Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Advanced Placement World History project: Creating a Theme Park Attraction

While conversing with the students of my AP World History class, they suggested that they conduct a project after their AP exam on May 11th to create a Disney ride based on a historical period or event that we learned about this year. 

Of course, I thought it was a fantastic idea. I took their idea and ran with it and fleshed out the project rubric below. Thought I'd share. :)

Walt Disney World
Historical Attraction Proposal

A lot goes into the development of attractions at Walt Disney World.
A Disney attraction can be defined as the following:
-A ride that moves guests through a story portraying three-dimensional space.
-A show featuring either live, animatronic, or digital performers complete with multisensory effects.
-A resort providing high quality accommodations and various amenities, including restaurants, shops, pools, and recreation.
-A restaurant providing a variety of menu items that is themed to a specific environment.

The one thing that all of these types of attractions have in common is storytelling. Guests are immersed into a real-world environment where they are the characters. They have an engaging role to play, rather than simply being passive observers.

You are an applicant to Walt Disney Imagineering and are charged with providing a portfolio, featuring an attraction for their newest theme park in central Florida, Disney’s Historical Adventures. WDI encourages you to develop one of the following attractions when applying:
                -A D- or E-Ticket attraction for the new park.
-A multisensory, immersive show featuring either live, digital, animatronic, or puppetry performers.
-A series of restaurants (quick service, casual, and character) featuring a minimum of three entrees and two desserts.
-A nearby resort that continues the storytelling of the park.

The individual requirements for each of the attractions are outlined below:

Theme Park Ride (You may not build a roller coaster.)
1. This must be an immersive environment. Think about where the attraction would take place. Will this be an outdoor attraction (such as Voyage to the Crystal Grotto in Shanghai or Expedition: Everest), an indoor attraction (like Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion), or one that goes both inside and outside (like Test Track)?
2. What will the exterior architecture look like? Keep in mind that it should tie to the historical period and location you have chosen to depict. What will the queue feature? How will the queue help to set the time and place for the story being told?
3. What is the ride vehicle? How will it move you through the attraction? Are you using an omnimover? Virtual reality? A boat? An inverted track system? How will the ride vehicle help to create the story being told?
4. Create a blueprint/overhead view of the attraction including the ride path and general placement of each scene.
5. Create three pieces of concept art for three different scenes that guests would experience in the attraction. This can take the form of scenery, architecture, individual characters/costumes, or even an entire scene in the attraction (look at Marc Davis or Rolly Crump concept art for inspiration).
6. Write a story pitch for the attraction. You may include a script, plot, character bios, etc. Keep in mind that this needs to be an original plot but should depict a historical event or historical period. It can be a fanciful attraction that should be inspired by history or a purely educational experience.
7. Design an attraction sign or marquee so that when guests walk up, they know what they will experience in the attraction. Create a name for your attraction that helps guests understand what they’ll experience.

1.       This must be an immersive environment. Think about where the attraction would take place. Will this be an open air show (such as Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular) or an indoor show (like The American Adventure or the Carousel of Progress)?
2.       What will the format for this show be? A live musical extravaganza (Finding Nemo: The Musical)? An educational show (The American Adventure)? A 3D/multisensory adventure (Mickey’s Philharmagic)? A theater in the round (Stitch’s Great Escape)?
3.       Who will the characters be portrayed by? Digital creations? Audio Animatronics? Live performers? Puppets? Why?
4.       What will the exterior architecture look like? Keep in mind that it should tie to the historical period and location you have chosen to depict. What will the queue feature? How will the queue help to set the time and place for the story being told?
5.       Write a script for the show. The show must be a minimum of five minutes from entering the theater to the exit (1 page per minute). Make sure to not only include dialogue but also the actions being performed. Keep in mind that this needs to be an original plot but should depict a historical event or historical period. It can be a fanciful attraction that should be inspired by history or a purely educational experience.
6.       Create three pieces of concept art for three different scenes that guests would experience in the attraction. This can take the form of scenery, architecture, individual characters/costumes, or even an entire scene in the attraction (look at Marc Davis or Rolly Crump concept art for inspiration).
7.       Design an attraction sign or marquee so that when guests walk up, they know what they will experience in the attraction. Create a name for your attraction that helps guests understand what they’ll experience

