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Saturday Matinee

Saturday Matinee #122: The Evolution of "Dunk the Mayor" (1965 to 2006)

Published May 4, 2013

by Albert Gutierrez

Pirates of the Caribbean

Recently, I was talking about the Pirates of the Caribbean film series with some friends. We were a varied bunch: I took yearly trips to Walt Disney World, some of them went every few years, and one of us had never been at all. But one thing we all had vivid memories of was Pirates of the Caribbean. Naturally, we remembered the 2003 film, and its three sequels. But we also remembered the attraction quite well. Not necessarily out of riding it over and over during trips (well, I did), but from the very old "Sing-Along Songs" VHS tapes. The "Heigh-Ho" edition included the attraction's theme song, "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life For Me)" coupled with footage from the attraction itself. For much of my childhood, watching that tape was my way of riding the attraction. Fittingly, it wasn't until Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl hit theatres and DVD in 2003 that I learned just where that footage was originally used.

We have to go back 45 years, to January 21, 1968. Disney Ambassador Marcia Minor was our host for that night's mouthful of an episode: "From the Pirates of the Caribbean to the World of Tomorrow." The hour was dedicated to a behind-the-scenes look at how New Orleans Square, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tomorrowland were designed and constructed. The highlight of the episode included a ride-through of Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with dialogue and sound effects. Much of the ride-through footage would later see new life in the aforementioned "Sing-Along Songs" edition of the attraction's theme song. And they would serve as inspiration for some shots and moments throughout all four Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Take, for example, the famous "dunk the mayor" scene. While we don't see the full storyboard for this scene, you can catch a glimpse of it when Walt Disney was showing Julie Reihm the maquettes and models for the then-upcoming attraction. This shot, as well as the actual model, were first shown in Disney's "10th Anniversary" episode, from January 3, 1965.

When we return to the 1968 episode, we see some WED Enterprises footage with the Imagineers working on several animatronics. They bring special attention to the "dunk the mayor" scene, showing us the unstripped animatronics in a testing phase. The narrator makes special note that every 20 seconds, the mayor has to be dunked and raised.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Naturally, the next stop is the actual attraction, where we see these animatronics in action. For Disneyland's 50th Anniversary in 2005, the entire attraction went through a major rehab, which included new costumes, an aspect of the scene that has been periodically changed every so often. The following year, 2006, saw the inclusion of Captain Jack Sparrow at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World's attractions. The dunking scene has a whole new context now, rather than pirates demanding to know where the town treasure is buried, they want to know where the town is hiding Captain Jack Sparrow. And to add even more political correction (earlier, pirates were chasing girls, now the headstrong girls chase the pirates), the negligee-holding pirate has a treasure map he doesn't want Captain Jack to find.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Within the Pirates films, we nearly didn't even see the mayor get dunked, as they cut it out of the first film. This scene would have taken place after Captain Jack gets slapped by Scarlett and Giselle, and before he tells Will they must find Gibbs. On the Curse of the Black Pearl DVD, you can see this short piece in the "Deleted Scenes" section. However, the filmmakers found a way to reuse the scene, and digitally edited out Will and Captain Jack when they incorporated this shot into Dead Man's Chest. Now, it precedes Gibbs interviewing pirates for positions on their crew.

Pirates of the Caribbean

All this talk of Pirates of the Caribbean makes me yearn for the latest film, which isn't due for theatres until July 10, 2015. In the meantime, I'll just have a marathon of the first four films, all of which are available on DVD and Blu-Ray. And, of course, I'll have to search through my VHS tapes for the one that started it all for me: Disney's Sing-Along Songs. Ironically, this version does not even feature the "dunk the mayor" scene. But I can always watch that on the DVD and Blu-Ray for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, as it includes an 18-minute excerpt from the 1968 episode from which the ride-through footage originated.

Pirates of the Caribbean


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