Extinct WDW Attraction
Opened: c. Summer 1974
Ticket Required: None
Contributing Disney Personnel:
Space Later Became:
Related External Sites:
Additional photos courtesy Dave Ensign, Marion Caswell & Sorceror’s Workshop
Text copyright 2009
I would like to acknowledge the thoughtful assistance of
The Caribbean Arcade is one of the Magic Kingdom’s least-discussed extinct attractions, second only perhaps to the short-lived Safari Club Arcade. That Adventureland game room ancestor had a lot in common with its buccaneer progeny, where any kid’s pocket change could be readily converted into a scurvy good time for a period of roughly six years.
One of the most reasonable explanations for the arcade’s scant coverage is that the average adult would not have spent much time in this dimly-lit alcove, which sat off the western end of Caribbean Plaza’s open-air market, Plaza del sol Caribe, directly across from the highly traveled House of Treasure shop. So most accounts of the haunt stem from childhood memories, which despite their warmth are often less keen than we would prefer when looking for specifics.
When Pirates of the Caribbean opened in December of 1973, much of the surrounding area in Caribbean Plaza was not yet ready to debut. Most of the shops did not open until April of 1974. Sometime between April and the end of the year, the Caribbean Arcade laid down its gangplanks. It was a direct descendant of Disneyland’s Pirates Arcade Museum, which had been operating in that park’s New Orleans Square since roughly 1967 (it later became the Pieces of Eight shop).
The above left photo shows the entrance to this chamber as it appeared in 1993, about thirteen years after the arcade closed. My own recollection of the interior space was that the room was substantially darker than in its later years when it served as vendor and merchandise operations. How much darker I cannot say, nor can I readily identify what the focal point of the room was, if there was one besides the games and other machines.
The games and machines themselves are a little easier for me to remember. At least one wall was lined with old-style mounted rifle games in handsome wood cabinets, identical to those shown in the above center photo of Disneyland’s Pirates Museum Arcade, an image borrowed from Werner K. Weiss’s fantastic Yesterland site. These games offered you the chance to take aim at pirates for a dime. Some of the pirate targets were modeled after figures that appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean. At least one other machine featured pirates from Peter Pan. WED artist Sam McKim led the design effort on these customized games. One of his designs is shown at above right. A freestanding rectangular cabinet housed another game, which I’m certain was called “Make Captain Bones Dance.” It allowed you to pull the strings of a skeleton puppet – to the accompaniment of a sea shanty – by pushing buttons on a rudimentary control panel. This machine was essentially the same as the “Hoofin’ Henry” game that was once found in Disneyland’s Teddi Bara arcade and a “Pinocchio” game from DL also.
Also present in the room:
– A machine where you could stamp a short message into a replica of a silver or gold pirate coin. The doubloons were punched with a small hole so they could be worn as necklaces. These same types of coins were still sold in bags of three at the House of Treasure for years after the arcade closed.
– A machine that vended a selection of postcards, each with a Pirates of the Caribbean drawing by WED artist / animator Marc Davis and a brief poem. For example, an illustration of two pirates boozing it up in a rowboat carried these lines: “Behold these bilge-rats with a feelin’ o’ sadness; Rum-spongin’ be naught but self-willed madness.” These postcards were also later available at the House of Treasure.
– A fortune teller, similar to Grandma at Main Street’s Penny Arcade, except that this one was hosted by the infamous lady pirate Anne Bonny. For a dime you could receive some wordly advice from Anne printed on a small card, the back side of which contained some authentic pirate lore. I have a weak suspicion that Anne’s face or outfit may have been the same as that of Esmerelda, who replaced Grandma at the Penny Arcade in the early 1990s. The original version of the Pirate-themed fortune-telling machine (Fortune Red) still resides in Disneyland’s Pieces Of Eight shop.
The Caribbean Arcade’s name changed to Caverna de los Piratas in 1979. The following year it closed, underwent a renovation and opened as Lafitte’s Portrait Deck. Under this name, the venue allowed guests to don pirate outfits and pose alongside one of two sculpted pirate figures (adapted directly from Auction Scene figure in the nearby ride) for a photograph. One was the Auctioneer standing at a ship’s wheel, the other was the pirate who holds the redhead’s rope sitting atop a pile of treasure. In the late 1980’s the operation was licensed to the PhotoToons company, and the pirates were removed. From that point on guests in pirate garb mugged by themselves and Disney characters were added to the photographs when printed.
In December of 1994, PhotoToons vacated and the space became a merchandise outlet simply called “Lafitte’s,” selling pirate hats, hooks, swords, muskets, etc. By March of 1997 that shop, too, had closed. The building stills sits at the western end of Caribbean Plaza and to the best of my knowledge is currently a stockroom for the adjacent plaza’s merchandise.