Profitable Pirates: Disney rides billion-dollar film franchise, adding Jack Sparrow, Blackbeard, mermaids to theme parks and the Caribbean

in Disney, Entertainment, Theme Parks

With Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides quickly approaching $1 billion at the global box office, there’s no doubt that Captain Jack Sparrow, along with the new and returning cast of characters, are part of one of Disney’s most popular (and most profitable) film franchises of all time. And on my recent trip to Disneyland for the Soundsational Summer press event, I had a chance to experience two of Disney’s most recent offerings that combine this popular entertainment franchise with a bit of marketing and corporate synergy.

When the fourth “Pirates” film premiered, actor Ian McShane’s portrayal of the infamous Captain Blackbeard was added to the ride that served as the inspiration for the series: Pirates of the Caribbean. Temporarily replacing the Davy Jones character, Blackbeard now appears in a waterfall effect, offering a word of warning for guests passing through.

Video of Blackbeard in Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride:

Blackbeard has also been added to the Walt Disney World version of the attraction. Davy Jones, whose water-logged story from “Pirates” 2 and 3 fits better with a mysterious appearance in a waterfall, is set to return later this year. Davy Jones was added to both coasts’ attractions in 2006 as part of a major ride update that also included new Audio-Animatronics figures of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.

Video from 2006 of Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow in Walt Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride:

All of these additions, from Sparrow to Blackbeard, serve to unite the film series with the ride that started it all. Prior to the 2006 update, Disney theme park guests who were more familiar with the movies than the ride wondered where Jack Sparrow was while floating through. Three years after the first “Pirates” film hit theaters, Disney responded with the ride updates, which have now continued through the fourth movie, acting both as a unification of the stories seen in the park and on the big screen as well as the ultimate promotional tool allowing riders to immerse themselves into the “Pirates” worlds.

But it doesn’t stop at Pirates of the Caribbean, the ride. Across the esplanade from Disneyland, at the Disney California Adventure theme park, the nighttime spectacle World of Color premiered in 2010, mostly featuring scenes from Disney’s and Pixar’s classic animated films – but also working about a minute’s worth of Jack Sparrow and other “Pirates” fun, which almost always drew cheers from the watching audience.

Now for “On Stranger Tides,” Disney has replaced that scene as well as the following “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence (a fiery fan favorite) with a new extended sequence, around three minutes long, based on the new “Pirates” film, featuring numerous audio and video clips coupled with newly-programmed fountain movements, colors, projections, and fire effects. The result is one of World of Color’s most exciting moments, now drawing even louder cheers.

Video of the new “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” sequence in World of Color:

Compare that with the former “Pirates” sequence in the original version of World of Color below. Jump to 18:04 in the video to see it. (Or start from the beginning to watch the entire show.)

Video of the premiere of World of Color at Disney California Adventure:

Pirates also have appeared “in person” in the parks, with the most being Penelope Cruz’s character from “On Stranger Tides”, Angelica, meeting with guests in Adventureland. Before that, it was Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial:

And “Pirates of the Caribbean” has turned into Pirates IN the Caribbean on Disney Cruise Line, with a stage show and Buccaneer Blast fireworks at sea on special “Pirates”-themed nights:

Regardless of whether it’s on a ride or in a show, it’s clear that Disney can’t go wrong when it comes to Pirates of the Caribbean. While some fans feel the repeated inclusion of the film characters into Disney’s theme parks is ruining the classic nature of the original ride that inspired the craze, no one can argue with the screaming Jack Sparrow fans who are repeatedly excited to see any bits of the films worked back into the parks.

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