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Arrrr you ready for an all-Pirates edition of Why For?

Jim Hill

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Arrrr you ready for an all-Pirates edition of Why For?

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R. Noble writes in to ask:

Jim –

I just read your article about Disney’s decision not to go forward with that “Pirates of the Caribbean” character dining experience at the Magic Kingdom. That is very disappointing news for me personally. My kids are obsessed with Disney's “Pirates” movies as well as the attraction at the Park. That's why we had to do that Pirate tutorial as well as the “Pirate & Princess Party” the last time we were down in Orlando.

We’ll be heading down to Disney World again next year. And I’m hoping that there’ll then be some sort of new “POTC” –related attraction for my children and I to enjoy the next time we visit the resort. So do you have any good news for me?

R. Noble
NYC

Dear R. Noble –

Um … No.

Please don’t get me wrong, R. It’s not that the Walt Disney Company is actually getting out of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” business. Far from it. Disney's long term plans for this franchise is that they want POTC to be for little boys what Disney Princess has become for little girls. Which is why the company spent tens of millions of dollars over the past few years developing that "Pirates of the Caribbean Online" massively-multiplayer game. And why Disney Press will be rolling out a brand-new "Pirates" book series -- "Legends of the Brethren Court" -- this Fall.


Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But that said ... All you have to do is drop WDW Property Control and see all of those racks & racks of severely-discounted-and-yet-still-unsold "Pirates" merch ... And then you realize that the Mouse severely over-estimated the public's desire for more POTC paraphernalia back in 2006 & 2007. That supply definitely exceeded demand.

This is why the company is now pulling back its "Pirates" -related efforts a bit . As they try and get some sense of what fans of this new Disney franchise really want. Other than -- of course -- to see "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" released to theaters ASAP.

Speaking of that eagerly anticipated film ... Earlier today, I spoke with some friends in Development at Disney Studios. And given that "Pirates" director Gore Verbinski just signed to do "Bioshock" for Universal ... It looks like the Black Pearl won't be setting sail again anytime soon.

Mind you, Disney could do "Pirates 4" with another director ... I guess. But given that Johnny Depp -- in all of the interviews that he did for "At World's End" last year -- was very emphatic about how he'd only agree to do another POTC movie if Verbinski and the series writers -- Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio -- were also on board. So to Johnny's way of thinking: No Gore? No more "Pirates" pictures.


(L to R) Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp
on the set of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."
Copyright 2006 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But -- to be honest -- given that Mickey is still trying to get a handle on what the actual demand for new POTC merch might be, they're perfectly happy to let this film franchise lie fallow for another year or two. Especially since Walt Disney Pictures -- with the help of Jerry Bruckheimer -- is now trying to launch two new potentially franchisable, high profile projects, "Prince of Persia" & "The Lone Ranger." Which (Mouse House executives hope) will be considerably less expensive to produce than "Pirates 4."

So long story short, R : What with the company deliberately pulling back on its "Pirates" -related efforts for a while ... Well, there’s no real incentive for Disney Parks and Resorts to go forward with that Tortuga restaurant project that I discussed. Or -- for that matter -- that long-rumored “Pirates of the Caribbean” -themed water park for WDW. Not to mention the idea of adding Elizabeth Swann & Will Turner AA figures to “POTC” itself.

"But what about Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party?," you ask. Well, the jury's still out on this Magic Kingdom hard ticket. Given the number of these after-hours events that were held back in April which wound up being severely under-attended due to heavy rains ... Many WDW officials feel that MP&PP still hasn't gotten a fair shake. They want to track attendance levels for May & June, see if adding Mickey's name to "Pirate & Princess Party" really did have a positive impact on ticket sales before making a final decision here.

That said, given the huge amount of "Disney's Pirate & Princess" merch that's been remaindered at Property Control ... One wonders how much longer the company's going to try & keep this particular hard ticket afloat. I mean, sure. Disney spent an awful lot of money on the development of the "Magic, Music & Mayhem" fireworks show as well as on construction of those new floats for the "Enchanted Adventures Parade." But how long do you keep throwing good money after bad? How long 'til you see "We're not getting a big enough return on our investment. It's time to pull the plug."


Copyright 2006 Disney. All Rights Reserved

More to the point, WDW insiders think that it's pretty significant that -- while tickets are already on sale for this year's editions of Mickey's Not-so-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party -- there's been no word yet about another round of Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party being held at the Magic Kingdom later this summer. And given that -- back in 2007 -- Disney announced as early as May 3rd that they'd be holding another set of these hard ticket events ... Well, that doesn't exactly bode well for the future of Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party.

Though -- to be fair here -- I guess I should share what I heard from yet another WDW official. Who said that Mickey's Pirate & Princess Party will mostly likely return in 2009. As to why this hard ticket will not be presented in August and September ... Well, that's supposedly because the Magic Kingdom will be completing its long-overdue Liberty Square Bridge repair project right about then.

