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Johnny Depp skipped most of the press line to instead spend time with thousands of screaming fans. Invited guests swarmed the free rides with virtually no lines. And a fireworks show capped the outdoor screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at the film’s world premiere at Disneyland on Saturday night. Yes, Disney knows how to throw a party.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before, I’m overwhelmed,” said director Rob Marshall, new to the Pirates franchise, as fans yelled for his autograph. “This is the prefect location for tonight because it’s about fantasy and dreams.”
We spotted tons of stars and executives taking advantage of the Disney hospitality. The studio’s production head Sean Bailey arrived early and jumped on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride with his wife while Desperate Housewives actress Teri Hatcher braved the Indiana Jones ride with her daughter after the screening. Marshall, before the movie started, hit the California Adventure park across from Disneyland.
It seems like one of the few people not going on the rides was Pirates co-star Keith Richards. “I’m too old for that shit,” he told us.
But the evening wasn’t just fun and games. Disney has a lot riding on the success of the fourth film in the Pirates franchise, the first since the widely-panned At World’s End in 2007
On the black carpet amid the hoopla, Andy Garcia came up to franchise producer Jerry Bruckheimer, shook his hand and said, “I would say good luck but I don’t know if you need it.”
“Oh, we always need it,” Bruckheimer responded.
The success of Pirates will influence everything from theme park attendance to merchandising to, of course, box office. And the new movie has to overcome the fatigue inflicted on the audience by the previous sequels.
“We tried not to think of it as the fourth,” said Marshall‘s producing partner John DeLuca, who also served as an executive producer on the film, on the approach to the script. “Who wants to see the fourth of anything?”
Disney knows the longevity of the franchise is dependent on Depp and his continued interest in playing Captain Jack Sparrow, but studio head Rich Ross said star power isn’t enough; he wants sequels to have engaging, clearly-told stories, as well as new characters and creations.
Which is why the movie features new faces such as Sam Claflin, who portrays a missionary. Saturday night was Claflin’s first time at Disneyland.
And we must mention the killer mermaids. Yes, the studio that brought you Ariel is now behind some pretty terrifying mermaids.
“I was worried about that, whether [Disney] would allow us to do that, but they embraced it,” revealed Bruckheimer of the memorable sequence.
“We’ve gone from Ariel being very feisty to pretty much all out fierce,” jokes Ross.
A light mist fell during a portion of the screening. But it didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the film, which features tons of laughs and adventure (and is a lot shorter than the bloated Pirates 2 and 3). The festivities went on until the park closed at 1 AM but Disney’s higher-ups and the movie’s creative team will have no time to sleep in on Sunday. The Pirates crew is flying to Europe for a premiere in Moscow on Monday, then London, then capping it off with a splash at the Cannes Film Festival.
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