If you’re like me, you know the only way to turn at the end of Main Street USA is left. Left, toward Adventureland, and New Orleans Square. Sure, you could go for one of the “speed” rides like Space Mountain over in Tomorrowland. Buzz Lightyear (Astro Blasters) is a good one. Or, maybe Thunder Mountain. The Matterhorn is re-opened, if you like to have your spine compressed (not sure why they didn’t fix that problem during the most recent refresh).
But, the best rides are definitely in Adventureland. The Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion. Don’t even get me started on how awesome Tom Sawyer’s Island is.
The Jungle Cruise is all about the puns. Indiana Jones is (mild) sensory overload and a neat cave walk to and from the ride. The Haunted Mansion is a cross between Tim Burton’s vision of the world, and old school special effects that are still cool.
The best of all is Pirates!
First you’re in a New Orleans bayou. Crickets are chirping, a few frogs are croaking quietly, and fireflies dart about. It’s dark, quiet, and lazy. The swamp guy sits on his porch, smoking a corn cob pipe. The sound of slow banjo picking comes from his house. Do swamp guys have CD’s? Electricity? Does he have a banjo-playing friend in the house? Then, total darkness, a quick drop, and we enter a pirate’s lair. It’s clearly seen better days. Tons of treasure gather dust and cob webs.
I’ve never known what a New Orleans bayou has to do with being in a pirate’s lair, but over the years, I’ve learned it doesn’t matter. “Dead men tell no tales!” Just as you figure out that all the riches and treasures in the world didn’t do these dead pirates any favors, a foggy curtain projects an apparition of Davy Jones, warning us about the cursed lives of pirates. Our boat ignores the warning and carries us into this cursed world.
We enter a pitched battle between a pirate ship with cannons blazing, and the shore defenses firing back. It’s a desperate battle with explosions and lots of yelling. Somehow the shots never hit anything vital, or do they? The battle rages on, but we pass safely under the line of fire.
The harbor comes into view. Not just any harbor, but a “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate’s life for me,” harbor from long ago. Pirates are drinking and singing. Some of the less fortunate are dunked endlessly in a well. A vain search for Captain Jack Sparrow. Others are sold as brides. We see drunk pirates singing to themselves and no one in particular, scheming ways to find more treasure.
The scene shifts again to a prison where the only hope of escape lies in convincing a dog to give up the keys. The dog never budges, but always looks like he might. Hopefulness mixed with despair. If only the prisoners would realize that their only salvation is to find a new strategy, a new direction. Of course, they never make this connection. We slowly pass under a collapsing ceiling, and back into the harbor.
The town is ablaze, but nobody cares. We know the flames spell disaster, but that’s lost on everyone in the scene. They continue to drink, sing, and chase each other in a search for the next moment. Some fire randomly across the water at their friends. “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate’s life for me!”
The dichotomy of the celebratory singing and the evil that humans do to one another isn’t the point…or, maybe it is. All the while, our boat floats lazily through the scene.
We begin our slow climb out of this cursed world as Jack Sparrow tell us to, “Drink up you laddies! Yo Ho!”
What makes this ride so popular? Definitely not the speed. Is it the “escape” into another world? Maybe. But, is it really an escape?
Each of us can relate to being the pirate. We’ve been dunked in the proverbial well…sometimes we do the dunking. We’ve fired aimlessly at our enemies (and our friends) at one time or another. Oblivious to the pain we may cause. We’ve focused solely on the now. Ignored the future. We’ve looked for treasure. Maybe we’ve found it…and yet, our search continues.
Are we nothing more than passengers on the boat, passing lazily through the scenes of life, yet never connecting to any of it? Hopefully not.
A pirate’s life, indeed. Time to get in line for the next ride!