Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Lately my youngest son, who tends to like to play the pessimist anyway, has become obsessed with things that don’t work.  It’s something of a family joke that stems from our recent vacation to Disney World in Florida, and it started with the Big Thunder Mountain rollercoaster in the Magic Kingdom.

My son had picked out our first Fastpassed ride of the day and it was a good choice. Neither of my kids love roller coasters, but this one was just the right kind: not too fast and not too jerky, not too upside down or backwards, and not too dark.

We had a great time on the ride. Then, as soon as we exited, they shut it down temporarily because of technical difficulties. We counted ourselves pretty lucky at that point and felt it was a great start to our adventure. And it was.

We really did have a great trip, and I don’t think we actually broke Disney World.

But it turned out that this was the beginning of a trend, because it began to seem to us that every ride we either went on or were just about to ride had to be shut down. We thought it must somehow be us.

It happened when we were in line for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Test Track, and Splash Mountain. The Kali River Rapids, Haunted Mansion, Seven Dwarf’s Minetrain, and even the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover and the oddly fascinating Carousel of Progress, all shut down for a while not long after we exited them. And either all or part of our group was actually caught in a mid-ride shutdown on Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, the Great Movie Ride, and Spaceship Earth.

It really got to be pretty funny. But our greatest shut-down adventure occurred on the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride on which we remained stuck, three boat lengths from the exit, for about half an hour.

The live version of Captain Jack was a little less creepy.

Opened at California’s Disneyland in March of 1967 and at Florida’s Disney World in 1973, Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the older rides in the Disney collection, spawning the billion dollar movie franchise and wowing Disney guests with animatronic creepiness and complete historical accuracy.

Well, that might be a stretch (the historical accuracy, not the creepiness), but the ride does make great use of its theme song, “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me),” written by George Bruns and Xavier Atencio, paying loose homage to that old timey sea shanty “Dead Man’s Chest.” That song, featured in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island published in 1883, has allegedly been around so long the origin of it is unknown.

Except that it’s not. Stevenson’s book itself was probably the most influential work of fiction defining the image of the Golden Age pirate until 2003 when Johnny Depp hit the big screen as Captain Jack Sparrow. It turns out Stevenson’s pirate song was pretty influential, too. When versions of it began to show up on the stage and the small screen decades later, the origin of the words had become muddled, lending credence to the rumor that this was a song that had been in the air for centuries.

And that’s how folklore is born. Because “Dead Man’s Chest” is a Stevenson original, and “Yo Ho” is a sort of Disneyfied version of it, written for use in the creeptastically wonderful Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Of course it also appears in the movies and is a favorite of Jack Sparrow’s. If you ride the attraction at Disney World, you can hear animatronic Jack sing it to a parrot while resting comfortably on a chair in a room full of treasure, about three boat lengths from the exit.disneyworldstopped

If you’re lucky enough to get stuck on the ride at that point, you might even have time to learn some of the lyrics, if you can hear them over the complaints of the nine-year-old sitting beside you insisting that he needs to use the restroom.

I have to give Disney World some credit, though.  After about fifteen or twenty minutes, they did raise the lights and turn off the sound, leaving only a kind-of-creepy Jack and his parrot moving silently to the tune. And for our trouble, we received Fastpasses that fortunately did not have to apply to the same ride.

Actually, I think it was a highlight of the trip. We got a great story out of it, a few laughs, and when anyone asks my son about his vacation, he smiles and happily responds, “We broke Disney World.”  In a strange way, the experience has even continued to help him work through his impatience since we’ve been home, too. When something doesn’t work out the way we’d planned, he shrugs and says, “We’re just experiencing technical difficulties. It figures.”

23 thoughts on “Experiencing Technical Difficulties

  1. Terrific Disney tale! I’m glad (especially considering what a person pays to get in) they compensated you in some way for the broken ride. Then again, a good story is priceless.

  2. There’s enough material in your story for a scary movie… Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum… Thank goodness you weren’t trapped in “It’s a small world” – you’d still be singing that wretched tune in a mental hospital.

  3. Ah, the lessons learned along the way, and glitches to be overcome. Maybe it’s just that son. Now that he broke Disneyworld – beware of his internet use or that may break too!
    Seriously though, folks, my son seems to have faulty electrical wiring, and has “broken” all sorts of things, from radios to streetlamps. He inherited it from me, though his is much stronger. I just break irons, appliances and cars. His mere presence blows thing up.
    Perhaps The Practical Historian should research son’s ancestry for similar fore bearers. Oh, the experiments he could activate, especially as he grows patience enough to make conclusions.

    Glad you had fun and came home with stories!.

    1. There may be a familial component. We tried to figure out if there was a pattern so we’d know who to blame, but we split up differently several times to enjoy different attractions and it seemed the whole family was cursed.

  4. I cannot believe all those rides that shut down after you rode them and you got stuck on one. I wonder if June is just a time (in the middle of the year) when the rides are like: Look we’ve been working since January without a break, so we’ll take our own. I wonder if this happens a lot or you were just “lucky”. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for sharing. My daughter freaked out at 6 Flags when the Mine Train closed when we were in line because someone threw up on it! So I will tell her about your tale and say: We all have to learn to be patient.

    1. Actually, I think that because this was toward the beginning of the busiest vacation season in the parks, all of the rides are up and running, so temporary breakdowns are just part of it as they’re working through the kinks of having everything going at once. I think really it worked to our advantage a lot, because we got more Fastpasses. Every part of Disney is an animated piece of art. With that many moving parts, something’s going to go wrong. They’re pretty good about getting it all back on track quickly.

    1. Really? That is strange! It wasn’t so bad, I suppose, except maybe for my son that had to go to the bathroom. The really annoying part was that we could see both the unloading zone and an emergency exit from where we were stopped. So tempting to just bail. But then we wouldn’t have gotten our Fastpasses. And we might have been asked to leave the park. When my sister and my oldest son later got stuck near the exit of Splash Mountain, they were led off the ride.

  5. Pingback: Let’s Just Call Those the X-Days – thepracticalhistorian

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