1.       Please remember that you must design TWO restaurants. One restauarant must be a quick-service establishment (Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café) and the other must be either a casual or character dining experience (Liberty Tree Tavern, the Coral Reef Restaurant, the Crystal Palace).
2.       This must be an immersive, story-telling dining experience. Guests should be immersed in a specific place and time as they eat. Explain the backstory of the attraction. Where are guests dining? When are they dining? Write a minimum two page story that places your restaurant in time and space. Who started your restaurant? Why did they start the restaurant? What do the different dining rooms represent? Explain the decorations on the walls. How do they fit into your story (read the backstory of Skipper Canteen for help).
3.       You must create a menu that includes three entrees and two desserts at a minimum. These must be historically authentic to the time and place your restaurant fits into. Make sure you include pricing, sides, and optional beverages.
4.       Create three pieces of concept art either showing restaurant fixtures (tables, lights, the ordering counter, trash cans), the exterior architecture, cast member costumes, character costumes (for the character dining experiences), or concept art of the dining rooms.
5.       Design either the menu or the sign of the restaurant so guests have an idea of what they will experience inside the restaurant. Create a name for your restaurants that helps guests understand what they’ll experience

Resort Hotel
1.       This must be an immersive resort experience. Guests should be immersed in a specific time and place.
2.       Your resort must include:
a.       Guest rooms
b.       A lobby
c.       A food court
d.       A higher-end restaurant
e.       A minimum of one themed swimming pool
f.        Other amenities (tennis courts, boat rentals, horse riding, campfires, outdoor movies, game arcade, a lounge, etc.)
3.       What will the exterior of your resort look like? How will it tell the story of the resort before guests even step foot in the lobby for the first time? What type of vegetation will you include to set the time and place of the resort?
4.       Create a blueprint of your resort. Where will the lobby be located? Where will your rooms be located? Etc. Is your resort a value, moderate, or deluxe resort?
5.       Create three pieces of concept art. Your concept art can depict the lobby, the exterior of the building, guest rooms, the swimming pool, the dining hall, fixtures, etc.
6.       Create a menu for meals guests can experience at the food court and the higher end restaurant that fit into the story of the resort. You must include a minimum of three entrees per restaurant.
7.       What will the main form of transportation be for the resort? Monorail? Friendship Boat? Bus transportation? Gondola? Something else? How might that fit into the story of your attraction?
8.       Write the backstory for your attraction. Make sure to explain the major characters that may have founded the resort, what type of building is being depicted, why your pool was created, what the dining hall is and how it fit into the story being told, etc. Make sure that your story fits into a specific time and place and is somewhat historically accurate. See the backstories for Wilderness Lodge and Port Orleans/Dixie Landings for inspiration.


Your attraction/show/restaurant/resort is tied directly to Disney’s newest Orlando park, Disney’s Historical Adventures. As a result, guests need to be fully immersed in an environment that is both historically accurate, geographically accurate, as well as telling a specific story. This story can be fiction or true, but needs to be interesting, engaging, and fit into a region and time period of history (such as Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom or Sunset Rach Market at Disney’s Hollywood Studios). So where do you start? Consider a historical period or civilization that interested you and start there. However, keep in mind that it must be family friendly---this is Disney (sorry, no Mongol pillaging or Aztec human sacrificing)! Next, pick which of the above attractions you’d like to focus on. Begin telling your story and then flesh out the actual details of how you could make that in a real-world environment! The story and attraction will slowly start to come together!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Our Kids' First Trip Ch. 1: Arriving on Property

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing tips to for taking toddlers to the Disney Parks.

I have been going to Walt Disney World since I was two years old, going to the parks approximately every two years, sometimes more often than that. As a result, I've been to the resort 17 or 18 times. My wife has been to the parks five times since 2001, the last three trips with me since we've been married.

But the summer of 2015 was a very special trip for us, if not me especially: the first time we took our kids to the park.

As I explained in my last blog post (if you haven't read it yet, read my personal story here), my wife and I fostered our kids for a little over a year before finally adopting them this past May. However, we knew that the adoption would be going through once the birth parents' rights had been terminated during the summer of 2015. To celebrate our imminent establishment of officially being a family, we decided to take a trip to Walt Disney World, our first (and only at this point) as a family, as well as the first visit for any of our kids.

We didn't quite know how it was going to go. One of our boys is a very nervous kid. He doesn't like loud noises, frightening situations, or the dark (which can be a problem at Walt Disney World because many of the attractions feature loud noises, frightening situations, and the dark). Our daughter was also fifteen at the time (almost sixteen), and I wasn't sure if she would even be at all interested or enjoy the parks which can sometimes be seen as "kiddy" or "childish" for teenagers who sometimes see themselves as "too cool" for Disney magic. Our daughter had a touch of childlike faith in her, but at the point we traveled to the parks, she'd only been living with us for six months, so we still didn't know how she would respond to the theme parks and attractions.
How silly of me to think that...

The trip from North Carolina to Orlando by car takes about eleven hours. Somehow, I'd convinced my wife to leave the night before check-in and stay just over the Florida border in a hotel, leaving only a few hours' drive to property. Since we wouldn't be going into the parks on our "first day," it would give us an extra day to explore property, such as our resort and Disney Springs.

Because we couldn't check into our resort (Port Orleans: Riverside) until after lunch, and we had arrived on property mid-morning, we decided to drive over to Disney's Art of Animation Resort. As a big fan of Disney's Pop Century Resort, and because the Art of Animation Resort was fairly new (at that point), I had wanted to go check the new resort out. It was also a somewhat chill introduction to Disney World for the kids, who had never visited before. We explained to our daughter where we were going and why, but as four-year-olds, the boys didn't really have any concept of what we were going to see.

We pulled into the parking lot, and I explained to the security guard that we were just visiting to "check out the resort." He waved us on, and we pulled into the parking lot near the lobby. We unloaded from the van, having driven several hours from our motel, like clowns from a car. Picking out our wedgies and walking like cowboys, we waddled into the air conditioned rainbow lobby, making our first stop to...the restrooms.

After everyone finished their bidness, we wandered outside into the Big Blue Pool area. My wife immediately lit up, as one of her favorite Disney films is Finding Nemo. The boys climbed around the larger-than-life coral and anemone that served as the home for Marlin and Nemo. After a few minutes of their expending energy, we took them by the hands and began to wander down Route 66. They noticed pictures of Lightning McQueen and Mater on signs along the pathway.

However, as soon as they saw the life-size statues of the Sheriff and Doc Hudson, their energy spiked. They began to run down Route 66, until they spotted the statue of Mater in front of his junkyard sign. They immediately began climbing all over him, stepping on his wheels, peering into his mouth.

At this point, I lost it. This, I realized, is what made Walt Disney World so special, at least for me. My boys knew that Disney-Pixar's Cars franchise was a cartoon fiction. They knew the movies weren't real. They knew that these car-shaped figures were just statues. But it was the idea that they had been immersed in a universe that they loved, that these characters they watched and the toys that they played with were their size. They loved that they could pose next to Guido and Luigi (some pretty obscure characters from the film that, for some reason, my boys loved), that they could wander around the Cozy Cone Motel.

I was a wreck. I hung back the rest of the family as they wandered around, my boys posing next to Guido and Luigi (ironically wearing blue and yellow shirts), my daughter posing (appropriately) on the hood of Sally. I took a second, sniffed up my runny nose, and dried my eyes, composing myself after two minutes. I wandered up next to my wife, who had just finished taking pictures, who squeezed my hand, knowing full well what I was going through.

