It’s Pirate Week on Freeform as part of 30 Days of Disney and the film of the day is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Since Laughing Place will be providing you with four separate articles about the franchise this week, I thought I’d do something a little different. Today we celebrate the rich legacy of Disney pirate films including the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. We’ll also take a look at the Pirates that recently joined the family through the Fox acquisition. I bet you didn’t know Disney had so many pirate films in the vault!
Disney Pirate Films
Treasure Island – 1950
The classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel comes to life on screen as only Walt Disney could do. Robert Newton stars as Long John Silver, a mutinous pirate who hijacks a sailing ship with young Jim Hawkins onboard, a young boy with a map that leads to buried treasure of incalculable value. Robert Newton created a dialect for his part, which has since become synonymous as “Pirate speak” in the years that followed and is replicated throughout the Pirates of the Caribbean films and attractions around the world. Bobby Driscoll played Jim Hawkins, one of Walt Disney’s first two contract performers and the titular star of the next film.
Peter Pan – 1953
Walt Disney’s fourteenth feature-length animated feature was an adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic story of Peter Pan, a mischievous boy who lives in Never Land where he will never grow up and can have fun adventures every day. When he brings the Darling children to the island, they soon find themselves in the midst of an ongoing battle between Peter Pan and the nefarious Captain Hook, who seeks revenge against Peter Pan for cutting off his hand and feeding it to a crocodile that has longed for the rest of the captain ever since. The film introduced the world to several classic songs including a few about pirates, including “A Pirate’s Life” and “The Elegant Captain Hook.” A sequel was produced almost fifty years later.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – 1954
While not a pirate in the traditional sense, Captain Nemo has been included in a list of the greatest literary pirates of all time. He may not be a swashbuckler or sail a traditional sea vessel, but he attacks war ships, collects treasure, and even takes hostages. Portrayed by James Mason in Walt Disney’s epic Cinemascope production, the mystique and allure of the film has inspired numerous theme park attractions around the world and the studio has approached remakes numerous times over the years.
Davy Crockett and the River Pirates – 1956
Pirates don’t have to be on the seven seas, as we learn in Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. This compilation film was the follow up to the wildly successful Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, both films being a feature-length edit of the Disneyland serials that became a phenomenon in the mid-century. In the second half of the film, Davy Crockett and his new ally Mike Fink find themselves helping the Chicksaw tribe when river pirates commit crimes dressed as Native Americans.
Swiss Family Robinson – 1960
While traveling to New Guinea, the Robinson family are shipwrecked by pirates and find refuge on a nearby deserted island full of exotic wildlife. They make a new home for themselves in a tree, but when the pirates return and the family takes one of their hostages into their care, they make a plan to fight to save their new home from the dastardly invaders.
Dr. Syn, alias The Scarecrow – 1962
Similar to Davy Crockett, Dr. Syn, alias The Scarecrow was a three-part television serial for The Wonderful World of Color that was edited into a feature film. Based on the Russel Thorndike book series, the educated Dr. Syn had some high sea adventures before the events of this film that found him facing off against pirates and even spending time as one himself. This adaptation focuses on his life on land as a horse riding masked crusader fighting against corrupt government similar in tone to the popular Zorro program. The literary character Dr. Syn was a popular fictional pirate in the 1920’s through 1940’s and the Disney Adventures magazine featured this version of the character in one of their Pirates of the Caribbean comics where he worked side-by-side with Captain Jack Sparrow.
Blackbeard’s Ghost – 1968
Disney comedy stars Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette teamed up for several films, including Blackbeard’s Ghost. Jones plays the new track coach in the coastal town of Godolphin where he takes up residence at Blackbeard’s Inn, run by the infamous pirates descendants who are at risk of losing the property due a greedy loan shark. The ghost of the infamous pirate, played by Peter Ustinov, comes back to haunt Dean Jones and only he can see him. With some Absent-Minded Professor style sports comedy, Dean Jones and Blackbeard work together to try to save the inn from the greedy modern day pirate bankers.
Treasure of Matecumbe – 1976
You won’t find any pirates in Treasure of Matecumbe, but the entire plot centers around buried pirate treasure. Set in 1869, young David Burnie inherits a map to buried treasure from his late father and sets off on an adventure to find it. Peter Ustinov from Blackbeard’s Ghost costars in this film as a doctor leading their quest, but he may have devious intentions once they find the loot.
