You have to hand it to the folks at Disney. Who else could dream up a premiere that lasted six hours and included go-go-dancing pirate girls, followed by Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp floating into the screening on a Tom Sawyer raft?
Director Gore Verbinski, gregarious and likable but looking a little dazed, told Daily Variety that the whole experience of the film had been “completely surreal.” The phrase also sums up the evening.
In a summer when huge tentpoles are under-performing, Disney showed its determination to buck the discouraging trend, giving a memorable and splashy sendoff to “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” the megabudget pic for which the studio is footing the bill, without the cushion of partners.
For the first time in 48 years, Disneyland in Anaheim closed down early to the public for a premiere.
The unique Saturday event was a jaw-dropping blend of Hollywood premiere, Disneyland parade and endurance marathon (including travel time, Angelenos probably devoted 9-10 hours to the preem). But then, a quirky blend of ingredients is the perfect way to launch the movie that itself is a mixture of f/x actioner, ghost story, romance, camp comedy and, well, uh, pirate movie.
An estimated 500 people — studio employees, Disneyland security and park workers (“cast members,” as they like to be called) — tackled the logistical nightmare of trying to control thousands of members of the paying public while escorting in the 1,500 premiere-goers.
The park’s rides started shutting down to the public at 4 p.m., but everyone was allowed to stick around a few hours and watch guests stroll the 900-foot red carpet (said to be the longest ever).
The carpet stretched from the foot of Main Street to the Frontierland entrance and was lined with shrieking fans, who got all worked up over any familiar face (Gary Busey! David Hasselhoff! Kenny G! Tamyra Gray!). But the screams reached a deafening pitch for Depp and Orlando Bloom.
The carpet area itself was fairly jam-packed, as VIPs mingled with media members, Disney studio staffers, and buccaneer-garb-clad jugglers and stiltwalkers. Guests were asked to dress in “Caribbean casual” (as opposed to Caribbean business attire?) or “your best favorite pirate wear.” And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Daryl Hannah, in full pirate regalia, waiting for the “Indiana Jones” ride.
It was pandemonium, but it’s Disney, so at least it was controlled pandemonium.
Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook admitted the event “took a lot of coordination,” but added definitively, “There was no other place to do it.”
Producer Bruckheimer paused between signing autographs — and how many Hollywood producers even get asked for their autograph? — to express awe at the event. Bruckheimer said that after he was asked by Disney to take on the project, he threw out the script, redeveloped it, added the supernatural element and “brought in Orlando and Johnny.”
As for a possible sequel, he smiled, “If this one works.”
Verbinski said he has no plans for a next pic: “I want to take some time off. I’m looking for a good script.”
Other Disney execs on hand included Bob Iger, Oren Aviv, Nina Jacobson, Chuck Viane and Jason Reed. Michael Eisner was a no-show. Guests also included Taye Diggs, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Stamos, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert Townsend, Jon Voight and Raquel Welch.
After guests maneuvered the cheerful but militant park security (“Wait here, please.” “No, actually, we’re asking people not to wait here, please.”), they were steered into one of four restaurants in the Frontierland area offering buffets before the film began.
The crowd — a mix of media members, Hollywood honchos and little nippers — then sat al fresco for the screening, in makeshift bleachers that faced a 40-by-90 foot screen erected across the water on Tom Sawyer’s Island.
Pre-screening, a band on the Columbia sailing ship played songs ranging from “Proud Mary” to “She Bangs” while leggy female dancers shook their little pirate booties.
Bruckheimer, Verbinski, Depp, Bloom, Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport arrived together on the motor-powered raft, which emerged from the darkness and floated in the “Rivers of America” waterway in front of the screen. When the film wrapped after 11:30 p.m., Klaus Badelt’s end-credits music soared as the sky lit up with an impressive fireworks display while terrified birds zigzagged overhead.
Several vet preemgoers estimated the pricetag at under $2 million.
For those who hadn’t enjoyed enough revelry, the park and several rides stayed open until 1 a.m., so guests could go on attractions over and over again, without lines.