Frankly, if the choice is to keep using the version that portrays women as property or create a new one showcasing a strong woman character for future generations to enjoy, it’s not much of a choice to me. I think that young girls will be excited to see this new pirate, and I really think that it’ll be great for young boys to see her as well–the more strong female characters they see, the more they’ll just accept it as how things are and it (hopefully) won’t be as much of a thing as previous generations make it out to be.

pirate sign

I asked my (twenty-one year old) daughter if, as a young female human, she’d be excited to see a badass female pirate on the ride. Her response: “f*ck yeah!”

Ultimately, there are people who are going to keep being outraged about the change and people who aren’t. The argument will continue, some minds may be changed and others won’t be, but the reality is that the change is going to happen regardless. There’s certainly validity in being upset when a much-loved experience, especially a classic steeped in Disney history, gets altered. At the same time, I feel that being excited to see what the Imagineers create is my stance here. Is a new redhead scene going to lessen my enjoyment of the attraction? Unlikely. My childhood will not be somehow “ruined” because Disney is showing the redhead as a strong female character rather than a victim. I sort of pity those for whom it would.

Chess pirates

I’m on board with the new redhead thing, sure, but if Disney ever removes these chess-playing pirates from the queue I’ll be at the head of the “torches and pitchforks” line.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment