"(Note to self: Never, ever go to Disneyland in July - especially when the local news is talking about a record heat wave and rolling blackouts.)
All over Disneyland, signs of "Pirates" were everywhere. The skull-and-swords logo hung high on the soundstage facade of Disney's California Adventure. In every gift shop, pirate-related merchandise stocked the shelves; one of the most popular items was the traditional Mickey Mouse ears adorned with a red bandanna and a large (plastic) gold ring piercing one of the ears. And there was Capt. Jack himself (or a reasonable facsimile), walking unsteadily along New Orleans Square posing for photos with the tourists.
But the swaying swashbuckler makes his presence most felt in the redesigned Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
An animatronic Jack makes three appearances in the new version of the classic ride. He shows up twice in the Tortuga seaside scenes, hiding from cutthroats - once behind a female mannequin, the other coming out of a barrel. (The same barrel that once hid a wench and, after a political-correctness makeover in 1997, a fish-loving cat.)
Unfortunately, the movie's pacing is too much like the ride's - long slow passages with too much technological razzmatazz, broken up by short bursts of mechanical excitement.
It's just as well Disney waited until the second "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie before making changes to the ride. Can you imagine the money that would have been lost if Disneyland had jumped the gun and remade The Haunted Mansion to include a screaming Eddie Murphy? Or revived the now-defunct Country Bears Jamboree? (Anybody else remember "The Country Bears" movie, with Queen Latifah? Anybody?)
Disney's crossover from movies to theme-park rides isn't done yet, and now the company is getting Pixar into the act. A "Monsters, Inc." ride opened in January at Disney's California Adventure, which also hosts a fun kiddie park based on "A Bug's Life." Next year, Disneyland's Submarine Voyage, which opened in 1959 and closed in 1998, is slated to reopen as the "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage."
In fact, Disney's acquisition of Pixar may be great news not just for Disney animation (which just announced that, under Pixar honcho John Lasseter's guidance, it will produce an old-school 2D hand-drawn musical, "The Frog Princess") but for Disneyland itself. Making movies into theme-park rides is easier than making movies out of rides, and ultimately a good deal more profitable - Capt. Jack's good fortunes notwithstanding.