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Former Imagineer Jim Shull Shares Look at Unused Pirates of the Caribbean Concept for Hong Kong Disneyland

Pirates of the Caribbean has long been an attraction emblematic of what Walt Disney Imagineering is capable of achieving. The dark ride, which debuted at Disneyland Park in 1967, transports guests back to the era of swashbuckling pirates and features a highly-themed environment, dozens of audio-animatronics, and a George Burns-composed theme song that is perhaps Disney Parks’ most iconic. The attraction sparked a popular film franchise that’s grossed nearly $1.5 billion worldwide and has been replicated, in some form, at every Disney ‘castle park’ across the globe… except one.

Hong Kong Disneyland is the only ‘Magic Kingdom-style’ park that does not have its own version of Pirates of the Caribbean, but this wasn’t always the intention. An evolved version of the attraction was once in the works for the park, but these plans were ultimately scrapped. Retired Imagineer Jim Shull recently shed new light on the concept on X (formerly known as Twitter), posting a photo of a foam model of the once-planned attraction.

Jim Shull Shares Look at Unused Pirates of the Caribbean Concept

Hong Kong Disneyland pirates
Via @JimShull on X

The recently posted photo shows a foam model of the large Splash Mountain-style drop that was planned for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland. According to Shull, the model was made out of soft carving foam, which “turns dark and brittle upon [exposure] to UV light and air.” Shull posted the image to show what Walt Disney Imagineering is capable of producing with ‘yellow foam,’ but it’s perhaps the best look we’ve ever gotten at the never-realized Hong Kong Disneyland version of Pirates of the Caribbean.

The model suggests that the Hong Kong Disneyland attraction would have included log flume elements and also would have, at least temporarily, transported guests outside the show building, something that no other version of Pirates of the Caribbean does. The ride also would have featured a rather substantial drop, and though there are drops present on all other versions of the attraction, none match the proposed height or intensity seen in this concept.

Guests would have embarked on the drop after emerging from a skull carved out of a rocky mountain peak. Themed rock work would have appeared on either side of the drop.

This physical model largely matches some of the previously discovered concept art of the attraction. In 2016, the In Sights and Sound blog shared a number of pieces of concept art for both the attraction and a potential larger Pirates of the Caribbean-themed land known as “Pirates Coast.” The art appears to be from several stages of development, but one matches up with the foam model quite closely.

HKDL Pirates Concept Art 2
Source: The Walt Disney Company (via In Sights and Sounds)

This concept art features guests cascading down the drop through a wrecked pirate ship, which is not present in the model. Other pieces of concept art shared by the blog depict the “Pirates Coast” area; waterways would have flowed through Caribbean-style architecture and plant life, with one piece of art even including sea monsters and an erupting volcano.

HKDL Pirates Concept Art 1
Source: The Walt Disney Company (via In Sights and Sounds)
HKDL Pirates Concept Art 3
Source: The Walt Disney Company (via In Sights and Sounds)

Evolution of Pirates of the Caribbean

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Though the Hong Kong Disneyland version of Pirates of the Caribbean was ultimately never constructed, a rendition of the ride that evolved the concept was eventually built. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure was an opening-day attraction at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016 and features a wholly unique ride system that transports guests underneath, as opposed to atop, the water.

The ride is primarily based on the popular film franchise inspired by the original attraction and features several audio animatronics depicting characters from the series. The magnetic boat ride features intricate theming and large screens that allow guests to encounter the Kraken, the Flying Dutchmen, and other hallmarks from the films.

image 7

Significant investment has been made into the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in recent years in an effort to strengthen its offerings. The Walt Disney Company and Government of Hong Kong jointly committed nearly HK$11 billion (over $1 billion USD) to Hong Kong Disneyland expansion and improvements in 2016; the World of Frozen will open as part of the collaboration next month, while Stark Expo, Hong Kong Disneyland’s version of Avengers Campus, will complete its takeover of the Tomorrowland section of the park in 2024.

What do you think of the foam model of the once-proposed Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland? Let us know in the comments.

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