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Disneyland Article
California vs. Paris: Pirates of the Caribbean and Blue Bayou
Hugh Allison
This month, I shall be comparing the versions of the Pirates of the Caribbean found in the Disneyland parks closest to my heart (California and Paris).

The Californian of Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) can be found in New Orleans Square (NOS), was the first attraction of its kind worldwide when it opened in 1967 and was the last attraction Walt was thought to have personally worked on. The Paris version can be found in Adventureland, and was an opening day attraction in 1992.

The storyline for both versions is pretty similar: a group of pirates attack a small village, set it on fire, and die with their skeletons found posed near boats and treasure. The order this is experienced in varies considerably, with the one in France being the more chronological of the two.

Both have versions of the iconic moments (such as the auction, the pooped/gluttonous pirate, the talking skull and crossbones, the mayor being dunked in a well, a red liquid being drunk by a skeleton and the pirates chasing women) but in a totally different order. Likewise, both feature two drops and a hoist. In California, the drops come in short succession toward the start of the attraction, with the hoist at the very end. In Paris, the hoist is quite near the start with the drops spread out: the first occurs soon after the prisoners-bribing-a-dog-for-keys scene and the second occurs straight after the burning village. This latter drop (during which time the rider has their photo taken) ends with an interesting effect, where the rockwork ahead looks to be shaped like a skull. In neither POTC would the rider get particularly wet. In terms of drops, including location and pacing, I thus much prefer the Paris version.

In Paris, the hoist is thought to represent the rider traveling back in time to the start of the story. In researching this article, I read that the first drop in the California POTC is supposed to have much the same effect. In both instances, pirates are not seen prior to this point (and the exterior, queue-line and opening scenes are "modern day") so I have no reason to doubt this. The cogs along the side of the Paris hoist are beautifully creaky and (when they work) give the impression that they are part of the mechanism which lifts your boat, so in terms of hoists- I again prefer Europe; the atmosphere in this section is intense and satisfyingly suspense-building.

The exterior in California (and the queue-line) is set in a modern day Louisiana town house, which is fitting with its NOS location, with pictures of "historical" characters painted directly onto the walls. The Paris exterior is that of an abandoned Spanish fortress. The queue area expands on this idea, with rickety floors, cells and broken ceiling. A lot of what you can see here will later be viewable from your boat toward the end of the ride, but from a lower perspective. [Another scene which can be viewed twice in the Paris POTC is that of the arrival of the Wicked Wench. The first time, it can be seen is in the flooded castle segment, when it appears to be approaching; the second time is when you pass it, cannons blazing, in a scene pretty similar to California's Barbossa section].

Anaheim's POTC has had several refurbs over the years, with the three best documented ones being the amendment of the entrance in the 1980s, the "political correctness" farce in the 1990s, and the addition of characters from the film franchise in 2006. Paris has no need for an easier-to-access entrance, no interest in making the attraction PC and as of yet- no images of Depp and co. A look-alike Jack Sparrow does sometimes partake in meet-and-greets near the ride's entrance though.

There are more similarities than differences between the two POTCs though. Some are negative points (the un-themed bins and water dispensers in the queue; the backlog of boats toward the end of the attraction), some are neutral/admin stuff (wheelchair users having to enter through the exit and needing to transfer; the logos being pretty much identical except for the shape and color; many of the same molds were used) but most are positive, such as the imaginative use of shadows, the use of animatronic animals of many species and the specially written Atencio/Bruns song Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me).

Whilst POTC in California, Florida and Tokyo were developed by Arrow, the Paris version was made in-house. Interestingly, Ron Toomer (who designed almost a hundred coasters in his time, and later became president of Arrow) has gone on record as saying that one of his first jobs was wading knee-deep in the seas of Anaheim's POTC to try to determine the water pressure.

Details found on the Paris POTC which do not appear in Disneyland include a protective octopus, sword-fighting pirates and a buccaneer who swings over the riders' heads. Sadly its proposed Pirate-themed Shooting Gallery never made it off the drawing board. Nonetheless, due to these details (and the overall narrative of the attraction) I would suggest that I prefer the Paris version to the one in Anaheim.


Near the entrance to POTC in California, at 31 Royal Street (and sporting a mansion-esque facade) is a restaurant called Blue Bayou. This is an upmarket eatery which specializes in creole and Cajun cooking. The opening scene of POTC takes riders past this location's diners.

The restaurant which riders breeze past at the start of Paris's POTC is called Blue Lagoon. The exterior theming is that of a Port Royal house, with the menu being less Cajun and more generic. The place is more family friendly, with the interior being Caribbean beach (perhaps after a storm) with constant reminders of the neighboring attraction, such as a dessert called "Boat over the Lagoon".

Blue Lagoon was an opening day restaurant. Blue Bayou opened with NOS in 1966, but closed again the following day, only to re-open in 1967 on the same day as POTC. This is because, according to Walt, it needed passing boats to look complete.

Although there are many similarities between Blue Bayou and Blue Lagoon (such as the feeling that one is outdoors at twilight) there are several differences. For example, Blue Bayou does not serve alcohol, whereas in Blue Lagoon, one can purchase wine with your meal. Likewise, whilst the waiting room seats in the Californian diner are upscale and from the eighteenth century, in Paris these are wooden benches. Whilst this area of the former features mirrors and portraits, the equivalent in the latter features barrels and mock-cannons. It is merely a matter of theming, but due to the peaceful yet subtle romanticism of Blue Bayou, this is my preference of the two restaurants.

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