From now until May 30, Disneyland is offering a special "sneak peek" experience for the new Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides movie on selected nights. Lee and I had the opportunity to see what this was all about last Saturday.
The "experience" takes place at night at the Festival Arena behind Big Thunder Ranch - this was also were many of the Family Fun Weekends were held earlier this year.
Things get started at about 7:00 p.m. along Big Thunder Trail, where they have placed several merchandise and beverage carts. Two of the carts offer a variety of pirate-themed merchandise, such as hats, t-shirts, "hooks", and swords. Various light-up glowy things are also available.
The beverage cart serves hot chocolate and Pirate Grog - we tried the latter. It's a cold punch with a light-up ice cube. Lots of tropical flavors light passion fruit, mango and pineapple. It was pretty tasty, but rather expensive at $6.25 for what was probably about 12 ounces of beverage.
The lines to get in were pretty long on the night we were there. To entertain us while waiting there was a strolling, singing, guitar-playing pirate who walked back and forth along the line. Once we got closer to the entrance, there was a small stage set up, where Poisonous Pat and the peg-legged parrot Captain Squawk were holding court. Not sure how it was done, but Captain Squawk was able to interact with the guests and see and hear them. As each group went by they would give pirate names to some of the guests, administer the pirate oath, and then answer some questions.
After we went by Captain Squawk we were lined up in a holding area in Big Thunder Ranch, and then were admitted into the Festival Arena.
In some ways it's unfortunate that this event is held at night. The Festival Arena area was decorated to look like the deck of the Queen Anne's Revenge, but because it was dark, we really couldn't see it very well. There's a large screen in the front, and there were pirates in the rigging on both sides as we entered, with other pirates up on some of the other "masts", who were interacting with the guests.
Once inside, there were lots of cast members directing us on where to go - once there, we had to sit down on the ground. There are some benches way in the back for those who can't sit on the ground and there are designated areas for those in wheelchairs or ECVs.
So after we were settled, we learned more about this "secret meeting" of Captain Jack's crew that we'd been invited to. But first, as new crew members we had to take the Pirate Oath:
"I, (state your name)" (to which we all dutifully replied "I, state your name" :-) )
"Can always be trusted not to be trusted.
To run from any fight I cannot win.
To win any fight I cannot run from.
To plunder treasure with a hearty laugh.
And to drink free rum with a hearty heart."
(I think only Captain Squawk's version had that last line.)
A young audience member was appointed First Mate and got to come up on stage and read some words of warning on a scroll, which were accompanied by some flaming torch effects.
After some additional silliness, and a chorus of "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me", we were told to stow "all Canons[sic] or other devices that will steal our souls", and to put on our 3-D glasses, and then the preview began.
Rather than a series of clips from the movie, this was one extended scene, about 8-9 minutes long. I found it a little odd to be plunked down in the middle of the movie, without really knowing what was going on, but it wasn't that hard to figure out. There was a lot of action, and a lot of 3D effects - they looked pretty good, but I personally find them a little cheesy and distracting.
When the lights came on, we found our live pirates "hanging around", matching something we'd seen at the end of the movie clip. That was pretty cool, and unexpected.
On the way out we had time to look a little bit more closely at some of the set pieces.
The warnings Captain Squawk had issued about avoiding a ship with red sails made a lot more sense once there was a little more light!
I had thought Jack Sparrow would be part of the "secret meeting". But instead, he was standing near the exit as we were about to get back onto Big Thunder Trail again. Since he was behind a fence and not posing for photos with individuals, it was actually a good way for most everyone to get a pretty good look at him.
I'm not sure how many people are allowed into the Festival area at a time - a couple hundred maybe? They can do two shows an hour, by the time they load everyone in, do the show, and then empty the area again. We were in line before 7:00, and saw the second show, which started about 7:45.
We were seated in the center, about 2/3 of the way back, but still had a really good view of the screen and what was going on. Getting up afterwards after sitting on the concrete for about 20 minutes was a little bit of a challenge, though. :-)
It was a fun experience, though because they were trying to get people in and out of there I felt rushed and not able to take a closer look at what they had done back in the Festival Arena. Maybe that adds more mystery to it? I think we'll try to see it again if the line isn't too long.
The previous post in this blog was Even More About the Disney Dream....
The next post in this blog is Hungry Bear Restaurant Review.