Recently Walt Disney World reopened their Pirates of the Caribbean ride with a few updates. The beloved ride, which has been around since 1967, was getting increasing concerns over its apparent display of sexism through its “Wench Auction” scene. In this display, young women are seen being sold at auction by a nasty looking pirate in the background. The star of the scene, a gorgeous animatronic lady in a long pink dress, is given attention by several of the pirates in attendance as audience members of the ride can hear the crowd saying, “We want the redhead!”
The new design features the same woman, now dressed as a swashbuckling pirate named Redd. She has just finished ransacking the town’s rum supply and holds a rifle dauntingly to anyone that wants to punish her for it. Kathy Mangum, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney stated to the Orange County Register that “Our team thought long and hard about how to best update this scene. Given the redhead has long been a fan favorite, we wanted to keep her as a pivotal part of the story, so we made her a plundering pirate! We think this keeps to the original vision of the attraction as envisioned by Marc Davis, X Atencio and the other Disney legends who first brought this classic to life.” The pirate auctioneer is now hosting a sale of “the townspeople’s most prized possessions and goods,” according to the official Disney Parks Blog.
Though it may seem strange for the park to take such drastic measures on just one scene of one of their many rides, it shows a huge step is being made toward better representation of women in the media. Young girls are easily the biggest target audience for Disney, meaning this one character could serve as a role model for thousands of children everywhere. Disneyland Paris already made similar changes to their rendition of the ride earlier this year, and Disneyland Park in California will begin construction of the ride on April 23.
A spokeswoman for the Disneyland Resort, Suzi Brown, stated that “We believe the time is right to turn the page to a new story in this scene, consistent with the humorous, adventurous spirit of the attraction,” consistent with Walt Disney’s wish for Disney Parks to “keep moving forward.” The last change to the popular ride took place in 2006 when characters from the live-action movie such as Captain Jack Sparrow were added. Former Vice Chairman of Walt Disney Imagineering, Marty Skylar had this to say on the rides recent improvements: “Pirates of the Caribbean has always represented great Disney Park storytelling; it has set the standard for the theme park industry for half a century. But it’s a story you can continue to add fun to, with great characters in new ‘performances.’ That’s what the Imagineers have done with this new auction scene – it’s like a theater show with a new act.”