Disney’s Hydraulic Goats: A Cautionary Tale


In an effort to write more, I’m going to…well, I’m going to write more. I want to work on being a better storyteller and joke writer, and the best way to do that is to tell people stories. That means you’ll* have to suffer through my practice, so I’ll try and make it good.

(*my parents and the three Twitter followers who read my blog)

Anyway, I just recently got back from Walt Disney World, where I went #DrinkingThroughDisney with my family. I don’t have much of a story to tell from this trip, except how the Italian Margaritas at Epcot are still tasty as always. I did get evacuated from a ride for the first time, but it was the Winnie the Pooh one. Decidedly not exciting. So instead, I thought I’d share my favorite story from another trip. In 2004, we went to California with my brothers and took a day to go to Disneyland and eat dinner at Downtown Disney. Our waitress was a former cast member at Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, and started telling us stories about the attractions. Now, technically, I don’t have any evidence that this story is true except for her word. In fact, it’s probably not true. It’s one of those Disney urban legends that you could only hear from a cast member or someone else who was there, so there’s no way to verify it. But I still tell it to people, because oh my god, I want it to be true so badly.

If you’ve ever ridden Pirates of the Caribbean at either Walt Disney World or Disneyland, you know how the ride works. If you haven’t, there’s videos on YouTube, because I guess there are people out there who like to watch grainy videos of slow-speed boat rides from someone else’s vacation. At Disneyland specifically, there’s a scene with a bunch of women being auctioned off by an pirate with a whip coiled in his hand. Hey, it was 1967. Times were different. Next to the auctioneer, on the archway the boats travel under, is a goat. The auctioneer’s arm moves around, as does the goat’s head. These animatronics are actually hydraulic based, and according to our waitress, red hydraulic fluid is used to allow imagineers to easily troubleshoot leaks in the system. She also told us the water in the ride is a nasty mix of water, oil, hydraulic fluid, and probably bodily fluids, so remember that when they tell you to keep your hands inside the ride at all times.

As I previously mentioned, the auctioneer’s whip is currently coiled in his right hand, but it wasn’t always. It used to be lose in his left hand, next to goat. As his arm moved around, the whip would move as well. Not like an actual whip or anything, but it would trail up and down and left and right through the air, occasionally gently brushing against the goat. However, even gentle motion will cause some wear and tear after all those years, and the motion of the whip against the goat’s pelt eventually wore a hole in the fabric, exposing the plastic hydraulic tubing below. Again, friction began to take effect, wearing away the tubing carrying the bright red hydraulic fluid to the goat’s head.

Finally, one fateful night, the whip weakened the tube enough that it burst under the pressure of the hydraulic fluid, forcefully spewing red liquid out of the slit created by the whip…directly across the goat’s neck. Pirates of the Caribbean may not be the most politically correct ride by today’s standards, but I’m pretty sure even Disney draws the line at depicting “ritualistic animal sacrifice.”

The worst (or best?) part is that the cameras on the ride are positioned to look at the boats, not the scenery, so that cast members can monitor for stuck boats or unruly guests. As our waitress recounted to us, she had no idea that the goat appeared to be gushing blood from a slit throat until the first boat to witness it pulled into the loading dock full of crying children and outraged parents.

So next time you find yourself at Disneyland, have a drink at Downtown Disney. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean, look for the goat, and you might just hear the faint scream of a traumatized child…

Oh wait, that’s just the baby behind you.

Well, whatever you do, keep your hands out of the water.

No goats were harmed in the making of this blog post.


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