Continuing the grand tradition started by Walt Disney, Saturday is Daddy’s Day at the Frost household. Yesterday we braved the heat and crowds and put on our pirate hats and eye patches for a trip to the Magic Kingdom and the revised version of Pirates Of The Caribbean.
"Aarrrrr," said Indigo.
On first glance the park seemed relatively empty for a Saturday approaching Noon. We were able to get a fastpass for Peter Pan, the other "Pirate" ride, with a return time of 1:20PM. But as we ducked into Adventureland we found where all the people were hiding — Pirates!
"Pirates. Arrr" said Indigo.
As we walked by to park the buggy, the line stretched down most of the way to the Jungle Cruise entrance. The wait time said 1 hour and 15 minutes. But the line appeared to be moving fast so we jumped aboard.
Indeed just 40 minutes of quick moving queue and we were sitting down in our boat, excuse me ship, for a trip into the dark caverns ahead full of treasure and Pirates.
The first and most major change in the attraction is the addition of a new special effect water fall with Davy Jones warning riders of dangers ahead. This is a major improvement the the attraction, however, the rooms before and after the change appear boring and dull in comparison. Pirate skeletons and dark caverns just don’t cut it compared to the rest of the ride.
The first new audio-animatronic is Captain Barbossa on the Wicked Wench. But the sound and lighting is all wrong for the room. Barbossa’s speech is muddled and the lighting of the fort and ship is so undramatic that there is nothing to direct the eye to what should be the story here – Pirates are sacking the city.
The addition of the three Captain Jack Sparrow figures, all with a great resemblence to Johnny Depp while still fitting into the overall feel of the attraction, gives the ride something it never really had before – a plot. It’s a really simple plot – Jack is trying to find his way to the city’s treasury. But hey, it’s better than before where the ride was just a series of vignettes.
The only confusing part of this new storyline is the ‘mayor dunking’ scene. The interrogating Pirate asks the Mayor where Jack and the treasure is… only we see in the ‘Fat Pirate and Barrel’ scene that Jack doesn’t even have the key or the map to the treasure yet. Instead the interrogating Pirate should be asking if the Mayor has seen Jack or if he knows where the treasure is (just as before). At least then it makes sense that Jack is listening in.
The final scene, with Jack in the treasure room, features the most impressive audio-animatronic yet. There is some problem with the natural movement of the front leg, but the upper body, arms, and voice are all very convincing. Someone in the same boat as mine asked if that was a real person. My biggest problem with this scene is the distance of the room from the boat. It’s difficult to make out any details and some of the speech is hard to hear.
Overall the changes, though they account for only small percentage of visual difference, even in the scenes they change, make for a much better attraction. The sound, audio-animatronics, and lighting all received much needed rehab work and new costumes for some too. There’s still some work to be done and rumors that the ride will receive more work in the off-season with another grand re-opening in time for Pirates Episode III and new characters to be added (Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner perhaps?).
I’m left wondering what became of the animatronics that were removed in this rehab. Why no changes were made to the dark caverns (at least add some interesting lighting). Why the sound is so bad for so much of the ride. But these are all changes that can be easily fixed with some tweaking. Overall I give this improvement three and a half treasure chests out of five.
"Arrrgh." said Indigo. "I want to go again." So we did.