Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean

This week we set sail with some of the wildest fonts to ever terrorize the Spanish Main as we look at the typography of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. What can be said about this all-time classic that hasn't already been covered on many a Disney blog, book or fan site? 
On a personal note, Pirates of the Caribbean is my all-time favorite Disney attraction. I have many memories of my dad and I at Disney World late at night during the extended hours. We would end our nights continuously riding this classic, seeing how many times in a row we could get in. My dad loves to tell the story of how he could never keep up with me as I ran from the exit, through the gift shop and back to the entrance. The only time I would ever pause was to stop and purchase one of my MUSTS from the shop: a mini skull necklace which was made of plaster with a rhinestone “diamond” in one of the eyes. How I treasured it! Despite the countless times my parents had to buy that exact same necklace, I haven’t managed to keep a single one. I keep a weathered eye out on eBay from time to time, but have never seen one up for grabs.
The first Pirates of the Caribbean opened at Disneyland in 1967, and it was originally designed as a walk-through wax museum-like attraction. However, the plans changed when WED decided to incorporate some of the new animatronic technologies they had created for the World’s Fair. The attraction became an instant success. When Walt Disney World opened its gates in 1971, fans demanded that the show be brought to the Sunshine State. Disney World's Pirates attraction opened in 1973 with some slight modifications from the original. As we all know, most every park Disney has built from here on out has a version of this masterpiece.

When looking at the type used by designers, we see a wide variety in classification of display fonts. Most of the typography is based on classic 60's and 70's fonts with a few subtle nods to the sea fairing, scripty, pirate-looking fonts like Caslon Antique. It wasn’t until the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise that some of the typography changed, mainly at the Walt Disney World attraction, where we now see the font from the films’ titles now branding the attraction. Once again, we see our favorite font, Bookman Swash, along with some other notable 70's fonts like Columbus. Disneyland's attraction has a larger variety of typography as compared to the Walt Disney World attraction, so most of the fonts in this week’s study come from the Anaheim original.

The one thing I enjoy about the typography of the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions is the use of such dated and classic fonts. This one attraction features the works of such time-honored typographers such as William Caslon, John Baskerville and Ed Benguiat. If a Pirates attraction were designed today, I'm apt to say the designers would probably choose more aged and distressed fonts. To a type nut like me, the typography tells the story of when this attraction was created—it has a refinement that doesn't rely on gimmicks to enhance the story. It is truly one of my favorite font palettes within the Disney Parks. 
Well that about does it for this week’s case study. Tune in for more fun Designerland updates. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.