Were you prepared for the phenomenon that erupted when Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean hit theaters? I most definitely wasn’t. Neither Haunted Mansion nor Country Bears had done a good job of translating the theme park attraction to the big screen and the buzz around the project wasn’t particularly good.
However with Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl the creative team of Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer along with actors Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom not only translated the famed attraction’s experience to the big screen but in some ways transformed it. As Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow captured the imagination and set off a bit of pirate mania especially within the world of Disney.
I’ll never forget standing in the Anaheim Convention Center during the 2009 D23 Expo as Captain Jack Sparrow made an appearance to chat with then Studios chief Dick Cook. You could barely hear the actor’s clever repartee over the screams. Thousands of fans up on their feet in a scenario more frequently experienced at a high-energy rock concert.
Caught up in the fun, YouTube user NeonHurricane posted the music video “I’ve Got a Jar” shortly after the second film hit theaters. The tune crafted from Sparrow’s taunt quickly caught the attention of fellow Pirates fans going viral. It’s tune was carried over to other fan video creations and even translated to live performance at fan events. As of this article it sits at over 14M views.
Also around this time more and more experiences directly relating to the films were added to the Disney Cruise Lines and Disney theme parks that gave fans the chance to show off their pirate best like the Magic Kingdom Pirate & Princess parties.
In case you’ve forgotten, the Pirate and Princess Parties were special events for a few years starting in 2007 similar to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. There was a parade, fireworks and other pirate and princess themed activities.
Not to be left out, the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean films also spurred the creation of the Pirates in the Caribbean deck party onboard the Disney Cruise ships.
And until November 2010, at Castaway Cay, you could see the 175 foot ghost ship set The Flying Dutchman and meet Captain Jack.
Pirate Night on the ship is a perfect chance for everyone to bring out their pirate gear. Here are a few pictures of our family including Rebekah’s brother who has an amazing Captain Jack costume of his own.
In 2010 Entertainment Weekly named Captain Jack among their 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years. I’d argue he is Disney’s most popular modern era character and the core of the film’s popularity. Talking about the role, Depp said, “… there was something beautiful and poignant about the idea of his objective. All he wants is to get his ship back, which represents nothing more than pure freedom to him.” Simple, relatable we’ve all had moments like this seeking our own freedoms, independence.
Reflecting on this idea of Captain Jack’s quest it's not terribly dissimilar from the focus of Disney’s princesses. I guess combining those two “franchises” into a single event wasn’t as odd as it appeared on the surface after all.
But it is Depp’s take on Sparrow that “No matter how bad things got, there was always this sort of bizarre optimism about him” that I find the true nugget to my delight in the Captain Jack character. It is there where I’m brought back to memories of journeys along a darkened caverns where pirates pillage and plunder, becoming trapped in a city on fire we are delivered in the most improbable way — up a waterfall.