I later explained it to her more in detail: that this place that meant so much to me growing up, where some of my happiest and fondest memories lived as a child, was now being shared with my new family, where together, we can make wonderful memories of our own.

It wasn't Cinderella Castle that the magic lived in. Rather, the magic lived in this moment.

Read more about our family's first trip to Walt Disney World, by learning what it was like to experience Port Orleans: Riverside with a teenage daughter!

For more advice on taking toddlers to Disney, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Traveling to Disney with Toddlers Loop:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Excerpt from A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Vol 1: "An Architecture Lesson from Pirates of the Caribbean"

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing some of the secrets you'll find at Disney attractions.

One of the best parts of writing the volumes of A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World is the research that I do. In college, I worked at the reference desk of the university library, helping students, community members, and professors on research, utilizing the databases, microfilms, microfiche, and stacks to find the information they needed for papers, essays, and monographs. It was a fascinating job and one that has definitely helped me in finding the information I needed to complete my first two volumes of my book.

However, through my research, I've learned the different layers of history that went into the attractions--things that Imagineers didn't have to include. While a teacher who went through four-and-a-half years of history instruction in college, there was a lot about different attractions' details that I was completely unaware of. Take, for example, Pirates of the Caribbean: I would not have known any different if the buildings in the attraction were simple stucco with red clay tile roofs. But Imagineers didn't stop there: they layered detail upon detail to ensure the accuracy and complete story immersion for guests aboard the attraction. This has created a deeper experience for me as a resort guest. Now, while I'm a total nerd (and not just a Disney or history nerd, either), I don't spend the tennish minutes aboard the ride vehicle drifting through the Caribbean waters saying to myself, "Hey, that's Spanish Gothic architecture!" or "What a lovely bellcote!" However, possessing an understanding of these things allows me to place myself in the specific space and time the attraction takes place, to, just for a few minutes, suspend my disbelief and fully enjoy the attraction.

Below, you'll find the first part of my chapter on Pirates of the Caribbean from A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Vol. 1. My hope is that this will give you a feel for the level of depth and research that went into the writing of these books and will inspire you, if not to read what I've put together, to do some of your own research to enrich your experience at the Walt Disney World parks and resorts.
My first book, A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World, Vol. 1


“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!”
These nine words constitute one of the most popular attraction soundtracks for any Disney guest at four Disney resorts around the world. Guests board twenty-four passenger boats, sail through a series of caves, past a ship battling with a Spanish fort, and through a Caribbean town being ransacked, and eventually burned, by a rowdy group of flamboyantly dressed, earring-wearing, drunk, pirates speaking the stereotypical vocabulary of legends.
            The idea for a pirate-themed attraction began early in the developmental stages for Walt Disney’s first theme park, Disneyland, which opened in 1955. Due to the success of the Walt Disney Productions film, Treasure Island starring Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins and Robert Newton as Long John Silver in 1950, Walt decided he wanted some sort of attraction where guests could walk through a wax museum depicting pirates engaging in different roguish situations, such as ransacking a town. Because of the complexity and evolution of the attraction, the attraction did not open with the park in October of 1955. Shortly after the park’s opening to the public, Disney and his Imagineers began working on a series of pavilions for the 1964 New York World’s Fair for companies such as Pepsi, General Electric, and the state of Illinois (which would feature attractions such as ‘it’s a small world’, Carousel of Progress, and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, respectively). Throughout this process, the Imagineers developed what became known as Audio Animatronics, a form of robotic figure that looked and behaved like a human, while at the same time, able to perform for hours on end. Disney decided quickly to evolve his wax museum pirate attraction into some sort of ride-through attraction with Audio Animatronic pirates, giving thousands of Disney guests the classic attraction that exists today.
But how accurate is this beloved attraction? Are the events, locations, and characters true to history or based heavily on the myths of Blackbeard, Davy Jones, and Long John Silver?
            The story behind Disney theme park attractions begins before guests even step foot into the attraction building. This is no different when guests approach the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park. Pirates of the Caribbean is located in Adventureland, one of seven themed “lands” or areas of Walt Disney World’s first theme park, which opened in 1971. On the border of where Adventureland and Frontierland meet stands the area once known as Caribbean Plaza, complete with light brown stucco buildings roofed with red clay shingles. However, the focal point of this area is the Pirates of the Caribbean show building, dominated by a tall clock tower. In 2006, shortly after the release of the film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, the ride was refurbished, featuring the addition of elements from the film. A mast featuring a black sail and the skeleton of a pirate was added to the front of the building, while a banner quoting some lyrics from the ride’s well-known soundtrack was painted on the building.       