So -- in theory, anyway, R -- if you and your family would like to attend another Mickey's Pirates & Princess Party ... This hard ticket event should be held again at the Magic Kingdom starting in January. Provided -- of course -- that ticket sales for the May & June editions of this after-hours event justify the continuation of this Party (How's that for a wildly waffling response ?).

But you said that you were looking for " ... some sort of new “POTC” –related attraction" for your family to enjoy the next time that you were all down at WDW. Well, I guess that you could plan on staying at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. By this September, construction the newly expanded version of Old Port Royale's feature pool should be complete. And given this pool's old--tumble-down-Spanish-fort theming (Which is very reminiscent of the POTC attraction), I'm sure that your kids will get a kick out of swimming here.


Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Or -- if you haven't been over to DisneyQuest to try out "Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold" yet -- that's very enjoyable too. Your whole family has work at a team on this one. You first all put on 3-D helmets. Then one of you has to take the wheel as the rest man the cannons. And then -- from there -- you cruise around this CG version of the Caribbean. Where you have to sink as many ships as possible (collecting many treasure chests in the process) before you can then begin to battle the ghostly Jolly Roger.

Given that this particular DisneyQuest attraction sort of redefines the term "interactive" (More to the point, given the huge virtual version of the Caribbean that the Imagineers mapped out for "Battle for Buccaneer Gold"), you and your family could easily spend an entire day playing and then getting back in line for this POTC-themed game.

On the other hand, if you prefer flesh-and-blood pirates to the virtual kind ... Well, if your family is visiting Central Florida in mid-January, you can head west on I-4 and sample the Gasparilla Extravaganza. Which is this alcohol-free event that celebrates the return of Gasparilla season to Tampa Bay. This day-long "Extravaganza" features a Children's Gasparilla Parade during the day and a display of "Piratechnics" (i.e. fireworks over Bayshore Boulevard) at night.

If -- on the other hand -- anyone in your family shares Capt. Jack Sparrow's fondness for rum ... Well, you might then want to return to Tampa the following weekend. Which is when Southwest Airlines Gasparilla Pirate Fest gets underway. Which is a decidedly more adult take of the whole Gasparilla experience.


Vintage postcard of Tampa's annual Gasparilla Festival

However, if you're not going to be flying in to Central Florida in mid-to-late January and would still like the kids to see some real-live pirates (and maybe enjoy a beer or two in the process) ... Have I got a dinner show for you !

Pirate's Dinner Adventure (located at 6400 Carrier) is something of an International Drive icon. Advertising itself as "the world's largest and most interactive dinner show," this over-the-top eatery has entertaining 2.3 million Orlando visitors since it first opened back in the Summer of 1996.

And if your kids really are Pirates fans, R ... Well, they can't help be impressed as they enter Pirate's Dinner Adventure's main theater-in-the-round. Where all 750 seats face a 46-foot-long Spanish galleon which "floats" in a 300,000 gallon indoor lagoon.


Copyright 1996 Pirate's Dinner Adventure. All Rights Reserved

As for the evening's entertainment ... That actually starts out in Pirate's Dinner Adventure's cavernous and elaborately themed lobby area. Where guests are welcome to dine on complimentary appetizers while watching dancers & acrobats perform at the Freedom Festival.

But then Sebastian the Black's scurvy crew shows up and kidnaps Princess Anita. And as they carry this fair maid back to their ship, the audience is then invited to follow the pirates into the main theater. Where they're then seated in the Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Red or Yellow section of the hall.

And then -- from there -- as the audience is served properly Piratically-named entrees (EX: Treasure's Chicken, Buccaneer Beef or Shanghai Shrimp), the interactive part of the show begins. As the audience is encouraged to cheer for "their" pirate (i.e. the perform who's wearing the same color as the section that they're seated in) as these performers take part in various competitions. There's singing, swordplay and stunts. Not to mention a finale where dozens of children are recruited out of the audience to come play the British soldiers who finally capture Sebastian the Black's band.


Copyright 1996 Pirate's Dinner Adventure. All Rights Reserved

Is Pirate's Dinner Adventure a bit on the loud side? Given the number of times that you're urged to cheer for "your" pirate? Sure ... And is it sometimes difficult to follow the action? Well, given that the performers can be out in the hall, interacting with the audience one minute and then be high in the rigging the next ... Yes, it can get kind of confusing.

But that said, given that many of the people who appear in Pirate's Dinner Adventure are Disney & Universal vets ... You do get some top-notch performances along with your West Indies Rice and/or Roasted Red Potatoes. Then top the whole thing off with Princess Anita's Royal Desserts (as well as complimentary beer, wine, coffee and soft drinks) ... And it's easy to understand why many school groups make a point of either starting off and/or finishing up their trips to Orlando by spending an evening at this I-Drive favorite.

