Op-Ed: Disney Needs Johnny Depp to Create Another Hit Franchise

in Disney, Movies, Op-Ed

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) screaming

Credit: Disney

While the company has severed bonds with Johnny Depp, the beloved actor seems to be the key to creating another hit franchise for Disney.

We all know that Walt Disney Studios has tried to turn several of the most popular Disney Parks attractions into successful movies or even franchises with different approaches, including capitalizing on the success and momentum some actors have had throughout their careers. Some examples of this include the 2003 Walt Disney film The Haunted Mansion featuring Eddie Murphy and the 2021 movie Jungle Cruise featuring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson, The Rock — who recently took over the role of the wish-granting genie from Aladdin.

Dwayne Johnson in Jungle Cruise
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Wants Dwayne Johnson to Be the Next Johnny Depp

However, these adaptations didn’t perform particularly well at the box office, barely breaking even with their budget, and didn’t have the best reception among fans. And 20 years after the premiere of The Haunted Mansionit appears that Disney’s attempt to bring the beloved Disneyland ride (back) to life was a swing and a miss.

Related: Op-Ed: Disney’s Massive New Project Is a Swing and a Miss

Despite having a star-studded cast — including LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Chase Dillon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Owen Wilson, Jared Leto, Winona Ryder, and Dan Levy — as of this article’s publishing, Haunted Mansion (2023) has a global box office of $35,611,384, making it one of the company’s lowest openings of the year.

With these numbers, it’s safe to say that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise remains the only Disney ride to be turned into a hit movie franchise, at least for the immediate future.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Madame Leota in Disney's live-action HAUNTED MANSION
Credit: Disney

But what makes these movies any different from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? What was the key to turning the 56-year-old attraction into five films, with more presumably in the works? As Phil from Hercules (1997) would say, “two words,” Johnny Depp.

Johnny Depp’s performance as Captain Jack Sparrow — and the actor’s connection with the character — undoubtedly played a crucial role in the franchise’s success from the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003, making the sea scoundrel one of the most popular and beloved characters to the eyes of this writer and millions of fans worldwide.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Credit: Disney

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Depp’s heated legal battle against former partner Amber Heard caused divisive opinions around the actor. However, his career has impacted modern cinema so much that while Johnny’s name is not in the credits, the actor played a crucial role in bringing Disney’s Haunted Mansion to life as director Justin Simien envisioned it.

So, is Johnny Depp the key Disney is missing to ignite a new hit franchise? I say yes. Will the company give the beloved actor a chance to reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow or invite him on board for a new project? Now that’s a tougher question.

Johnny Depp and Disney CEO Bob Iger during the 2015 Disney Legends Awards at D23 symbolizing Depp's involvement in a new Disney project
Credit: Disney / D23

Depp has made several clashing statements about his return to The Walt Disney Company, and the company has not publicly expressed its interest in hiring Johnny back, making it easy to guess that Disney and Depp are no more. However, Disney’s absence of comments on the subject is understandable, considering the company likely has its hands full with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is as immovable as a mule in quicksand when it comes to his “anti-woke” crusade against Disney.

I guess only time (and, well, the actor and executives) will tell if Johnny Depp will return to the big screen as Captain Jack Sparrow. But in the meantime, Disney’s latest release continues to walk a tightrope.

(L-R): Chase Dillon as Travis, Rosario Dawson as Gabbie, LaKeith Stanfield as Ben, Owen Wilson as Father Kent, and Tiffany Haddish as Harriet in Disney's HAUNTED MANSION.
Credit: Jalen Marlowe/Disney

It is yet to be seen if Haunted Mansion will break even or if the movie will recover at the box office. If you’ve watched Disney’s Haunted Mansion, don’t forget to let Inside the Magic know what you thought of the movie in the comments below!

If Johnny Depp returned to Disney, would you rather see him reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow or take another part? Share your thoughts with Inside the Magic in the comments below!

in Disney, Movies, Op-Ed

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