We Wants the Redhead…

One of my favorites scenes in the Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean is the Crew’s Quarters in the Haunted Grotto. Once you dig a little deeper into the history of the attraction, you’ll see that the Haunted Grotto was not supposed to be what we have today.

In Walt’s People, Volume 1 (Edited by Didier Ghez), Disney Legend John Hench is interviewed by Alain Littaye. Alain asks Mr. Hench what his specialty is:

Well, I suppose that I was a kind of consultant for taste. Is it good taste? Or bad taste? I had an attention to detail, to what would best tell the story. Because many people get excited about the work and drift off from the story.

Like Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance. When you get in, you see on the door: Pirates of the Caribbean. So you expect to see pirates. Then you get on the boat, so you think: “This is okay. We’re going to see pirates.” The boat goes out and the first scene that you see is the restaurant. So people think: “Hey, these are not pirates. These are people having lunch. What happen to the pirates we are supposed to see?” Then we go down the chutes, and it’s where the pirates were. But they’re all gone. There is nothing but skeletons down here!

Well, it was never supposed to be like that. Walt died before we had finished it. The original idea of Walt was that you came down there, into the caves, and there were no pirates … But they had been there just seconds before! There was a hot meal on the table, steaming. There was no jewelry. Walt wanted this atmosphere: They were supposed to live here, they’ve gone outside somewhere, but they could come back at any minute and catch us …

Then you were supposed to discover the city, where they were. But because somebody liked skeletons and discovered that they were available at a cheap price, we used too many skeletons all over the place, and the public got the wrong message. Now people didn’t know what it was and what was going on …

–pp. 162-163, Walt’s People Volume 1: Talking Disney With The Artists Who Knew Him

Mr. Hench is discussing the fact that the grotto was supposed to be presented as is; you were just passing through their home as they began looting, pillaging and doing what pirates do best. Moving on to the Crew’s Quarters, there is a beautiful Marc Davis painting hanging above the bar while the two pirates enjoy their libations. It is a great tie-in to a later scene. It is one of my favorite parts of any Disney attraction.

Image courtesy http://davelandwebpotc.blogspot.com/

From Jason Surrell’s Pirates of the Caribbean book:

Hanging above the bar is a painting of a lady buccaneer enjoying her own interpretation of the high life. The color of the wench’s hair is no coincidence. In the concept sketch on which the painting is based, Marc Davis portrayed the ever popular “Redhead” from the upcoming Auction scene as she might appear after many years of presumably happy marriage to the pirates. A pirate’s life for her, indeed.

— p. 81, Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies.

Just another great detail.

Thanks to Daveland for letting me borrow his most recent shot of the Redhead painting in the Haunted Grotto. If you’re not a regular visitor to his blog, you are missing a lot of great pictures (and commentary).

We wants the redhead!

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10 thoughts on “We Wants the Redhead…

  1. A fantastic post – really interesting to receive some background to the Redhead… It’s one of my favourite lines in that attraction – we always come off the ride going ‘We Wants the Redhead’!
    Thanks for a great post and sparking some memories too!

  2. Great job George – Interesting to learn why the plethora of skeleton exist at the beginning of the ride. Walt’s idea would surely have built up a little more suspense.

  3. Whether or not it was original and had taste, the skeleton-infested grotto is my favorite part of the ride… I think the totally empty grotto would have been more confusing in terms of “Where are all the pirates? This is just some cave!” Now it’s a cave with kickin’ skeletons. That skeletons were the villains in the movie adaptation is testimony to their iconic status.

  4. Thanks for the great comments!

    Cory–yeah, the skeletons are great in hind sight (or current sight). I think it does a good job of making you think about what you are going to see…

    Dave–yeah–cheap skeletons. Go figure.

    Ryan–is Repunzel on your list of Disney crushes?

    Fee–how is the DLP version? It is supposed to be the best.

    Lainey–Welcome back!

    LLT-royalties? Go for it!

  5. You know far be it for me to call crap on John Hench of all people, but I think it’s interesting that he’s the only person who *ever* makes this claim about the Haunted Grotto. Everyone else will agree, yes the caves were put in to fill space, but his argument that they were intended to be these caves where there were no pirates, that they had just left, doesn’t explain Dead Man’s Cove and Hurricane Lagoon, which have plenty of concept art and would have made no sense without their skeleton inhabitants.

    I think part of the problem may be that Hench’s wording always makes it sound like this very last minute thing whereas yes, it was probably considered at one point, but somebody, possibly Marc Davis, convinced Disney otherwise. Imagine floating through those caves for five minutes looking at nothing! It just wouldn’t have worked and wouldn’t have been interesting, given the epic length of the grotto scene.

    What’s interesting is that despite the fact that, if it was in the attraction than Disney most certainly saw it and signed off on it, X. Atencio’s script still reads and feels like a last minute patch to explain why everyone is dead! Who knows… all I know is that skeletons are awesome, and it’s probably the singly greatest opening section of an attraction ever.

  6. George – the DLP version is, by far, my favourite version of the ride! Everything is in a more chronological order and the story is easier to follow…I’ll try and do a post on the Paris version at some point in the near future!

  7. I am an independent artist/film maker. As documented, I sued the Walt Disney Company, Jerry Bruckheimer Inc./films, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio in Federal Court in regards to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. See what Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Jason Surrell and Marty Sklar did, making Marc Davis and others out to be ignorant liars. I have a website http://www.disneylawsuit.com with details & photo proof. I welcome all communications – my email address is on my website.

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