Pirates of the Caribbean Gets “Culturally Diversified” at the Magic Kingdom

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I’ve been trying to find the right words to say before putting out this story over the last few months, but after a fair amount of research and such, I think it’s safe to say that Walt Disney World has “culturally diversified” the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction during a 2015 refurbishment.

What does this mean? Well, without any mention from Disney, several audio-animatronics characters were re-skinned with darker skin tones. These are characters who were very clearly white-skinned in the attraction previously, but are now much darker in relation to what they once were.

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While the photo above isn’t perfectly clear, it’s a photo I had of the Well Scene from a few years ago. Here’s a photo I took on Sunday:

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Besides costume changes, the skin color of the character has very clearly been drastically altered. Another example can be found in the next scene:

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At the center of the photo, you can see a pirate with a hat on. On Sunday, not only was his hat gone…

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But he had gained an eye-patch and an entirely different ethnicity.

While I could not get a clear picture (as it is constantly in motion), one of the women chasing the pirates in the following scene had a skin color change.

Now, these aren’t main characters in the attraction, and I’m not sure any of them have ever appeared on a single piece of Disney merchandise, but this was clearly a concerned effort to diversify the ride. The changes can be viewed positively and negatively: it’s probably more historically accurate and representation of other ethnic backgrounds might help more guests resonate with the attraction, but on the other hand, Disney is altering history and something very much beloved after many decades. While it might seem silly to those outside of theme park fandom, these changes have a historical significance as Pirates of the Caribbean is a part of the fabric of American pop culture and that’s really the reason I posted this story.

In the late 1990’s, the women being chased by male pirates was changed to women fighting off and chasing the pirates instead in all domestic versions of the attraction. Those changes were made based on complaints that the scene came across as degrading to women and that something provocative was being implied in the chase, along with the naked woman in the barrel as well (even though women are being auctioned in the previous scene). At the end of the day, this is a ride that was developed in the mid-1960’s and the look of the scenes and the characters has always reflected that. Is it wrong for Disney to change that? Absolutely not. Should it be a secret and never even mentioned? That I’m not so sure about. Either way, this isn’t the first time Disney has tried to make the ride “politically correct” and it probably won’t be the last.

I’m sure Disney would rather it not be mentioned, but it was noticed and I wanted to point it out as honestly, we’ve pointed out far less significant changes in the Disney Parks like paint-schemes and new benches. For those of us who love to examine park history, it should be documented and that’s what we’re doing. I’m not trying to stir anything up with this post, although it may open the channels for some healthy conversation.

Similar changes have not been noticed on the Disneyland version of the attraction, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be installed at some point.

What do you think of these changes? Are they taking away from the classic attraction or is it OK to correct what might be viewed as mistakes of the 1960’s?

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

13 Comments

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  • Are you sure the figures aren’t just switched in the second comparison? It’s hard to tell since the first view is so far away but it looks like the eye patch man was the one closer to the wall and maybe has new clothes?…..curious as the pictures are hard to see..

      • But didn’t that kind of thing actually happen? If Disney is changing skin tones to turn toward the historical fact that all races engaged in Caribbean piracy, then why should they turn away from history in this regard?

      • I don’t think that fat shaming is as offensive as eliminating an entire race from a historical time period. I believe that adding this diversity is more important considering what our world is like today.

  • I see both sides. Disney always updates their attractions, and I’ve disagreed with some of those things because of their historical significance.

    To me, this has less to do with political correctness (which I am not a fan of) than it does with Disney making a choice for the direction of the ride. Are they keeping the ride as a historical representation of how it was originally conceived or are they moving it to be a representation of the films? They’re opting for the latter, and I think I’d rather have the former. That said, if they’re going more in the direction of the films, they may as well add more of those updates in kind.

  • Disney is always updating and modernizing but they need to give a nod to history also. And political correctness has run amok in all things. Both pirates and the haunted house could use updating. Been visiting them for 42 years and we visit them every visit.

  • I think that it’s great that Disney is making the ride more culturally inclusive, but at the same time the ride has been like that since before I was even born!!! I just wonder why they decided to just now change it…

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