One of the areas of Disneyland that is exclusive to Anaheim, New Orleans Square is based on the city of 19th century New Orleans, Louisiana and was the first land to be added to Disneyland following its opening in 1955.
The area has been in the planning stages for a long time before it finally opened on July 24, 1966. The opening ceremony, which the actual then-mayor of New Orleans Victor H. Schiro attended, was Walt Disney’s last public appearance at a major event before his death that December.
The streets of New Orleans Square are lined with the finest dining in all of Disneyland. Places to eat include Café Orleans, the French Market Restaurant, the Harbour Gallery, the Mint Julep Bar, the Royal Street Veranda, 21 Royal, the private lounge at the heart of New Orleans Square known as Club 33, and of course the fancy Blue Bayou Restaurant.
First established in 1967, the Cajun-style Blue Bayou Restaurant is so popular that guests are advised to make reservations a week in advance. Once you get there the wait will be worth it. The dark ceilings give the illusion that you are eating outdoors at night with air conditioning, fluttering fireflies and the sounds of chirping crickets and croaking frogs further adding to the atmosphere. No live entertainment would be provided as Walt Disney declared that the food would be the star of the show.
There are two main attractions at New Orleans Square and Blue Bayou customers will catch the sight of one of them while they enjoy their meals. And that attraction is the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
The last Disneyland ride that Walt Disney had personal involvement in designing, the Pirates of the Caribbean is a boat-based dark ride that takes park visitors on a voyage across the Caribbean Sea of the antebellum south and follows the exploits of the pirates who wreak havoc in these parts, with musical accompaniment from The Mellomen who sing the song “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio.
The ride features everything from cursed skeletons to treasure chests to cannon fire to drunken antics giving you the full pirate experience, and ever since the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series beginning in 2003, new scenes including Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa have been added to the attraction.
Fun fact: the ride was originally planned as a wax museum but the popularity of It’s a Small World prompted Disney to change the idea into a boat ride. I think that was a wise decision.
Last but not least is the other attraction in New Orleans Square that is a similarly chilling dark ride that opened two years after Pirates of the Caribbean: The Haunted Mansion.
The idea for the haunted manor in which resides the 999 Happy Haunts (the spirits who live in the mansion) came before Disneyland opened, back when Walt first considered building a theme park in Burbank. In the late fifties when plans for a New Orleans-themed area built between Adventureland and Frontierland were made, Disney animator Ken Anderson was hired to create a story out of Disney artist Harper Goff’s haunted house concept art. During this concept phase, Disneyland visitors were promised a New Orleans-inspired market, a pirate wax museum and a haunted house walkthrough attraction.
Disneyland had planned to open The Haunted Mansion a lot earlier but Walt’s preoccupation with the 1964 New York World’s Fair and his death in 1966 delayed the completion of the attraction until it finally opened in 1969.
Guests who bravely choose to explore the mansion ride the “Doom buggy” through the ghost-infested domain using the Omnimover system, an evolution of the technology behind the PeopleMover system which was an endless transit system first developed by the Imagineers Roger Broggie and Bert Brundage for the Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction at Tomorrowland. The cars could be rotated in any direction along its route, giving Imagineers control over what guests saw on the ride.
The ride was hosted by the unseen Ghost Host voiced by Paul Frees and the song you would hear throughout the attraction was “Grim Grinning Ghosts” by composer Buddy Baker and lyricist Xavier Atencio. Among the characters you will come into contact with are these friendly faces:
The Stretching Portraits
The Changing Portraits
The Bride aka Constance Hatchaway
The Hatbox Ghost
The Singing Busts
The Hitchhiking Ghosts
The Dread Family
The Haunted Mansion was a memorable experience and it was a huge success when it opened. A major boost for Disney following Walt’s death.
Plus ever since October of 2001, characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas could be spotted in the attraction as part of the Haunted Mansion Holiday. So you may even see some familiar faces at the mansion depending on which time of the year you decide to visit.