Thursday, October 26, 2017

Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship, May 1958

Now that the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship has been gone for over 30 years, there are plenty of current Disneyland fanatics who never got to see this wonderful Fantasyland feature. It was a restaurant, of course, but all you have to do is look at it to know it was much more than just a fancy eatery. 

Both of today's photos are from May, 1958, although they are from different lots. This first example is a real beauty. If only it was a sunny day with a blue sky, I would deem it "postcard worthy". But in a way, the diffuse light of that milky sky resulted in nice even lighting with no harsh shadows. The Jolly Rodger looks especially jolly! The striped sails must have been at the dry cleaners.

Who knows, maybe this next image was taken on the exact same day. This Skyway view is also quite nice; I always like seeing the decks of the ship when they're busy with guests.  The level of detail on this galleon is really astonishing.

Zooming in a bit, we can see a bird cage to the right, possibly holding Paco the Parrot. Mothers, fathers, and kids are swarming the decks like boarders from an attacking vessel. 


Nanook said...


The level of workmanship on display in this vessel is pretty astonishing. No wonder guests of all stripes are "swarming the decks" just soaking it all in. (And then there're the two sisters-? in the first image wearing matching outfits. Way to go, Mom-!)

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

These are great shots, Major. I can never get enough of the Fantasyland Pirate Ship! Wow, gone for over thirty years now? Where does the time go? I think demolishing the Pirate Ship was the first thing that Disney did that didn't make any sense to me. I seriously hope someone regretted making that decision after the fact.


WED had intentions of keeping the Galleon for the 1983 remodel. Dumbo was intended to go into a recessed area between Storybook Canal and Its A Small World. The plans for the Galleon were listed as a "ticketed exploration/play area" with a "juice bar" - but not as a restaurant . The ship was really in bad shape - the wood was really rotted and over time a bondo material was used extensively for its repairs. In 1976 a costodial worker went to polish the ships bell and when he stood on the deck (where guests could not go) and the painted ( but severely rotted boards ) caved in . The cast member named Ray was as he wound up in a storage closet with the heavy brass bell next to him.

By the time WED was ready to go forward with the new Fantasyland it was determined it was just too far gone to use - and there was no real budget to construct a new one. There was a proposal to build a slightly smaller one - but again the budget fir that was not there .

The story Disneyland re-tells that while trying to move it it was damaged is fake- the same story they tell in regards to the ORIGINAL Tom Sawyer Island Mill - BOTH were demolished intentionally .

On a side note : so many imagineers , guests and cast members complained about the Old Mill's destruction during the addition of FANTASMIC , Disneyland reconstructed a new Mill ( the one that stands today)

I guess not enough people complained about the loss of The Jolly Roger Galleon......

Melissa said...

Ask any mermaid you happen to see,
“What's the best tuna? Chicken of the Sea!”

Lookee the matching sisters in the first shot! My sister and I matched most of the time at that age.

These pictures are some real crystal-clear beauties. It's hard to look at ‘em and not smile!

Anonymous said...

Really curious as to why they named the ship the "Chicken of the Sea". It's clearly modeled after Captain Hook's pirate ship, the Jolly Rodger. So why not just name it the Jolly Rodger? Was this a matter of advertising? Did COTS sponsor the ship with the intention of it selling their product? LOL! And I thought Disney sold out when they gave Barbie her own stage show in Epcot of all places. LOL!

Pegleg Pete said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the CoTS pirate ship in Anaheim and the 20,000 Leagues lagoon at WDW lent the two Fantasylands a real air of "fantasy". While I like the 1983 Anaheim Fantasyland redevelopment, for the most part, the homogenized faux-European look errs too much on the side of "quaint" for my taste. I've yet to see WDW's new Fantasyland, so I can't comment on it – although I do hope that the Ariel attraction at least lends the area some of the exoticism lost when they paved over the lagoon a couple of decades back.

DKoren said...

My parents still talk about the CotS ship and sandwiches they'd get there fondly whenever Disneyland comes up. It's one of the things they miss the most. These are beautiful shots!

zach said...

Great shots. I wish I had photos of the quality I see here on GDB. I would gladly donate them but they would all be weekend 'leftuggies' for sure.

Everyone was nicely dressed back in '58. I especially like the gingham dress with the sensible shoes in the first shot.

As a kid in 1958 the pirate ship was a pretty cool thing, just like TSI. How long did it take them to figure out it was landlocked?


Anonymous said...

Excellent pictures of a fondly remembered feature.

Thanks Mike Cozart for the back story. First time I've heard all that in one place, from a reliable source.

@DisneyDudeBro, yes the original sponsor of the Pirate Ship was Chicken of the Sea tuna. All the food served was based on tuna fish; sandwiches, burgers, etc. with little fruit pie desserts available nowhere else in Disneyland.

