Among theme park attractions, there are a few special experiences that elevate themselves above the rest into the realm of artistic masterpiece. Pirates, Mansion, Small World, Gadget’s Go-Coaster… These modern classics are considered to be the very highest class of attraction. And if art has taught us anything, it’s that a classic work can always be made better by tinkering with it years later.
|Way better than the original.|
A number of years ago, Disney decided that one great way to improve their Pirate classic would be to add several zany animatronics of your favorite zany character from your favorite zany Jerry Bruckheimer movie.
|Oh, who are we kidding? Goose is your favorite zany Bruckheimer character.|
I’ve mellowed on the decision over the years. I guess there’s no harm in referencing a beloved film franchise, especially with sequels that most people would rank in the same class as the Matrix sequels. Top company indeed.
I do have a bit of a beef with the new storyline. Not really because of Jack Sparrow, but because it alters the “real time” aspect of the ride. Aside from the obvious time travel of the waterfall, from haunted caverns into live pirate action, the ride used to unfold linearly, as you watched. There was no indication that anything happened off screen, in between the Auction scene and the burning village. You simply left one area of town and came to another, as if you were really there (which you were).
But now there’s a series of implied cuts in the story. You see Jack at the dunking of the mayor, and then a few minutes later, Jack is in a barrel, trying to swipe a key to the treasure vault. And then a few minutes later, Jack is in the vault, celebrating. You’ve missed some scenes there. How did Jack get in the barrel? How did he swipe the key? Now the ride is more like a movie, than a story that unfolds before your eyes. They are leaving bits out.
|This scene used to feature kidnapped guards, pirate gun battles, and barrels of explosive gun powder. Now it has the star of 21 Jump Street singing to a parrot.|
It’s a very subtle thing, but maybe has an effect on people. It’s become Jack’s story. He’s the focus, and we’re not privy to everything he’s doing. Before, it was always your story. You were the center of attention, floating down the canal in the literal middle of the action.
But back to that treasure key… There’s a nice exchange in David Mamet’s book On Directing Film (Mamet is one of the favorite filmmakers in the parkeology offices. We once spent three days analyzing The Spanish Prisoner and concluded the whole thing was a big joke). In the book, Mamet and one of his students are discussing how to prepare a notebook prop for a shot in a movie:
Mamet: How does the book look?
Mamet: No, you can’t make the book look prepared. You can make it look neat. That might be nice, but that’s not the most important thing for your answer to the prop person. To make it prepared, to make it neat, to make it convincing, the audience ain’t gonna notice. What are they going to notice?
Student: That it’s the same book they’ve seen already.
Mamet: Exactly so! You’ve got to be able to recognize it. That’s the most important thing about it. The book in general is not important. What’s important is what it does in the scene.
That key, shown above in the open vault door, is the same one held by the pirate whom Jack was spying on from the barrel. The most important design aspect of the key is not that it is a “fitting key for a treasure vault.” That’s of some importance, but by far the most important aspect of the design is that it must be recognizable. You must be able to identify it as the same key held by the barrel pirate.
This prop certainly fits the bill. There’s absolutely a reason for the oversized handle, the little golden tassel. Those aren’t just design whims. They are to catch your eye, so that you can fill in the story details yourself. Jack stole the key from the pirate at the barrel. It’s good, efficient execution of the new storyline.
But I still liked the old one better.
|Now if we can just get Mamet to do a rewrite of Stitch’s Great Escape.|