Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland Paris
The Vault

Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – Refurbished and Improved

I did it, I managed to avoid all spoilers for what changes had been made to Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland Paris before seeing it with my own eyes. Well, I knew Captain Jack would be in there somewhere as that has been a not so secret plan for some years now. But that aside, staying away from social media and not opening emails titled Pirates of the Caribbean Reopens July 24th from Disneyland Paris communications was certainly the way to go!

It was just 6 days ago that I entered Disneyland Park with my wife and son, and we walked, briskly, to Pirates of the Caribbean. Being my absolute favourite attraction in the world, I was excited, but a tiny bit nervous too. I have faith in Disney Parks imagineers and Disneyland Paris, but what if I didn’t like it as much? Well those thoughts quickly turned back to excitement as we approached the attraction, and the first change became evident – Pirates of the Caribbean film music being played in the outside queue area. With the renamed Captain Jack’s restaurant to the left, and the promise of film character(s) inside, that made sense. It’s a fantastic score from Hans Zimmer, and in that environment it worked perfectly. I got the change to hear it for a good 20 minutes or so, as the re-opened Pirates was incredibly popular, seeing queue areas I’d never seen used before. Apologies for the lack of photos – I was a bit preoccupied!

Once we reached the inside queuing area it was back to the familiar attraction music, and the most beautifully themed queuing area of any attraction in Disneyland Paris. Plus that smell, and the musty warm air that you only get in Pirates of the Caribbean. It was so good to be back, after a March trip which saw me in Disneyland Paris for the only the first time ever without going on Pirates. Inside there are a lot more cobwebs, and areas that used to be dimly lit are more illumiated now, making the set scenes a lot easier to see. After an hour or so of queuing, inside and out, we boarded our boat, and to say we were all ridiculously excited would be a massive understatement.

Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland Paris

Not knowing what changes had been made I was in a super aware mode, to the point that I may have been seeing things as new that had always been there. For example, I’m sure the crab clicking is louder, or was it ever there? The torches on the opposite side of the boat to Captain Jack’s seem to be brighter, and greater in quantity. As an aside, has anyone ever noticed that the rock as you float past the aforementioned crab and octopus friend looks a bit like Slave 1 from the Star Wars films? The first definite and very noticeable change is when the boat ascends that big incline, and Dead Men Tell No Tales booms out. Then at the top of the hill is a steam screen, onto which you get alternating Davey Jones and Blackbeard projections, with either English or French protestations that dead men do indeed tell tales. This is really well done, with very clear images and timed to perfection for each boat.

Going past the cats there are no longer silhouetted fight scenes in the stairwells to the right, but what looks like broken chairs and pieces of wood – the aftermath of the fracas instead of the actual event, maybe. I was delighted to see the swinging pirate back swinging, though less enthused when he was back to just hanging down by the second day of our trip. He was back swinging again by the end of the week thankfully. I’ve never understood why such a seemingly simple part of the attraction has so many problems. There’s obviously a lot more going on than meets the eye.

After the first drop, the canon battle between the ship and town has more pirates on the ship, added dialogue and the explosions seem louder and more violent. Again, that could be my super aware state imagining things, but it certainly seemed that way. Having four pirates on the ship makes it much more realistic – who ever heard of a battling pirate ship with just one pirate? Into the first big town scene and the dunking of the mayor is accompanied by water spurting up, which again, adds to the reality of the scene. Then comes one of the big changes, as the wench auction is gone. Instead people are giving up their valuables, and Red is now not the prize wench wanted by the pirates but she is one of those pirates herself. She looks fantastic toting a rifle and is one of, the most lifelike animatronics I have ever seen. So much so that I caught myself looking away a couple of times, for fear that I’d been spotted looking at her! It’s a positive change from a moral standpoint, but also changes the tone of this scene for the better. Red is far more attractive as someone in charge of her own destiny and of the situation, rather than being sold off to some lecherous drooling neanderthal.

Under the bridge and we get the same man chasing woman, woman chasing man scenes, but then comes Jack. Replacing the frightened lady with the candle is Captain Jack Sparrow, in the likeness of the actor that brought the role such infamy, Johnny Depp. You don’t see a lot of him, but it’s unmistakable that it’s him, and even his limited movement is very reminiscent of what we have seen on screen. Though his presence is historic for Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland Paris, it’s still a fairly subtle inclusion, and not one that detracts from the scene or in any way takes over, as I once feared it may do. The duelling pirates scene has changed, and is now a female pirate fighting a town dignitary, when it’s working. I say that because from day 2 this scene was boarded off, only opening up again on our 5th and final day. It seems that while the characters have changed, the problems remain. I couldn’t see any major changes in the town fire scene, though the fire seemed more vibrant and the pigs more vocal!

Down the second drop, round the corner and wow – the game changer appeared before my very eyes. Standing there, brandishing his sword, was Captain Barbossa, looking every bit like Geoffrey Rush we are used to seeing in the films. As lightning flashes he turns into undead Barbossa, swinging his sword at the passing boat and letting out a maniacal laugh. The transition is flawless and I have no idea how they do it. Not reading spoilers, at the moment, was absolutely the right decision. Not knowing this incredible animatronic was coming just added to the thrill of seeing it for the first time, and that didn’t subside on the 11 subsequent times we rode Pirates of the Caribbean on this trip. As I tweeted a few days ago, I’m not sure I’ll ever experience Pirates of the Caribbean and NOT be blown away by just how brilliant Barbossa looks.

Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland Paris

That wasn’t the end though, as around the corner and in place of the skeleton on the 20,000+ gold coins we got a second Captain Jack – this time full body and sitting upon a chair. He moved, well, like a real life human, and sounded just like Johnny Depp, both in English and French. The way his beard appendages swung, and the way his hand moved were so life like – it’s almost hard to believe he isn’t actually Johnny Depp. Just like Barbossa before him, this Captain Jack is utterly captivating, and adds a lot to a scene that was previously fun, but unremarkable. As we exited the ride there was one more addition, as the talking skull now has Captain Jack-esque braids and hat.

Bar none, all of the changes and additions have affceted Pirates of the Caribbean in a positive way, making the attraction I have for 2 decades claimed to be the best in Disneyland Paris, even better. On one occasion the people in the seats behind ours spent the whole ride discussing which parts were real and which weren’t. It’s not that they were stupid, but as first timers on Pirates of the Caribbean and possibly not having been to a Disney Park before, they could well be excused for thinking some of it was indeed real. I have no doubt there are probably more things I haven’t spotted, and I’ll look forward to finding them on future visits. They just now need to make sure they keep everything working on a daily basis. Whatever you’ve read, whatever videos you’ve watched, nothing can prepare you for seeing this in front of your very eyes. Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland Paris was always incredible, but now it’s gone way beyond that and transcended its own legend.