Disneyland announced last summer their plans to change the famous Pirates of the Caribbean attraction’s “Auction Take a Wench for a Bride” scene where “We wants the redhead!” is chanted by the nearby pirates watching the sale. Now the redhead becomes a pirate and no one is being sold.
“You’ll even discover that a familiar character is playing a new role joining the pirates ranks and helping the local townspeople “unload” their valuables at the Mercado auction.”-per the Disneyland announcement
The scene where a bound and tearful woman is on the auction block for pirates to buy as a wife in Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Anaheim. (Bruce Chambers / The Orange County Register/AP) - LA Times
The attraction was first opened on March 18, 1967 and was the last attraction Walt Disney had worked on from start to completion before his death 3 months earlier in 1966. Marc Davis did the amazing concept art for the famous attraction, costuming was by his wife Alice Davis, attraction layout by Claude Coats, character sculpting by Blaine Gibson, lyrics & script by Xavier Atencio, music by George Bruns, New Orleans Square & POTC models by Harriet Burns, and boat design by Bob Gurr, with ride technology by Arrow Development.
It is thought that the redhead could now more represent a real redheaded female pirate named Anne Bonny. The infamous Bonny is represented in a simple painting of her and another real female pirate, Mary Read, who actually worked with Bonny. The interesting thing is the painting’s labels have the ‘Anne Bonny’ under the blonde and ‘Mary Read’ under the redhead. This and the other paintings found in the line area are actually done by the Disney Legend Marc Davis and were part of his research before the final version we now know of. According to Mary Davis, Marc’s wife, he did an incredible amount of research on a project before he began work on the project itself. He researched actual pirates, what they did and how they died. It was because of this research Marc discovered their real life stories were not as romantic as the well-known and popular stories and movies of the time portrayed them to be. The idea of bringing that reality into the attraction was scratched and Marc created a fanciful story that was both funny and interesting so that people would love to see it over and over again with their families.
Marc Davis with Walt Disney and Blaine Gibson working on Audio-Animatronics
for Pirates of the Caribbean.
Now about that redhead. There was a known female pirate who lived in the 18th century named Anne Bonny. She was a redhead from Ireland who was estimated to be born in the late 1600s. She and another female pirate, Mary Read, were a part of a low level pirate’s crew. That pirate, John Rackam, was also known as Calico Jack. Both women were similar in that they were both raised as ‘boys’ and dressed as men when they became pirates in order to blend in. Anne was Calico Jack’s wife. Mary joined Calico Jack’s pirate crew shortly after Anne had Calico Jack’s first child. They had a short pirate life of only a few years before they were captured and jailed. Both women escaped the requisite pirate death sentence because they were pregnant. Mary and her child did not survive because she became violently ill whilst in prison and died there. Anne on the other hand was granted a stay, although nothing is known of her life after she left prison.
Even though the attraction's most popular scene is changing from the fantastical version created by Marc Davis for Walt Disney to something that is now closer to reality, we can still see the fun. Now we can envision a real Anne Bonny holding a rifle, making sure the townspeople of a recently ‘acquired’ town sell their property to the other members of her crew. This was partially the intent of Marc Davis as he first researched the life of pirates. It was only in discovering the stark truth that he abandoned that storyline and went with a more romantic, funny, and lighthearted version that Disneyland became famous for.
Marc Davis concept art not all used in the attraction. Can you catch what is in the attraction?
(Disney and More Blog Image of two female pirates and treasure, original Marc Davis art not used in the attraction.)
Personally I am open to the change and am looking forward to the fresh idea of a little bit of pirate reality. Keep in mind, pirates didn’t have the most glamorous and swashbuckling heroic lives that we read about or saw in Errol Flynn pirate movies. Blaine Gibson, the Legendary Disney animator and sculptor, said in David Oneal’s documentary that Walt was known for ‘discarding’ one idea immediately for something better when he saw it. I feel like this is better than women being sold into slavery. Yes, I will miss the old format. Yes, it has a special place in my heart but change happens. Anne Bonny was real and I like the romantic version of her Disneyland will be placing inside the attraction because it is still not 100 percent her.
Should be fun, can’t wait to ride down the river and see her.
Walt Disney poses with pirate busts -LA Times 1966
Shot of the POTC boat going down a test ramp: Caption "The Disney party testing the down chute. Walt Disney is in the second to last row." found in the book "Roller Coasters, Flumes and Flying Saucers—The Story of Ed Morgan and Karl Bacon" written by Robert R. Reynolds, Copyright 1999, 2013
Image of Marc Davis, Walt Disney, and Blaine Gibson: http://pirates.wikia.com/wiki/Marc_Davis
Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction Documentary found on YouTube: "Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean History Documentary" by David Oneal, 2006, Narration: Brian Sommer. https://youtu.be/XJFW7SY7YtQ
Mary Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Read
Anne Bonny: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Bonny
"Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among Pirates" by David Cordingly, 1996
I've always thought there was a dog with the old man in the rocking chair that you see just before you go down the first drop. This image is captured from the POTC documentary mentioned above. I do not know when the video within the video was taken, but there is no dog. ;)