Exterior Architecture
The façade of the building is loosely based on El Castillo de San Juan del Morro, a Spanish fort that dominates the coastline of Puerto Rico just outside the capital of San Juan. Also known as El Castillo del Morro, the fort was built in 1539 by the Spanish conquerors of Puerto Rico and was used to protect the city of San Juan and its harbor from sea bound attackers. Over the next few hundred years, the fort and its walls were improved upon, adding thickness to the walls and, eventually, a lighthouse. The exterior architecture of the show building and the design of the buildings throughout the ride is consistent with the Gothic architecture of seventeenth and eighteenth century Spanish Caribbean colonies.
            While El Castillo del Morro is located on the island of Puerto Rico, the architecture on the exterior of the Pirates show building and that of the sets in each of the show scenes is most consistent with the Spanish colonial architecture found on the islands of Cuba and the Dominican Republic. For example, transverse mason arches are used throughout the façade and queue of the attraction. A transverse mason arch is an archway where blocks are arranged in an arch, running from one wall or column to another. The block at the tip of the arch is situated at a ninety-degree angle to the blocks adjacent to the columns or walls, with the blocks between the edges and tip are tilted at varying degrees.
            Another form of architecture that is featured in the attraction and consistent with Spanish colonial architecture during the 1700s is the nave arcade entryway. A nave arcade is a stretch of a room lined by columns linking arches. This architectural feature was often used to make a room appear larger than it truly was. The nave arcade architecture can be found in the open-air entrance of the attraction queue, leading up to the actual entrance of the building. Large columns hold up the ceiling, supporting arches, and leading up to the large double doors of the fortress.
            Also common in colonial Cuban architecture was the decorative roofing and roof lines. Many of the important buildings (such as churches, palaces, and other governmental buildings) had roofs with red clay shingles, which helped keep the interior of the buildings cool during hot days. Beneath the clay shingles were long timber rafters spaced a few feet apart. Both of these architectural features can be found on the exterior of the show building.
Below the roofline of clay tiles, the ceiling would be held up by timber rafters that provide the structural support.

            Sitting just above the entrance to the open-air arcade of the queue, perched on the roof, is an aesthetic (and functional) feature known as a bellcote, or in Spanish, as an espadaña.  A bellcote was usually found on churches, missions, and forts, and could feature up to three large bells used to signal different events. The bellcote sitting atop the queue is not functional, of course, but rather elicits the colonial Spanish architectural feel of the attraction.
            The large clock tower that stands guard before the entrance of the queue is of distinctly colonial Dominican design. Rising to twenty feet and capped with a pyramidal prism, this rectangular tower was often used as a part of church and mission architecture during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These towers rarely had clocks in them, however, but instead housed large bells, similar to the bellcote, to signal parishioners and villagers of different events.
Note the columns, arches, decorative clay tiles, and bellcote perched atop the entrance (image from early 2000s).