Shipwrecked – 1990
This coproduction between Disney and a Swedish company called Ab Svensk Filmindustri has more than a few similarities to Treasure Island. Both were filmed in Europe, both star a young boy on a sailing vessel that is taken over by pirate crewman in disguise, and they both also feature treasure. This film was based on a Norwegian book that was inspired by Robinson Crusoe, but I think Robert Louis Stevenson also had an impact on the source material’s author. But new to this version of the story is a gorilla on the island that the lead character befriends.
Captain Ron – 1992
This Touchstone Pictures comedy pairs Kurt Russell and Martin Short on a Caribbean adventure. When Martin Short inherits a yacht that was once owned by Clark Gable, he and his family travel to bring the yacht back to the US so they can sell it. The captain they hire is a loud mouthed one-eyed vagabond named Ron (Kurt Russell) who doesn’t actually know hot to navigate. While on their way, they encounter pirates that give them a lot of trouble.
Muppet Treasure Island – 1996
Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic comes to life in a whole new way with Jim Henson’s Muppets playing most of the lead roles. Tim Curry stars as Long John Silver while the Muppet cast fills in all of the other roles, including Miss Piggy gender bending the role of the island castaway Ben Gunn as “Benjamina Gunn.”
Return to Never Land – 2002
Walt Disney’s Peter Pan received a sequel from Disney Toon Studios in 2002, one of the few that received a theatrical release. The film draws inspiration from the end of J.M. Barrie’s play where Peter Pan returns to the Darling nursery to find that Wendy grew up and instead brings her daughter Jane to Never Land. Twisting that premise, Captain Hook intends to kidnap Wendy and unintentionally grabs her daughter Jane. Now on Never Land, Peter Pan and the Lost Boys help her overthrow Hook so she can return home.
Treasure Planet – 2002
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 43rd feature length animated feature is an adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel set in outer space, where ships travel between planets. Everything about the story receives the space treatment, with most of the crew comprised of alien lifeforms, including Long John Silver and his sentient goo sidekick morph, and the ultimate destination is a whole planet made of treasure. Voice actors include Emma Thompson, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Martin Short, and Laurie Metcalf.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – 2003
The film that launched one of Disney’s biggest homegrown film franchises introduced the world to Captain Jack Sparrow. Inspired by the Disneyland attraction of the same name, The Curse of the Black Pearl took many of the themes from the ride and crafted a story about cursed treasure around them. The immediate success lead to follow up films and in turn affected the attraction, with characters from the franchise installed in the original classic and the movie-based Shanghai Disneyland experience.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – 2006
The sequel to The Curse of the Black Pearl was part of a planned trilogy, setting up a lot of unresolved action that would be concluded in the next film. It introduced Davy Jones to the franchise and found Elisabeth Swan becoming somewhat of a pirate herself, a concept that was more fully realized in the third installment. The shocking ending brought audiences back to see it again and it’s still the highest grossing of the five films.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – 2007
Barbosa, Jack, and Elizabeth lead a mission to bring Captain Jack Sparrow back and unite pirates from around the world to defeat Davy Jones in an epic maelstrom finale. This film wrapped up the Elisabeth/Jack storyline in many ways, but ultimately left fans unsatisfied and underwhelmed.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – 2011
Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbosa reunite for another adventure that finds them in search of the fountain of youth. Jack crosses paths with a past lover, Angelic (Penelope Cruz), faces off against the dreaded pirate Blackbeard, and encounters man-eating sirens of the deep in this standalone adventure, a more solid follow up than either of the previous sequels.
The Pirate Fairy – 2014
The fifth film in the Disney Toon Studios Disney Fairies franchise explores the roots of how pirates came to Never Land, set well before the events of Peter Pan. Zarina is a Pixie Dust Keeper who experiments with the sparkly substance to create new ways to use it. When she gets in trouble for tampering with the source of Pixie Hollow’s magic, she takes the source of pixie dust for herself and sets out, where she befriends some sailors and becomes their captain, unintentionally setting off a chain of events that will create Captain Hook (and the baby crocodile that grows up to love the taste of him).
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – 2017
The most recent Pirates of the Caribbean film has an air of finality to it, with Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbosa facing off against a cursed pirate named Captain Salazar. Best of all, it rights some of the wrongs from At World’s End to give fans a happier ending for all of the lead characters. While Disney has been exploring adding to the franchise, this film serves as a nice conclusion to the quintology.
