Ahoy thar mateys, this marks the spot of an all new “theater experience” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios where all ye landlubbers will get your chance to come away with the ultimate pirate treasure. What’s that you ask? To be a pirate of course! Ya see in this adventure you will have to prove that you are worthy of being part of the Legendary Captain Jack Sparrow’s crew and just shouting parley is not going to be quite enough you see. You’ll come face to face with the all too enchanting mermaids, battle the mighty Kraken and perhaps even go mast to mast with Davey Jones himself. So if you are ready to hit the high seas, we shall tell you a tale or two and we’ll even tell you about this new “theater experience” and if it is even worth it before we are through.
So hopefully you enjoyed that attempt at pirate speak but no doubt what you are here for is to know whether Disney has created a worthwhile experience at their latest attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And if by worthwhile you mean to visit once, then sure if you enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean films then you will be right at home in this standing room only pirate adventure. But it is hard to see this 8 minute journey (11 minutes including the pre-show) having any sort of repeatability in the way it is currently constituted. For me that is one of the ultimate tests of an attraction. How badly do I want to see it again immediately after just having experienced it? Sadly, I couldn’t find any reason to and for the majority of Disney guests their reaction will probably be the one that I overhead from a young lad. He told his father, “this is boring,” and for much of the attraction I couldn’t help but to feel the same way. That isn’t to say the attraction doesn’t have some very neat special effects worthy of your attention and of being used throughout other attractions at Walt Disney World. But they don’t provide enough of a thrill on their own as packaged in this theater to warrant taking up even the smallest of spaces at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The effects don’t provide enough of a thrill to warrant taking up even the smallest of spaces at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The attraction itself begins with an adequate pre-show environment where you and about 49 other guests are ushered into a dimly lit space with what appears to be a dungeon entrance guarded by a mysterious skull. After a bit of electrical magic the skull comes to life via a projector that provides a talking character that is quite believable and excites you enough for the journey that stands beyond the dungeon doors. When the doors open and guests proceed through the space and into the actual showroom what immediately stands out is the vista as you are walking in from the pre-show room. You can tell Walt Disney Imagineers placed a lot of thought into that view and it does give you that sense of excitement, curiosity and adventure that one should feel before any Disney attraction. So what do you see? You see the mast of the Black Pearl against the hazel palette of an incredible sunset peeking over the rocky coves where waves mist into the sky after having blasted into the rock outcrops. It is one of the best storytelling moments in an attraction that has far too few of them.
Until Captain Jack Sparrow arrives on the scene, this attraction does little right.
But then the “boring” actions begin with a series of pirate tests that try to make this screen watching experience interactive but does so in a way that doesn’t challenge anyone except the youngest of visitors. The talking skull from the pre-show and narrator for this attraction has become a large floating projected character who guides us through challenges against Davy Jones, the Kraken, the mermaids and skeletons all from the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films. But the challenges are all weak, to defeat the Kraken we are asked to roar, yes you read that right, roar. To defeat the mermaids we are supposed to stomp on the floor to drown out the mermaids’ captivatingly dangerous singing voices. Just with those to examples you can already begin to understand how the young lad I overheard begins to have the idea of “boring” creep into his mind. Because until Captain Jack Sparrow arrives on the scene, this attraction does little right.
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…the attraction about the Legend fails to be about him.
So let’s talk about this attraction’s only savior the Legendary Captain Jack Sparrow who is left to try to save this sinking ship of an attraction. And crazy enough, Captain Jack Sparrow almost pulls it off with his wit and charm just like in the blockbuster films. After seeing guests, myself included largely gazing with blank stares at an attraction with few intriguing moments suddenly you can see the magic happening around you as guests light up when they see the ol’ pirate captain himself. Using the latest screen technology and forced perspective from the set, Captain Jack Sparrow appears to take the helm of the Black Pearl and proceeds to lead us in battle with much of the comedy that is uniquely Johnny Depp. It shines, the laughter breaks through and the effect is as believable as any other in a Walt Disney World attraction. And though the action remains largely questionable one can’t help but wonder why a company so willing to go overboard on characters they love such as Stitch, didn’t decide to do the same with a character like Captain Jack who given a full 8 minutes might have made this attraction a worthy romp, fun enough to recommend. Instead given just a bit over half of that time, the attraction about the Legend fails to be about him. The star of the attraction, becomes the fine dessert but it should have been the main course.