Interior Architecture
            The architecture of building facades throughout the ride are also consistent with designs being used throughout seventeenth, and eighteenth century Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Take, for example, the scene where guests first see the landing party dunking the mayor in the well, trying to find out the whereabouts of the town’s treasure and Jack Sparrow. The exterior of the buildings are made of a stucco material, consistent with architecture throughout the Caribbean during the Gothic period. The buildings are roofed with red clay tiles, which were used throughout Cuba. On the ground floor of the building behind the pirates dunking the mayor, arches crowned with transverse masonry are used once again. The windows of the building are recessed, and have sash shutters, which were prevalent with architecture throughout the Dominican Republic. An example of the evidence of sash shutters in this scene is where the brave wife of Carlos (the town mayor) leans out of the open window above the well and yells at her husband, “Be brave Carlos, don’t be cheekin!” Balconies stretch along the upper stories of the buildings, lined by metal banisters and railings, which was used in Puerto Rican architecture.

            A second example of Gothic architecture in the Spanish Caribbean colonies that is accurate throughout the attraction is the “Wench-for-a-Bride Auction” scene. Once again, guests find red clay tiles used for roofing behind the women waiting to be auctioned off. Sash shutters can be found covering the windows on the second floor of the buildings in this scene, as well. Across the canal from the auction sit various pirates, attempting to bid for the potential brides. Behind the pirates, once again, are transverse mason arches, stone blocks situated in a way to evenly distribute the weight and pressure of the heavy stone walls. Balconies with decorative metal railings found in Puerto Rico are used here, as well, with sash shutters covering the doorways opening onto the balconies.

            There are other architectural details that are historically accurate throughout the attraction. Covered walkways native to the Dominican Republic stretch through the town in the scene where the pirates are chasing chickens and being chased by rolling-pin-wielding women. Heavy, rectangular towers tipped with domes and supposedly housing bells, also native to the Dominican, sporadically rise behind buildings throughout the town. Sash shuttered windows, covered public walkways, balconies beneath overhanging eaves, red clay tiled roofs, and transverse mason arches can be found throughout the scene where the drunken pirates sing to the guests while the town burns to the ground around them.

            Whether it is the way arches are lined with stones set in a way to equally distribute the weight and pressure of the stucco walls, the wooden sash coverings over windows, the red clay tiles on the roofs, or the balconies that hang over the show scenes, the architecture throughout the interior of the attraction reflects historical accuracy of the Spanish Caribbean colonies during the Gothic period of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Queue and Loading
            The queue of Pirates of the Caribbean contains highly detailed scenery and set pieces that transport guests back in time. After passing through the open air nave arcade entryway of the attraction entrance, guests pass through heavy wooden double doors and into the Spanish fort. The queue is lit by small lanterns placed sporadically. While these lanterns are powered by electricity, during the seventeen hundreds, these passageways would be lit by candlelight and torches, creating a similar dimness throughout the halls. Due to modern fire safety laws, real fire torches and candlelight was not used to brighten these dark passageways.

            Not surprisingly, transverse mason archways are used throughout the passageways, keeping the architecture of the attraction consistent. The dark and dankness of the queue, while maintained by the modern use of dim lighting and air conditioning, creates the sense of being deep within the Spanish fort. In fact, during the Spanish colonial period, the Castillo del Morro had walls that were up to eighteen feet thick, preventing attackers from being able to blast cannon balls through the walls or easily dig their way through the walls and into the forts.

            Similar to medieval castles, different portions of forts had different uses. The queue winds its way through numerous rooms of the fort. One section that the line runs through is the armory. This room contains piles of cannon balls and numerous cannons. Some of the cannons are pointed out of holes in the walls to ward off invaders. Most armories would be deep within the fort and beneath ground level to prevent enemy fire from entering the room. If a cannon ball from enemy fire had entered the hole in the wall and landed among barrels of gun powder, the resulting explosion would have blown the entire room apart, exposing the interior of the fort to the outside and allowing invaders to enter the fort. However, colonial forts did have rooms similar to this near the exterior wall to repel invaders.
Cannons like these in the fort's armory pointed outward to ward off any enemies that may approach.

