It seems like an age since we last had some true, official Disneyland Paris news but last night our thirst was finally quenched in an unlikely of source. Disney Parks Blog reported details on what we can expect to see when the new refurbished Pirates of the Caribbean – and final piece of the EEP jigsaw – reopens again on 24th July. There was quite a lot to be excited over. Fan favourite Barbosa will be joining the ranks of animatronics in the attraction while Davy Jones and Blackbeard are set to make villainous cameos as “ghostly visages”.
The biggest news however is something very few saw coming. The famous auction scene of the attraction is to be completely changed and updated with the ‘Redhead’ character (you know, the one the pirates call “We wants the Redhead!” over) taking up a new role as pirate herself. Once more, this updated scene is set to come to both Disneyland in Anaheim and the Magic Kingdom in Orlando; with Marne-La-Vallée having exclusivity over it until next year.
To say this has stirred controversy within the community would be an understatement. A quick search on Twitter will find you not treasure but mutiny from Parisian and American fans up in arms over the change. Many are calling this political correctness gone mad, or Disney alternating for the sake of alteration. They say that in order to keep the world of PC happy, Imagineering is being forced to ton down Pirates of the Caribbean to make it more friendly and cuddly. Unsurprisingly, references has been made to a fairly recently The Simpsons gag which shows the pirates of the attraction recycling and doing good deeds due to “massive complaints by two people”.
It’s certainly true the scene in question facing changes pushed the boundaries of what you could have in a family theme park like Disneyland. I’m sure many executives weren’t too thrilled when they stopped and realised one of their most famous attractions has a representation of human trafficking in it. The scene may not be the most prominent in the ride, nor is the fact really alluded to guests, but removing it is one less headache for Disney to worry about.
Taking a look at what is set to replace the auction, I see no problem whatsoever. Going by the two sets of concept art released – one for Paris and one for the US – the scene is still set as one of dispare and villainy. Gunpowder, commandeering and stolen ‘loot’, these are all traits piracy has gain infamy for. The scene may be changing but the story is still driving us to the same message – pirates have taken over the town and are running amuck.
Questions too have been raised over the Redhead herself, with some asking why is her role in the narrative changing from damsel to swashbuckler. The answer is quite obvious really, it’s the same reason the residents of Spaceship Earth is found in Phantom Manor, or why George of CinéMagqiue fame appears on a Main Street mural. Usability and reference.
It is a lot easier, cheaper and faster to reuse an existing character’s model or likeness for a new addition rather than go through the design, creation and all that goes with starting from scratch. Why let a perfectly good character go to waste when they can be reused? It’s resourceful.
With a fan favourite such as the Redhead, there would be uproar if the character was to disappear in the night like a sunken wreck lost in battle. No, this change of scene is Imagineering’s way of paying homage to the character, history and fame of the Redhead by reusing her likeness on a new character. A character who by all strengths and purposes will probably have a much more interesting role than what came before.
Sadly though, Disney are in a catch 22 of sorts. This updated auction scene has already brought upon it controversy and upset fans. It is curious to think though what the reaction would have been if we were told that instead of the Redhead, the role of female pirate would go to Angelica of On Stranger’s Tides fame. Someone would have ended up walking a plank for sure.
I am very excited for the refurb of Pirates. I cannot wait to see the new animatronics, projection effects and all around general tidy up of one of my favourite attractions in Disneyland Paris. As for the new auction scene, I’m excited to see it too. It may not have been the most necessary or demanded scene for WDI to make, but I’m interested to see how the updated piece will flow with the rest of the attraction. There is certainly potential here for this to bring new technological magic while still maintaining the heart and soul of Pirates of the Caribbean.
We were once famously told Disneyland would never be complete. Why should that be restricted merely to extension?