Picture -- if you will -- that it's early 2002. And you're an executive at Disney Consumer Products. And what do you find in your in-box one morning but the screenplay for a new live-action feature that the studio will soon begin shooting.
Now your job at the company is evaluate scripts like this. Determine whether any of the projects that Disney Studios currently has in its development pipeline are actually toyetic (And -- yes -- toyetic is a really-for-real word, folks. It refers to " ... a fictional character or object from a film, comic book or TV show that could easily be turned into a marketable toy").
So you read this screenplay. And it's really kind of dark, with all these undead pirate skeletons constantly running around, raising havoc. Plus the story's set in the 1700s. So the language that's used in this script is often rather formal & florid. Worse than that, the film's plot is complicated. With characters in this picture constantly changing allegiances, switching sides.
So -- based on one quick read of this script -- you then file a report, saying (in essence) that "... there's no way that the Walt Disney Company will ever be able to convince a major manufacturer to produce a line of toys based on Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.' "
Which explains why -- in July of 2003 -- the Mouse was caught absolutely flat-footed when this Gore Verbinski film came out and quickly became one of the biggest hits of that summer. Consumers were clamoring for "Pirates" movie-themed merchandise back then ... And -- at the time -- Mickey had virtually nothing to sell them.
In fact, it wasn't after "The Curse of the Black Pearl" actually became available on video & DVD in December of 2003 that the first real pieces of "Pirates" movie-themed merchandise began appearing in stores nationwide.
And -- while this material did sell well -- DCP execs still gnashed their teeth and wondered about the fortune that had eluded them. The hundreds of millions of dollars that the Mouse might have made if the Disney company had just been able to convince a few manufacturers to create some "The Curse of the Black Pearl" -related toys. So that these items could then have been on store shelves as this Jerry Bruckheimer production rolled into theaters back on July 9, 2003.
Well, Mickey is determined not to make the same mistake twice. And with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" making its way into multiplexes next Friday ... Well, you're about to see a huge wave of "Pirates" -movie related merchandise hit stores nationwide. Everything from this "Pirates Dice" game ...
Photo by Nancy Stadler
... Which is directly inspired by a game of liar's dice that Will Turner, Bootstrap Bill Turner and Davy Jones play in the "Pirates" sequel ... to the largest number of titles that Disney Press has ever published in conjuction with the release of a live-action film from the studio. These titles include ...
Copyright 2006 Disney Press
... the junior novelization of the film ...
... to the "Dead Man's Chest" movie storybook...
Copyright 2006 Disney Press
... to "Pirates" -movie-themed picture books like "The Curse of Davy Jones," "Swann Song" ...
... and "The Chase is On."
Yeah, the folks at DCP have worked over-time to make sure that the mistakes of "The Curse of the Black Pearl" aren't repeated. With "Pirates" -movies related titles now being available at virtually every price point ...
Copyright 2006 RH / Disney
... with deluxe coloring books with reusable stickers and tattoos being sent out to stores ...
Copyright 2006 DK Publishing / Disney
... along with somewhat pricier "ultimate" sticker books from DK.
Copyright 2006 Price Stern Sloan / Disney
This time around, Disney Consumer Products tried to come up with a "Pirates" - movie related product that would appeal to each & every market segment. Which is how we wound up with such oddities as a "Dead's Man Chest" edition of Mad Libs ...
Copyright 2006 Tokyo Pop / Disney
... as well as a "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" manga.
Copyright 2006 Readers Digest / Disney
There's even a "Pirates" -movie tie-in book that's sure to appeal to all your old ViewMaster fans out there. A "Dead Man's Chest" storybook that comes with a spyglass. Which you can then slide 10 discs into so that you can view 40 different images from this soon-to-be-released feature film.
And speaking of the "Pirates" movies ... If you really want to know how "The Curse of the Black Pearl," "Dead Man's Chest" and the yet-to-be-released "At World's End" actually came together, I can think of no better book to pick up than Jason Surrell's "Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies." This 2005 Disney Editions release not only goes into great detail about the history of the original "Pirates" theme park attractions, it also details the development of this trio of popular motion pictures.
Copyright 2005 Disney Editions
Speaking of Mr. Surrell ... Jason is scheduled to be a guest speaker at one of the weirder events that the Walt Disney Company is staging in an effort to wring every possible dollar out of "Dead Man's Chest." This "Pirates in the Big Apple" event is being held at NYC's World of Disney store on July 6 - 7. Where -- after the 5th Avenue flagship store has officially closed for the night -- lucky Disneyana fans will then be able to nibble on hors'derves and purchase limited-edition "Pirates" -themed merchandise. The evening's festivities conclude with a brisk walk over to the Ziegfeld Theatre on 54th. Where the party participants will then be treated to a special midnight showing of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."
Mind you, "Pirates in the Big Apple" is a hard ticket event. Meaning that -- if you're actually looking to attend this after-hours party at the "World of Disney" -- you're going to have to pay $120 per person for the privilege. But -- as I mentioned earlier -- that admission price does give you access to the author of "From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies." So perhaps (if you ask nice) you might then be able to persuade Mr. Surrell to share a few stories from the next book that he's writing for Disney Editions, "The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at its Peak."
Okay. That pretty much covers all of the "Pirates" -movie related books that the Walt Disney Company has put on the market. Come back on Thursday and we'll take a look at some of the "Dead Man's Chest" -related action figures & toys that have already started turning up in stores.
Jim Hill explains why it's going to be a rather nervous Fourth of July for Dick Cook and Nina Jacobson. As these two Mouse House honchos hope & pray that their $450 million (and counting) investment in back-to-back "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels eventually