Summer audiences often give fantasy action movies a warm reception. Among the most enthusiastic goes to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer. When the first one, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, hit the screens, the 2003 film was a fan favorite, grossing over $654 million worldwide.
Was it because of Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow or the adventurous plot, that’s up to the fans to tell.
But what many of them may not realize is that before the movie’s release, some in Hollywood feared it would be a resounding failure.Instead, the Pirate movies are the ninth highest grossing film series of all time, with a total of $4.2 billion worldwide.
The movie was based on a popular ride at Disneyland. It opened on March 18, 1967, the last attraction overseen by Walt Disney himself. He died three months later. Originally Disney had in mind a wax museum sort of attraction, but the success of the boat ride concept “It’s Small World” at the 1964 Worlds Fair made him think of nautical.
The original attraction was an indoor ride (known as a “dark ride”) cruising through a series of sets as pirates raid an island settlement. Other, larger versions have sprung up since, with the Pirates ride at Disneyland Shanghai, a mix of video and practical design, described as “technologically astonishing.”
There is a persistent story that at this request, Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen and placed in a chamber far beneath the Pirates on the Caribbean ride, but this is definitely an urban legend. Disney’s daughter, Diane, released a statement in 1972: “There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that my father, Walt Disney, wished to be frozen.”
Jay Wolpert, the producer and screenwriter, reportedly came up with a script inspired by the Disney ride in 2001. The script was rewritten by the Australian film director and piracy expert Stuart Beattie a year later. Simultaneously, Jerry Bruckheimer got involved in the project, emphasizing a supernatural curse. At first, Disney thought the film should be direct-to-video, but then decided to go ahead with a feature approach.
As for the “mortal” storyline, the main plot was the release of Jack Sparrow by a prison guard in order to save Elisabeth, who has been held for ransom money by Captain Blackheart. The story developed into a tantalizing comic tale once Gore Verbinski, the film director, signed on to direct the movie a year before its release.
However, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” wouldn’t be the same without Johnny Depp playing the leading role. Although many actors were considered for the part of Jack Sparrow, among them Jim Carrey, Michael Keaton, and Christopher Walken, Depp won the role. His performance was described as ingenious and he won awards from the Screen Actors Guild and the MTV Movie Awards.
After overcoming doubts about whether to release the movie in theaters or direct-to-video, Pirates of the Caribbean was the first movie under the Walt Disney Pictures banner, with its grand premiere at Disneyland Park, California. Earlier, an executive had described the movie as “too intense” for five-year-old children who might assume it was just like the ride, which led to “The Curse of the Black Pearl” being added. Although Verbinski disliked it, the subtitle attracted older children and contributed to the plot of the sequels.
Six months after its release, a DVD and VHS editions of the movie were released across the United States and the UK. Over 11 million copies were sold in the first week and were among the first to be sold at the iTunes store. Pirates of the Caribbean also had a UK television premiere on BBC One on Christmas Eve, 2007 and was estimated to have been watched by over 7 million people.
Over the years, five sequels of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film were released, with the latest sequel having a release on May 26th, starring Depp, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush, joined Javier Bardem, Kaya Scodelario, and Brenton Thwaites.
Besides the adventurous plot, what also contributed to the first movie’s fame was the soundtrack, produced by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer. The appealing piece of music perfectly fits the movie’s nature.