The sponsorship ended after a few years and the mermaid figurehead was taken down, but I don't recall any change in the menu. We always had our lunch here, sitting in the shady waterfall grotto, built after today's pictures (1961-2). One of the best features of old Disneyland.

As sponsorhips went, it wasn't that weird, the area also featured some clear tie-ins to Peter Pan story, it didn't feel unnatural to me as a kid. In those days before video tape, I hadn't seen the PP movie and wasn't familiar with the Disney version of the story, it was just a neat place to have lunch and play on the ship.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, as a restaurant, the Pirate Ship was probably not practical - maybe low capacity was one of the reasons it was “accidentally” destroyed??

TokyoMagic!, I’m glad you liked these! I’ve just spent most of last night color-restoring a bunch of slides from 1961, I think they look pretty great now. You’re gonna like those too.

Mike Cozart, I have no doubt that you are right about the Pirate Ship being in dire shape. The whole story about them trying to lift the ship in one piece felt phony. A smaller one might have been nice, just as an ornament. Same with Skull Rock, which I miss so much at night! But I understand that the budget just was not there. So… the mill (or whatever that building is supposed to be) was not originally at the end of Tom Sawyer Island when Fantasmic debuted? I feel like a lot of people complained about the loss of the galleon, but I think the money guys had become much tougher. Who knows.

I wondered if you would comment on the matching sisters! Have you seen the new (ish) logo for Chicken of the Sea? It is awful.

The Disney Dudebro, those corporate sponsors needed people to know who was paying the bills! Once Chicken of the Sea stopped sponsoring the restaurant, they did just call it “Captain Hook’s”. So, yes, it was absolutely a matter of advertising. Lots of Disneyland attractions have had big corporate sponsors over the years, Monsanto, Bank of America, General Electric, Kaiser Aluminum, and so on. I think that held true at The Magic Kingdom as well, though perhaps to a lesser degree.

Pegleg Pete, I am generally positive on the 1983 Fantasyland redo, with the exception of the removal of the previously-mentioned items. Somehow I thought the Ariel attraction was in EPCOT, but maybe I am confusing it with the Nemo ride (on those pink clamshells).

DKoren, I honestly don’t think I or my family ever set foot inside the Pirate Ship, sadly. I sure wish we had!

David Zacher, I think that sometimes people are more critical of their photos than others would be. Just sayin’! Yours probably look fine. From experience, it seems that the GDB readers really like seeing the personal family photos from trips to the park.

JG, maybe it’s just because I grew up with those sponsors, but they never bothered me. “Monsanto” had warm fuzzy connotations for years until, well, you know. The Goodyear Logo at the Peoplemover always appealed to me. So perhaps I am a fraud, a hypocrite, a humbug (!) when I get rankled by Starbucks or some such modern-day sponsor.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I know you referenced Chicken of the Sea in you post, but it wasn't until TheDisneyDudeBro questioned the sponsorship that I suddenly remembered something very important. Joyce Bulifant, who played Lesley Ann Warren's roommate in The Happiest Millionaire, provided the voice for the Chicken of the Sea Mermaid back in the seventies! I just checked her bio on Wikipedia and it doesn't mention it and then I checked out the COTS Mermaid's bio (and yes,she has one) on Wikipedia and it mentions other people providing the voice over the years, but not Joyce. However, I saw an episode of Match Game '75 the other night on the Buzzr Channel (or was in Match Game '78?) and the subject was brought up how Joyce Bullifant was now (then) doing the voice of the Mermaid in the commercials. Practically everything has a "Happiest Millionaire" tie-in. It's like Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon, I tell ya!

Melissa said...


Several restaurants throughout Walt Disney World are sponsored by Ocean Spray Craisins. The Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square makes sense, with the Colonial New England setting. Less so with the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT. My sister still Giggles about the Martha Washington's Craisin Cake we had at the LTT.

Anonymous said...

Pegleg Pete: As a WDW passholder, I can safely affirm that the new Fantasyland provides a breath of fresh air for that area of the park. Everything from the Seven Dwarves Mine Train to the Little Mermaid ride and even the Beauty and the Beast area contains plenty of detail to really make you feel immersed into the world of Disney. Just walking around and looking at everything is an attraction in and of itself.

Chuck said...

Great photos today, major!

Mike Cozart, thanks for the details! I had a long, sad, interminable gap (1976-1993) with no Disneyland visits, and I had no idea that the current Old Mill was a reconstruction of the 1956 original. I do remember rounding the corner from Adventureland, looking across the river and thinking "what happened here?" A year later when my dad came to visit, he made the same turn, looked at me and asked the exact same thing.