I have to admit - given that no one (outside of the folks who are currently working 'round the clock to finish up "Dead Man's Chest" 's over-1500 FX shots) has actually seen the finished version of "Pirates of the Caribbean II" - that it seems kind of odd to now be talking about what may lie out beyond "Pirates III."
But let's remember that the key word in the phrase "show business" is "business," folks. And given that Walt Disney Studios has spent the past 20 years trying to develop its very own viable film franchise (Remember "Dick Tracy"? Or - better yet - "The Rocketeer"? Or "V.I. Warshawski"? Or "Judge Dredd"?) … Well, now that the Mouse has "Pirates," Disney's going to do everything it can to insure that all that pirate gold continues to roll into the company coffers for years yet to come.
Don't believe me? Then let's talk about "Pirates IV." I know, I know. Gore Verbinski hasn't even finished filming "At World's End" (I.E. The tentative title for the third installment in the series) yet. And - to be honest - everyone at the studio is kind of pirated-out at the moment. Which is why (strictly as a change of pace) many people at Disney are now looking forward to the production of that other Jerry Bruckheimer sequel, "National Treasure II."
But even so, the folks in the studio's strategic planning office are already looking out over the horizon (I.E. Toward 2010 & 2011). And they're wondering if - three to four years after the third "Pirates" picture finally hits theaters - if audiences might then be ready for yet another film starring Captain Jack Sparrow.
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Of course, the real key here will be whether or not Disney can successfully persuade Johnny Depp to once again put on his pirate gear. Given that Johnny's soon to be in for one hell of a payday (Once "Pirates II" & "III" recover their full production & marketing costs [Rumored to be upwards of $600 million], Depp, Verbinksi & several other key members of the "Pirates" cast & production team will reportedly split 25% of those sequels' earnings. Which could eventually add up to tens of millions of dollars for Johnny), this Academy Award nominee will never have to work again.
But what's working in Disney's favor here is that Depp seems to genuinely enjoy playing Captain Jack Sparrow. In a recent Time Magazine article, Johnny was quoted as saying:
"I truly love the character and I didn't feel I'd had enough of him in the first (film)."
Which is why Depp ultimately agreed to get his teeth capped again and then play Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates II" & "III."
Mind you, just because Johnny enjoys playing Captain Jack doesn't automatically mean that he's a lock for "Pirates IV." But Bruckheimer is optimistic enough about this film series continuing that he's allegedly having the sets for "Pirates II" & "III" stored. With the hope that - in three or four years' time - Jerry will then be able to haul these props & costumes out again. So that Gore & Johnny will then have something familiar to work with as they begin production of the fourth film.
Of course, in the meantime, it's up to the Walt Disney Company to keep the "Pirates" franchise fresh. To make sure that the public stays interested & emotionally invested in these colorful characters. So that they then stay evergreen.
Which explains why expensive new Audio Animatronic versions of Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbarossa are now being folded into both the Disneyland & Walt Disney World versions of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme park attraction. But how many of you know about the new "Jack Sparrow" junior novelizations …
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That Disney Press has recently begun producing? Which detail Jack's career prior to captaining the Black Pearl. Back when Sparrow was just a teenage stowaway trying to make a name for himself in pirating circles.
These softcover books are designed to keep preteens interested in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise. As is the "Pirates" comic …
… that regularly appears in "Disney Adventure" & "Disney Comics" magazines.
Of course, to keep teenagers interested in this new Disney brand, the Mouse had to mount something much more elaborate: Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Where - quoting this website's advertising slogan now - "The most notorious pirate in the Caribbean … is you."
Though this ambitious & massive multiplayer game isn't actually expected to go live 'til 2007, Pirates of the Caribbean Online is already generating huge buzz. The very idea that you'll be soon able to create your very own captain character, then assemble a crew and go off in search of treasure & adventure. Where you'll then have to battle other players on their own ships with sword & cannon … Well, that has gamers just chomping at the bit to be selected as one of the beta testers for this new online game.
Speaking of which, Disney's Virtual Reality Studio is already recruiting beta testers. So if you want to be among the first to experience the online approximation of Captain Jack Sparrow's world, you might want to drop by www.DisneyPirates.com today and register.
Anyway, Disney hopes that this online game - with its clever mix of swashbuckling daring-do & teen-friendly scares (Check out this cool concept sketch for an undead pirate) …
… Plus the comic books & the junior novelizations & the theme park rides will help keep the "Pirates" film franchise alive. At least until Mr. Depp decides whether or not he's ready to commit to doing "Pirates IV."
But what do you folks think? Is Disney really over-thinking this? Should the studio have waited to see if audiences actually embraced "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" before commiting all of these other "Pirates" sequels & spin-offs? Or was "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" already a big enough success to warrant this sort of ambitious investment in a brand-new franchise for the Walt Disney Company?
More importantly, were Johnny Depp to actually agree to appear in "Pirates IV," do you think that you'll still be still interested in seeing a new "Pirates of the Caribbean" film in five year's time?