Theme Park Props “Skeleton Pirate”

 Some very unique and amazing props found in theme parks and themed environments are often made from ordinary and easy to find objects.  The skeleton pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride were not sculpted at Disney, but purchased from an anatomical company and dressed as pirates.


My twelve years as a Disney Imagineer taught me a lot.  Below is a tutorial on how to make one.  The techniques demonstrate an easy and cost-effective way to achieve  high-end results for theme parks,  themed stores and displays.

This is what he’ll look like

First, using a lathe and bandsaw, make the parts for a ship’s wheel.  This is easier than it looks and once glued up is very convincing.

The finished wheel with stain applied.

Then, go to Amazon and buy a Budget Bart Skeleton.  I chose a 3/4 scale skeleton because I plan to display him on a high platform.  Full size skeletons are available at a variety of price points.

He will need to be aged, cartilage and dried skin applied (resin soaked paper will work for this) and dressed in rags.  I found an inexpensive pirate costume, tore it and aged it with paint and stain.

Then do an overall aging to the wheel and base with a variety of acrylic paints.

Add dreads, beads, gold teeth and a hat.  Anything a dead pirate might be found wearing.

Then prop him out with pirate stuff like a flag, chest, seaweed, coins, gun, sword, a broken ships mast, lighting and, if you choose, sound effects and wind.

Put him in the center of a pirate merchandise display or in a store window and watch the product fly off the shelves.

Total material cost: $240

About PhillipFreer
Draws, paints and builds stuff. Designs Theme Parks, places and family destinations.

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