Jack Sparrow joins crew on Disney ride
Call it the "Pirates of the Caribbean featuring Capt. Jack Sparrow."
The anticipated reworking of Walt Disney World's classic ride Pirates of the Caribbean is complete and ready for a grand reopening Friday — the same day Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the second movie of the franchise, opens in theaters nationwide.
The old ride, which inspired the first Pirates movie, was the last attraction personally supervised by Walt Disney before his death in 1966. Since the changes were announced in February, many longtime fans had expressed concern that Disney might compromise the ride by turning it into a shill for the movies.
The ride's story does change, slightly, but bears no resemblance to the movie plots. Disney has added the movie characters of Capt. Barbossa and Capt. Jack Sparrow, played respectively by Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp.
And at least a few longtime fans, such as Joanne Quinn, 58, and her daughter Julie Collier, 36, both of Boston, said Monday they were not disappointed after getting a chance to preview the ride during a "soft opening."
"It looked so authentic to me. I loved it," Quinn said. A slightly different version opened last week at Disneyland in California.
Show producer Kathy Rogers of Walt Disney Imagineering said she had insisted the new version remain true to the original, as much to pay homage to the show's first designers, Marc Davis and Blaine Gibson, as to appease loyal fans. The reason the ride has been so successful — it opened at Disneyland in 1967 and at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 1973 — is because of the original designers' vision, she said.
"We have such reverence for Marc Davis's storytelling," Rogers said. "This is not about making it the movie ride."
In the original ride story, pirates invade an island town, loot it and terrorize the people into revealing where gold is hidden. The old pirate captain has now been replaced by Barbossa figures. Barbossa and his pirates are still looking for the gold — but they also know that Sparrow is in town, and they seek him as well.
Robotic versions of Sparrow make three appearances as the plot unfolds. At the end of the ride, Sparrow winds up with the gold, replacing a scene in which the pirates stood before the gold and captured soldiers.
An image of Davy Jones — a menacing ghost from the second movie — also makes an appearance, emerging from a high-tech waterfall to warn away visitors.
None of the ride's other characters was changed. The movie's other key characters — Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, played by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley — do not make appearances.Disney engineers also replaced the ride's sound system and lighting. Rogers said the pirates' dialogue, much of which was missed by many visitors for decades, can now be heard more clearly.
Rogers said the Sparrow characters were sculpted to look as Johnny Depp might have been interpreted by the ride's original sculptor, Blaine Gibson. Valerie Edwards, a Gibson protegee, did the new work.
"Our characters in here are very caricatured," Rogers said. "We actually did tweak the characters of both Barbossa and Capt. Jack Sparrow in this so they live in our world, because our world is not the real world."
The rest of the 120 or so old pirate figures are still animated by 1960s-era robotics technology, while the new figures use 21st-century technology. So the Sparrow and Barbossa figures move much more naturally than the others.
Quinn said she was fooled.
"I thought they were real people," she said.