Disneyland Ride Movies (Part 3)

Ok, it’s time to get the big one out of the way. To be clear, we’re not including the many sequels in the seven films being covered here as they’re based on the original film and not the ride.

Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Director: Gore Verbinski

Released: 2003

Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Devonport, Jonathon Pryce, Kevin R. McNally, Zoe Saldana

Plot: When the governors daughter is kidnapped by a band of cursed, undead pirates the odd pairing of a blacksmith’s apprentice and down-on-his-luck pirate set out on a rescue mission.

The Ride: Walt Disney was adamant that a pirate themed attraction would be featured in the park. What started as a walkthrough museum developed into a massive dark ride packed full of animatronics and action sequences. Beginning with a warning that ‘dead men tell no tales’, guests are slowly ramped up into the experience with a series of caverns populated by skeletons and lost treasure. As the ride goes along you experience ship battles and the a township being pillaged by raiding pirates firing off their flintlock pistols.

Among some of the more notable scenes are the sea battle with cannonballs exploding in the water, prisoners using a bone to try luring a key carrying dog, a drunken pirate rocking atop a barrel, the now infamous bride auction, the mayor being dunked in a well and the town burning.

Over the years there have been many changes to the ride, mostly to incorporate characters and elements from the popular movie franchise. A highly realistic Capt. Jack Sparrow audio-animtronic has become a main feature, with the character hiding among the scenes and finally revelling in a treasure trove and chatting with a parrot in the final scene. Davey Jones, Blackbeard and Barbossa have also been included, and the latest Shanghai Disneyland version of the ride follows a story from the films. Versions of the ride have also been built in Disney World, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland.

Movie Review: If there’s one movie based on a Disneyland ride that you have seen, it would be this one. Despite being released at a time when pirate adventure films were considered to be box office poison, and the Disney executives allegedly being unhappy with Depp’s lively performance, and the script supposedly originally being written for a Monkey Islands adaptation, the creative team managed to capture lightning in a bottle and the audience came in droves. Suddenly pirates were the new hotness and Johnny Depp was the biggest star on the planet.

With a script based closely on the events of the ride, the initial plan was to produce a straight to video generic pirate adventure starring Christopher Walken (who’ll be turning up in another film soon enough). After the script was rejected, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were brought in to the project and added the supernatural spin to the story and (allegedly) brought in elements from Monkey Islands (something series creator Ron Gilbert has been unhappy with). The final piece of the puzzle was director Gore Verbinski, keen to use modern technology to revive the dead genre.

What set this apart from many failed blockbuster films was how dirty and lived in the world looked. For all the bombastic action everything looks smeared in dirt. None of the pirates look glamorous or romanticised, they all have rotten teeth, patchy hair and mottled skin. Going against regular film-making conventions of making everyone pretty may have contributed to Michael Eisner’s attempts to shut down the production, but it proves that audiences will respond to good characters and fun stories regardless as Capt. Jack Sparrow (Depp) became an immediate sex symbol while the less interesting but more conventionally attractive Will Turner (Bloom) was forgotten about.

The entire movie is packed with weirdo supporting characters and huge set pieces, meaning that there’s no moment that isn’t fun to watch. It’s been a while since we’ve revisited the original, and the first time the children have seen it, and we found ourselves repeatedly pointing out that a great moment was coming up. From Sparrow confidently riding a sinking boat into port to a horde of skeletal pirates lurking beneath the waves in the moonlight there is no end to the classic moments that are worth returning to. Over the next four films, the unique lustre of the film diminishes to the point of tired cash-grabs, and while the original works great in a vacuum the overall franchise feels weaker.

There’s not much more to say about how great this movie is. Depp and Rush as the rival pirate captains look like they haven’t had this much fun in their entire lives and their energy gets picked up by the rest of the cast. The design work is top notch and the dialogue is quotable. If there’s one problem we have with the film, it’s the 2.5 hour running time. For a good 90 minutes it feels like they’re going back and forth between the same two locations and doing the same things. A solid half hour could’ve been cut out of the movie and made it a tighter adventure, possibly Jack and Elizabeth (Knightly) being stranded on an island just to bring the soldiers back into the story. We knew they were in pursuit, they could have streamlined this.

Rating: NINE out of TEN


Obviously taking the top spot.

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
  2. Tower of Terror
  3. The Haunted Mansion