Friday, February 06, 2009
It’s Official: Pirates of the Caribbean wins, Pt. 2
We’re back in our Pirates of the Caribbbean boat, about to enter one of my favorite scenes: The attack on a Spanish town by the Wicked Wench. It is one of the most exciting moments of the attraction as you leave the small and confined dioramas of the grotto to enter a huge open space where a pirate ship is shooting canonballs over your boat, causing the water to splash up unexpectedly. The smell of the smoke, the lights, the roar of the canon...it is extremely memorable. To me, this is the actual beginning of the attraction. For purists (myself included), I apologize for not having an image of Blackbeard, the original commander of the Wicked Wench. Instead, I only have shots of Captain Barbossa who replaced Blackbeard during the rehab of 2006. Personally, I think it was an error to put Barbossa here; there is no humor in this figure and Blackbeard was a much better character for this scene.
Other pirates are assisting the captain, but sharp eyes have to be on the lookout for them as they pop up and down without notice, trying to stay out of the way of the opposing canon fire.
This lucky fellow recently had his sight restored as you can see in these before and after shots:
The next scene that we float into is the dunking of Carlos the mayor, as seen in this vintage publicity photo:
There is so much going on in this vignette that it is difficult to catch it all even if you ride through multiple times. Although these audio-animatronic figures move with realistic actions, their faces bear the humor of the artistic genius, Marc Davis. And let’s not forget the contributions of Marc’s talented wife, costumer Alice Davis. While the Mayor gets dunked perpetually...
his shrewish snaggle-toothed wife from above yells at him “Don’t be chicken!” as she ducks behind the safety of her shutters. Just the wonder of seeing Carlos spewing out the water was enough to keep me amazed as a child.
And what about these poor saps up next, who know that they will be swallowing a lot of water soon. Just check out the comic detail on their face, expressing Davis’ brand of humorous fear.
As you round the corner, your boat approaches the Costurera, where Jack Sparrow hides behind the dressmaker’s wares. On my last trip, it was pointed out to me that if you shoot this scene from just the right angle, it will appear that Jack is wearing the dress. Always something new for my list of things to shoot. This small piece of action was added in 2006; it’s something else to look at and I feel it was done seamlessly to fit in with the classic attraction.
And now we come to one of the most famous scenes in the entire attraction: The Wench Auction. In these days of being politically correct, it is amazing that it still survives, virtually intact from opening day. Basically, you have a bunch of women being sold off as slaves to pirates. How does something like this not draw fire? I have a few theories: first and foremost, Marc Davis created this scene (as much of the rest of the attraction) to be humorous. Compare the vintage and contemporary shots; not much difference.
Look at the faces of the “prospective” maidens; you have a mixture of emotions, ranging from sadness, shame, and pity on the left to the hopeful one wringing her hands in anticipation that she might actually get a man! A scene that could potentially be very heavy is lightened and made enjoyable because of the characterizations of the figures and the story that is being told. In addition, this scene has played continuously since the 1967 opening and has become part of pop culture.
A classic bait and switch occurs with the saucy red-headed wench, who looks nothing like the actual maidens being auctioned off. Winking at guests going by in the boats, she is a mixture of Dolly Parton and Mae West, with wicked curves that go on for days.
However, over the years her facial painting has definitely softened her, whereas the buck-toothed gentleman with the rope has remained the same:
The infamous auctioneer spews off his spiel, doing his best to get a pretty penny for the homely lass who is currently up on the auction block.
Nobody would dare mess with this guy; he’s doing his best to keep the rowdy crowd across the way from doing anything that might offend the ladies.
If you don’t return tomorrow for more POTC, then these guys will heckle you from here to eternity!
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