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.
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:
Besides costume changes, the skin color of the character has very clearly been drastically altered. Another example can be found in the next scene:
At the center of the photo, you can see a pirate with a hat on. On Sunday, not only was his hat gone…
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?