            Another portion of the fort that the queue passes through is the dungeon. This dungeon presents some historical inaccuracies. The first inaccuracy is its position in the fort. The dungeon is located adjacent to the exterior wall of the fort, where the queue “exits” the fort and into the “town” where guests load onto the ride vehicles. Dungeons would also be towards the middle of the fort and below ground level. If a dungeon was on the exterior wall, and a cannon ball crashed through the wall, it would create a hole allowing prisoners to escape. Also, a dungeon on the exterior wall would allow prisoners to escape through the windows of the cell, if the prisoner was lucky enough to saw through the iron bars over the windows. Another historical inaccuracy of the dungeon is the position of the prisoners within the cell. One of the well-known scenes of the queue is that of the prisoners’ skeletons seated at a chess board. Instead of allowing prisoners to move freely throughout the cell, prisoners would instead be chained to the walls, either hanging by their wrists or thumbs, their feet not touching the ground. However, to add humor to the attraction and in order to keep its family-friendly status that Disney is famous for, the attraction’s creators opted to place the skeletons at the famous, unwinnable chess board.

            Upon “exiting” the fort, guests find themselves in a small port town through which a canal runs inland. Because the main form of transportation of goods during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries involved shipping, towns would be located along rivers, streams, and canals. When goods were produced, they would be put onto canal boats, called bateaux (French for “boats”, bateau is singular form, pronounced “bah-toe”), and shipped toward the port, a small town located where the river meets the ocean. From there, the cargo would be unloaded from the smaller boat and onto a ship bound for the Americas, Europe, or other island colonies.

            A bateau was a shallow, flat-bottomed boat that is pointed at both ends. By making the boat shallow and flat-bottomed, colonists were able to load heavy cargo into the boats. Bateaux could also carry between one and twenty men, depending on the size of the boat. The average size of the bateau was approximately six feet in width and forty-five to sixty feet long, with an approximate depth of three feet. Bateaux were moved either by the rowing of occupants or by floating slowly on the river’s currents until anchored at a destination. Bateaux could also be used to carry travelers up- or down-river to explore, or in the case of pirates, to maraud and terrorize.

            Interestingly, the ride vehicles for the attraction are modified versions of bateaux. Comparing the historical bateau to the ride vehicles in Pirates of the Caribbean, we find many similarities and a few very minor differences. The ride vehicles are also shallow, flat-bottomed boats ending in a point at both ends. The ride vehicles are able to carry heavy loads of cargo (passengers). The ride vehicles are approximately six feet wide and are about thirty feet long, with a depth of about three feet. The ride vehicle bateaux also float with the current of the ride path. While historical bateaux could carry approximately twenty men, the ride vehicles can carry up to twenty-four passengers, with four passengers in each row.

            Immediately prior to loading on the ride vehicles, guests pass a cave, situated to their right. Guests can’t see deep into the cave, but rather can see flickering torchlight and hear the sounds of someone digging in the sand for treasure. This is also somewhat accurate. While burying treasure was not as prevalent as treasure being sunken in ships, there are historical records of some pirates burying their treasure. One example is that of the Puerto Rican pirate, Roberto Cofresí, who, after giving a portion of his treasure to the needy of his village and spending a portion of his own share, buried the rest in caves for safe keeping until his return.

            After boarding their bateaux ride vehicles, guests pass through a series of caves, through a “waterfall” from which Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest appears and warns the guests. Because the forts along the coasts of Spanish colonies were built high up on rocky cliffs, caves leading to underground rivers and harbors were real, but were a rare find.
To read more about Pirates of the Caribbean and other Magic Kingdom attractions, pick up a copy of A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Vol. 1 here!
Read about Spaceship Earth, Storybook Circus, the Country Bear Jamboree and more by picking up a copy of A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World Vol. 2 here!

For more Disney ride secrets, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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