Monday, February 27, 2006
Restoring Walt Disney’s Disneyland: The Pirate Ship and Skull Rock
Fantasyland was given a beautiful makeover back in 1984, but one of the central weenies of Walt’s childish fancy was an unfortunate victim of fate: Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and Skull Rock.
The Jolly Roger, a colorful pirate galleon right out of Neverland, doubled as a snack stand - - home to tuna sandwiches and other seafood treats (your host: Chicken of the Sea). It premiered along with the park itself in 1955. The lush lagoon and fountains of Skull Rock were added as a backdrop a few years later.
Located where Dumbo is now, Hook's ship was a thrilling setpiece. Kids could reenact swordplay and derring-do on its ornate decks, while adults could have a relaxing bite or two in the tropical gardens below.
While cavorting on Hook's ship, a lost boy could feel the happy thoughts carry him away toward that Second Star to the Right. And talk about the perfect meet-and-greet location for Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee... Hook used to chase kids around the rocks, behind the falls and through the small caves of Skull Rock seeking revenge (and a photo op).
Flying directly above the galleon’s billowing sails and decks, the Skyway gave an even closer view of the ship's complex riggings.
The waterfalls of Skull Rock also added immeasurably to the atmosphere of Fantasyland. In fact, waterfalls used to be a far more prominent atmospheric element throughout the park, contributing a serenity that has been missing since Fantasyland's Skull Rock, Frontierland's Cascade Peak and other iconic falling waters of Disneyland ran dry.
Originally slated to be moved around near the StorybookLand entrance during the 1984 redesign of New Fantasyland, the pirate ship proved too delicate and crumbled when the cranes came. This was an unforeseen, unintended disaster. Sadly, no one ever budgeted to rebuild it!
Captain Hook's Pirate Ship and Skull Rock should return to the center of Fantasyland as Walt designed it - - Dumbo could easily make the transition over by Small World or StorybookLand. Or at the very least, the ship should be rebuilt at the new location intended in 1984 (on Small World Way).
The Pirate Ship was a central symbol of Walt’s recurring theme of remembering childhood and the spirit of youth (“I’ve seen that ship before… a long, long time ago when I was very young,” said Mr. Darling at the emotional resolution to “Peter Pan”). It seemed to underscore the point and complete the vision of Fantasyland. It was a fitting centerpiece to Walt's own park.
Disneyland has seemed less timeless; less the Never-Neverland it once was, without this beautiful oasis, one of most photogenic locales in the park.
We can't fly without the pixie-dust, fellas...