Boarding the 'Pirates' ship

Friday, July 7, 2006
What's a pirate without a ship? This ship is the heart of the "Pirates of the Carribean" ride's battle scene. (Photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

LOS ANGELES -- Yo, ho! Yo, ho! It's a pirates ride that turned into a movie -- and back into a ride.

The movie, featuring Johnny Depp's swashbuckling turn as pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow, was inspired by the Disney attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean. Now, the rum-swilling pirate and crew have influenced the ride, which has been updated to include characters from the new movie "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

The new movie and the updated aqua-adventure appear to have captivated audiences, with record numbers turning out and standing in line to get on the ride -- and hundreds pre-purchasing movie tickets for the July 7 opening.


Movie: Let's start with Sparrow's Road Runner-like escape from cannibalistic natives, in which he falls down a ravine through approximately 74 rope bridges before somehow landing softly on his back. It's a human cartoon -- pratfalls at their most extreme. The action gets louder and more chaotic from there, to the point where you're simply worn out by the time the final three-way swordfight (the third? fourth?) gets underway.

Ride: It begins with a climb into a boat, which gently floats into the darkness and then suddenly shoots down a pitch-black rapid into the "Pirates" world. The ride drifts through a grotto, and then picks up the pace again, heading into the middle of a battle between Sparrow's nemesis Capt. Barbossa and the soldiers at a fort. It slows again, meandering through a French Quarter-style village.


MOVIE: The over-the-top staginess of the dialogue usually works, particularly when Depp tosses away his precious lines. "Complications arose, ensued, were overcome," he mumbles early on, and it's a fair enough assessment of the entire plot. Witty repartee among the low-rung pirates grates: Were they really taking a moment to debate whether the monster's name was pronounced with a "long A" as in the "original Scandinavian"?

RIDE: Little fresh dialogue -- most of it was mapped out decades earlier by Walt Disney and Co. The updated dialogue, which features the voices of actors Geoffrey Rush as Barbarossa, Bill Nighy as Davy Jones and a hysterical musical number featuring Depp's Sparrow. The sight gags haven't changed -- the jailed men are still trying to get a dog to give up a key, a drunk still sleeps with the pigs, a man is still trying to sell wenches. Only now, Sparrow is in the mix -- taking it all in from subtle positions throughout the ride.


MOVIE: The baddies, led by Bill Nighy (and encapsulated in what looks like the worst flavor of Jell-O ever made), really steal the show. They're recognizably human and likewise recognizably sea creatures, and they don't really have to do much more than snarl and swing their weapons occasionally. Depp's pirate schtick gets old at about 90 minutes in, the point when a normal pirate flick would and should end. However, you haven't quite been to the movies this summer until you've seen Keira Knightley, even dressed like a guy, smoldering under the hot Bahamian sun.

RIDE: No Keira Knightley. No Orlando Bloom. No gross sea creatures. But there are three chances to glimpse Capt. Jack Sparrow, who looks an awful lot like Johnny Depp, and one creepy, albeit cool, apparition of Davy Jones who warns, of course, "Dead men tell no tales."


MOVIE: Hans Zimmer's orchestration is incessant. The characters can hardly arch an eyebrow or do a double-take -- and they do plenty of both -- without some sudden flourish of violins to underscore it. Sure, it's a pirate movie, but we'll take a little "yo ho ho" over all this self-important stuff.

RIDE: Although the ride begins with a dark orchestration, it quickly moves past that and into THAT song -- "Yo, ho. Yo, ho. It's a pirates life for me." It's played so much -- either instrumentally or with chorus that it sticks in the brain, staying with a person long after the ride is over.


MOVIE: White sand, lush green jungle, deep blue water, brown wood ships. Landscapes in "Pirates" are but colors on the perimeter as the camera either lingers over Knightley's face or whirls from one action sequence to another.

RIDE: Amid a sea of tourists at either Disneyland or Disney World.

asap reporters Chelsea J. Carter and Ryan Pearson are no pirates.

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