This year’s D23 Expo is taking place from July 14 to July 16 in Anaheim — yes, happening mere days before the start of Comic-Con International in San Diego — and programming for the biennial (every other year) event will include a new look at rare items from the Walt Disney Archives. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction opening at Disneyland, the “Walt Disney Archives Presents — A Pirate’s Life for Me: Disney’s Rascals, Scoundrels and Really Bad Eggs” exhibit will include hundreds of pirate-themed Disney items on display at the D23 Expo — including a look at a Donald Duck short that never came to be.
Among the items is circa 1950 storyboard art from an unproduced animated short titled “Pirate Gold,” starring Donald Duck, potentially inspired by the “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold” 1942 comic book story by Bob Karp, Carl Barks and Jack Hannah. CBR has the first look at the images that will be included in the exhibit.
“The actual images are from an unproduced short that would have starred Donald Duck and the Aracuan Bird from “Three Caballeros’ as an antagonist to Donald,” Walt Disney Studios archivist Justin Arthur explained to CBR. ‘Donald was searching for this pirate gold, and he keeps getting duped by the Aracuan Bird. They went so far as to make storyboards. They ended up testing it with audiences, and it kind of got a lackluster response. Based on that audience feedback, they shelved it.”
The feedback, Arthur further divulged, was “pretty good” but not enough to move forward — a fairly commonplace occurrence in those days, before shorts became a lessor priority in favor of animated features. It was to be directed by animator Jack Hannah, who directed dozens of Donald Duck shorts, with a story team of Al Bertino and Nick George. Though there’s no way of knowing for sure at this point since storyboards were usually unsigned in the era, it’s likely, Arthur said, that one of the two illustrated the images seen in this article.
“There’s not an insane amount we know about them,” Arthur said of the images. “The interesting thing is, we’ll find these things in our collection and we have to put the pieces together from other objects we have in the collection, by finding out when the story was registered, by looking up those audience reports. For us, it’s a fun treasure hunt in its own way of piecing together what happened in 1950.”
Though this “Pirate Gold” art certainly qualifies as buried treasure, not all of the Walt Disney Archives Present exhibits at the D23 Expo will be obscure — with famous pirates including Captain Hook from “Peter Pan” and Captain Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean” well-represented, in items from film, television and the Disney parks.
“There will be quite a bit in addition to this,” Arthur said. “This is just one of many, many hundreds of things we will be featuring. But this is, in my opinion, one of the coolest, because it’s one of the things people have never seen or heard about”
This year’s D23 Expo takes place from July 14 to July 16 at the Anaheim Convention Center. The “Walt Disney Archives Presents — A Pirate’s Life for Me: Disney’s Rascals, Scoundrels and Really Bad Eggs” will be on display all three days on the show floor.