Pirates of the Caribbean Battle for the Sunken Treasure At Shanghai Disneyland

One of my favorite theme park industry events is the annual Themed Entertainment Association’s Summit (AKA TEA Summit). The TEA celebrates the themed entertainment industry’s greatest achievements from the past year by bestowing THEA awards to the most prestigious new projects and attractions from all over the world. The award recipients are invited to share the story of the development and construction of each project. This year, Shanghai Disneyland received numerous awards, including best attraction for the jaw-dropping new Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Sunken Treasure. The Disney Imagineering team that worked on the attraction shared behind-the-scenes information and fun facts about the project’s development and construction:

  • A gigantic traditional model of the ride was created to help pitch the attraction. The team credits the model with helping Disney executives visualize the concept and approve construction.
  • The decision to base the entire attraction about the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise was made because of the huge popularity of the movies in China.
  • The “big idea” of the pitch was the giant battle between the two boats that surrounds guests using mixed media.
Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Boat Battle
Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Boat Battle © Disney
  • Largest show building in Disney history.
  • The attraction uses a brand new ride system with boats that are propelled with magnets.
  • Disney Imagineering created a test ride vehicle out of  plywood to test the new ride system. Here’s a video of the test:

  • The team used every tool in their design toolbox during development including a physical scale model, a traditional chair model scene ride through, 3D model mock-ups, 2D concept art and a complete 3D animatic.
  • ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) created most of the visual effects for the Pirates movies and handled all of the animation for the attraction.
  • Due to the tight deadline, the team had to install sets while the show building was still under construction.
  • Initial tests flooded the final scenes of the ride. The team had to use giant pumps to remove the water from the flooded scenes. Even Disney runs into trial and error during attraction development.
Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Boat
Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean Boat © Disney
  • All of the sculptures were created from river clay by talented local Chinese artisans. None of them used fiberglass. The Disney Imagineers were amazed by the detail of the sculptures and technique that the artisans used to create them.
  • The end of construction was marked with a ceremony where the team poured in water into the ride’s flume that was gathered from each of the other four Pirates of the Caribbean attractions located at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland.