This Trick Is STILL Fooling People (Including Me) on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean After 57 Years

This iconic Disney effect is still lighting us up all these years later.

Iconic scene

Since the Disneyland version of the ride first opened in 1967, Pirates of the Caribbean has been hailed by many as the apex of the original era of Disney Imagineering. The final attraction personally supervised by Walt Disney, Pirates combined everything the company had perfected up to that point — audio animatronics, in-depth themed settings, a people-eating ride system, and – – our focus today – – special effects created by a Disney ICON.

While there are many iconic special effects in Pirates of the Caribbean, there’s little doubt that the most iconic is the “burning” town effect that occurs at the ride’s climax, the culmination of the titular pirates sacking of the village of Puerto Dorado on Isla Tesoro.

You can’t escape the smell of burning in this scene

The fire affect is achieved through the use of reflective fabric material strung inside and behind the town’s building facades. From there, a combination of lightning, mist, fog, fans, and crackling sound effects strike the fabric, creating the illusion of realistic and eternally burning flame. In fact, the fire effect was so realistic that – – in an anecdote that’s been repeated many times across official Disney documentaries and etc. – -the Anaheim Fire Department insisted that a special kill switch be installed to shut down the fire effect if needed. Allegedly, they feared that they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the effect and real flames in a true emergency situation.

Pirates FIRE!

Like many of Pirates of the Caribbean’s effects – – and many of Imagineering’s great effects from that era, including most of the Haunted Mansion – – the realistic fire effect was the brainchild of Imagineer Yale Gracey (yes, that is where the Haunted Mansion’s Master Gracey gets his name). Like many of Walt Disney’s earliest Imagineers, Gracey came over to what-would-become Imagineering from the Disney animation studio, where he had worked as a layout and background artist for nearly two decades on films including Pinocchio, Fantasia, The Three Caballeros, and many Donald Duck shorts.

In a 1970 interview, Gracey said of his effects work on Disney attractions, “Often I simply don’t know that something couldn’t be done. I would develop a concept and gather various gadgets and materials and keep trying until it worked. When we built the illusions we were surprised to find how effective they actually were.”

Yale Gracey and his creation, Walt Disney Archives

Yale Gracey, who retired from Disney in 1975 (though he would consult on the development of EPCOT) was tragically killed in a still-unsolved murder in 1983. However, his legend lives on in the last effects he created – – like the Pirates of the Caribbean fire – – which still amaze to this day. Stay tuned to AllEars for more Disney history.

Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Ride SURPRISED Us in Magic Kingdom – See WHY!

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Were you ever fooled by the fire on Pirates of the Caribbean? Let us know in the comments below.

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One Reply to “This Trick Is STILL Fooling People (Including Me) on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean After 57 Years”

  1. No. However it was one of my favorite rides because back in the day it rarely had a line here at Disneyworld. Haven’t been there in years due to aging out (Disney is designed for those under 40 and nowadays quite wealthy as well). Back in the day it was much more family oriented.