Three versions of Captain Jack Sparrow will be on display at SoCal's Disneyland tomorrow night — the 2-D film version, the 3-D animatronic character, and the real life Johnny Depp — as the Magic Kingdom hosts the red carpet film premiere of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel Dead Man's Chest, and the private opening of the revamped Pirates of the Caribbean theme park attraction that inspired the films in the first place.
Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Florida closed their slightly-different versions of Pirates in March in order to complete updates in time for the wide release opening of the highly anticipated second Pirates film on July 7 (trailer: WM, Real, QuickTime). Dead Man's Chest — which reunites stars Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley with original director Gore Verbinski and original screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio — hopes to recreate the success of the multi-Oscar-nominated blockbuster first Pirates film, Curse of the Black Pearl, a movie alive with mystery, excitement, myth, humor, magic, salty air, adventure, rum, and honor, brilliantly updating the great pirate epics of yore.
And turnabout is fair play as characters from the Pirates films have been added into the swashbuckling Magic Kingdom voyage where "dead men tell no tales." In the updated ride, Captain Jack Sparrow and his nemesis Barbossa race each other through the familiar scenes of surprisingly lusty rapaciousness to claim a cache of plundered treasure – accompanied, of course, by the sea chantey strains of "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)." In keeping with inflation, the ride's main treasure scene now includes 400,000 new gold coins and blingy booty items.
In addition to vying with Captain Jack for treasure, Barbossa captains the Wicked Wench in the famous battle scene just after guests descend through darkness to the lower-level ride proper, where a pirate galleon exchanges cannon fire with the defending town fortress directly over ride-goers' heads. Special effects have been upgraded to make the cannon blasts more perilously realistic; and later in the ride, the burning town scenes have been made more "fiery" as well.
The third new character in the updated animatronic cast of 68 people and 54 animals is a ghostly Davy Jones, the malevolent spirit of the sea from Dead Man's Chest, who materializes via a new waterfall effect.
"I cannot imagine how anybody can see this attraction and walk off and say, 'Boy, they did something they shouldn't have,' " said Disney Imagineer Kathy Rogers, who oversaw the ride's creative changes. "It really has strengthened the classic."
"We shall see," I say skeptically, although really does sound pretty good. Why not update with relevant characters and upgrade using modern technology? The attraction, which opened originally at Disneyland in 1967, officially reopens to guests on June 26 at Disneyland and on July 7 in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.
MSN Video will webcast the red carpet film premiere and ride reopening live from Disneyland on Saturday, June 24, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. PT (10:00-11:30 p.m. ET), hosted by MSN "Dish Diva" Taylor Johnson — who will interview the film's stars including Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley — and a Disneyland historian and Disney Imagineer, who will discuss the attraction that inspired the movies.
Dead Man's Chest opens to find Will (Bloom) and Elizabeth (Knightley) preparing to exchange wedding vows. But their plans hit choppy waters with the arrival of Captain Jack Sparrow, who owes a blood debt to an implacable Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). The only way the salty rapscallion can elude the wrath of his supernatural pursuer is with the aid of Gypsy queen Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), whose powers may help keep Jack out of the dreaded locker of his legendary nemesis.