So if you and your family are willing to wander away from Disney World in order to experience some Pirate-related fun, R ... A trip to Pirate's Dinner Adventure might definitely in order.


Copyright 2005 Pirate's Dinner Adventure. All Rights Reserved

Anyway ... That's all of the POTC-related info that I could dig up. Sorry that I didn't have better news for you in regards to the Disney Parks. But as I mentioned earlier, R, the Mouse is regrouping right now. As it tries to get a better sense of what the real demand is for "Pirates of the Caribbean" merch.

And speaking of demand ... I hope that today's "Why For" (as belatedly as it might be) will satisfy those of you who have been asking for the return of the weekly version of this column. Of course, in order for that to happen, I do need your Disney-related questions. So feel free to send those along to my [email protected] address.

Anywho ... That wraps up another fun week here at JHM. And we've already lots of interesting stories in the works for the site for next week. Including why all of that theme park development that's going on Dubai right now is having a negative impact on Disney's DCA revamp.

Wanna know how? Come back on Monday and I'll explain.

Til then, have a great weekend, okay?

j

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  • Ironic, isn't it, that the blockbuster of 2003 should have dropped almost off the globe due to so many mis-steps.

    It took Disney almost a year to decide to fund the sequels and then insisted on the sequels being released as quickly as possible to cash in on the hype.

    They never - "NEVER" - recognized how big the first film was and took advantage of any merchandise possibilities until it was too late.

    Once sequels were being filmed, the rather interesting habit of dropping hints only to have them pulled at the last minute became apparent.  It appeared that someone wanted to test the waters with the fans to see what would play.

    The sequels themselves seemed to forget where they came from.  The original POTC was a pirate story that had a little bit of CGI story involved.

    The sequels were mostly CGI that had a few pirates thrown in.

    I knew the game was up when I read the rumor that Disney/Depp had auctioned off the Jack Sparrow sword.  I don't know if this rumor was fact or not, but if it was then it was clear to me that folks involved had had enough.

    Top it off with some comments Verbinski made months after the last film had been released about how grueling the project had been - coupled with a very interesting documentary about how the films were made on the DVD for AWE and this viewer walked away with the impression that Gore had had his fill and was looking for a long rest.

    POTC had a lot of potential.  COBP was a keeper of a movie, clearly evidenced by the number of people who kept returning to see it again and again.

    The sequels (and I sat in several times for each in different theaters) were met with audiences who were, for the most part, dead silent.  It was almost laughable that when the AWE DVD was issued, it came with plot explanations.  

    Given the lack of truly original and exciting film, what a shame and a waste.

  • The reason the POTC merchandise didn't sell was that it was overpriced crap.  Fill a POTC skull or a treasure chest with a bunch of bug wigglies and gross eyeballs kids, boys anyway, have by the scores aleady.  How about a skull with the piece of eight in it?  Small PVC action figures of the Bretheren Court -- not the doll like action figures that bombed in the regular markets.   T-shirts with a fierce, scary Cap'n Jack?  Jack isn't scary -- he's a rock star and a clown!  That's why he's loved!  Talk about going for the wrong flavor of design.   How about Pirate ships a kid could actually build?  If they really wanted to make it a "boys' line", all they would have had to do was get in bed with LEGO.  Build your own Black Pearl, Wicked Wench, Port Royal Tortuga, etc.   It's worked pretty well for Star Wars.

    The marketing people again missed the boat on this franchise -- first by not providing mechandise in time for the original movie and then by poor choice of product for the sequels

  • Off topic: Here's to hoping Gore doesn't screw up BioShock. It's one of the most creepy and inventive video games to come out in a while. Seeing Big Daddy on the big screen should be a treat, as long as the director doesn't go crazy with the computer graphics.

    Back on topic: I finally went on the new POTC a couple weekends ago at Disneyland. I was impressed by the Davey Jones effect, but overall I was a little sad that parts of the old attraction are gone. I think Imagineering's logic in changing the attraction was sound. Kids now know POTC for the movies, not the ride.

    I'm just glad the Haunted Mansion movie bombed.

  • campdisney, Disney actually had Mega Bloks make POTC building toys. I happen to own them all.... granted, they're nowhere near as nice as LEGO.... but they're still POTC.

    Jim, the thing about Pirates is... they only really have public appeal if they're Disney Pirates. Going to those other places... it feels cheap, and everything tries to be a knockoff of POTC these days. So at least in my family, it's Disney Pirates or no pirates at all.

  • WestCOT:  Yeah, I know about the Megablocks POTC toys.  Megablocks have been a source of frustration for my son any time we've ever bought them.  Pieces don't fit together at times (cheap manufactoring? who knows).  We don't buy them anymore.  Nor do I remember the POTC selection being that great. 'Course, this from a family that has about 20 different Harry Potter Lego sets and several Star Wars Lego ship models as well.

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