20th Century Fox Pirate Films
Dead Men Tell – 1941
One of the famous Charlie Chan mystery films starring Sidney Toler, this film finds the detective on board a sailing ship where an elderly descendant of pirate Black Hook has divided a map to buried treasure amongst four passengers. When she passes away suddenly, Charlie Chan must solve the mystery of who has all of the map’s pieces.
The Black Swan – 1942
Two of Fox’s biggest stars, Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara, co-star in this swashbuckling romance. When former pirate Henry Morgan is made Governor of Jamaica to reform the area and rid it of pirates, world’s collide when one of his friends, Captain Jamie Waring (Power), meets noble resident Lady Margaret (O’Hara) who is betrothed to a visiting noble who is secretly aiding an underground ring of pirates. The two unlikely lovers find themselves on a high seas adventure that became a big hit with audiences in 1942. Maureen O’Hara is most recognizable to Disney fans as the mom in the original Hayley Mills version of The Parent Trap, a film she made after her Fox career had concluded.
Anne of the Indies – 1951
Captain Anne Providence is a protege of Captain Blackbeard, the fiercest female pirate on the seven seas. When a French former pirate named LaRochelle is taken aboard her ship, romance sparks between the fierce captain and her captor. But little does she know that LaRochelle is now a double agent sent out on a mission to capture her and Blackbeard. The film stars one of Fox’s top talents from the era, Jean Peters as Anne Providence.
Pirates of Tortuga – 1961
A B-picture produced two decades after the success of The Black Swan, much of the plot seems inspired by that film. Henry Morgan has returned to piracy and and the Welsh Captain Bart is trying to capture the infamous pirate. A beautiful woman is a stowaway on his ship, causing a distraction for Captain Bart’s objective of hunting down one of the most infamous pirates in the world.
The Pirate Movie – 1982
This musical comedy update of The Pirate of Penzance is directed by Ken Annakin, who had a successful career at Disney that includes Swiss Family Robinson. Frederic, an ex-pirate of Penzance, falls in love with Mabel Stanley, whose family fortune was stolen by pirates two decades ago. The two set out on an adventure to steal back her inheritance. The film featured a mix of lovingly borrowing from the original source material and making a parody of it, including modern references to Star Wars and Indiana Jones. It was not well received.
The Princess Bride – 1987
Wesley is a farmhand in love with his mistress, Buttercup. He sets sail to make his fortune with the intention of returning to marry her, but his ship is reportedly taken over by the Dread Pirate Roberts who leaves no victims alive. Presuming her love to be deceased, Buttercup becomes engaged to Prince Humperdink when she is kidnapped by a trio of outlaws who are being trailed by a mysterious masked man, none other than the Dread Pirate Roberts who is secretly Wesley in disguise. The film was an instant success and ranks among the 100 most romantic films of the century by AFI, in addition to being preserved by the Library of Congress. While originally made by Polygram Films, Fox owns the film in the US, but home video rights belong to MGM. Disney Theatrical is adapting the story for the stage.
Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World – 2003
A co-production between Fox, Universal, MGM, and Miramax, the Oscar nominated film was released the same year as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The film is based on a true story and a series of novels about Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe. During the Napoleonic wars, Aubrey is in pursuit of a French privateer named Archeon, a legal pirate in the war. With an enormous budget that involved several film studios to complete, the film was unable to make a profit despite critical acclaim and what was intended to be a series ended with just one film.
Many of the Disney pirate films are expected to be available on Disney+ when the service launches on November 12th. When Disney is able to add the Fox library of films to Hulu, the films in that section will likely be available for streaming on that service as well.
You can catch the Pirates of the Caribbean films on Freeform’s 30 Days of Disney on the following days and times.
Tuesday, September 10
- 5:00 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
- 8:00 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Wednesday, September 11
- 4:30 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
- 7:30 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Thursday, September 12
- 4:30 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
- 8:00 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Friday, September 13
- 5:30 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Tuesday, September 24
- 3:30 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Wednesday, September 25
- 12:30 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
- 3:30 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Thursday, September 26
- 12:00 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
- 3:00 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Friday, September 27
- 12:00 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
- 3:30 pm – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Saturday, September 28
- 7:00 am – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.