Who would have thought that a theme park ride would make such a solid foundation for a multi-sequel blockbuster film series? Disney may have been surprised at first, but they have capitalized on the reception of the “Pirates Of The Caribbean” movie franchise since the smash hit of the first one back in 2003.

There has also been some recursive adaptation going about over the years, with some characters and other elements from the theme ride being redesigned since 2006 to resemble their film counterparts more. With the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride having turned 50 years old last March, some special treats seemed to be in store.

Take for instance the surprise on guests taking the original ride in Disneyland this week when none other than actor Johnny Depp, who plays the franchise’s flagship character, showed up in the course of the trip.

Captain Jack in the flesh

The “Pirates” ride, consisting of guests taking automated “boats” along an indoor waterway with depictions of the life and times in the age of piracy with animatronic characters playing out scenes, became even livelier on Wednesday April 26, when Depp appeared both in costume and in character as the savvy slurring pirate Captain Jack Sparrow. Guests were utterly ecstatic as they eagerly took phone videos of Depp as Jack drunkenly swaggering about, gesturing with his prop sword and chatting up the patrons with lines from the films.

Truth be told, some eagle-eyed park visitors did spot many Disney and television crews about that day, though they assumed it was for the “Pirates” ride golden anniversary.

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They never could have imagined the star of the franchise showing up as early as in the front area where passengers got on the tour boats. Depp then followed the boat rides through the various sets (even past the animatronic versions of himself as some point or other), keeping up his humorous Jack chatter and mannerisms.

Pragmatic image rehab

For those wondering about Johnny Depp’s special surprise at the Disneyland “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride, it’s actually part of some clever interactive promotion for the fifth film of the series, “Dead Men Tell No Tales”, set to premiere next month in May. The movie has Jack getting into a rematch with an old enemy of his youth, and also teases the return of his main co-stars Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who retired from the franchise after the third film.

Depp’s appearance also had a pragmatic reasoning to it: it helped to deflect some shade thrown his way due to some recent troubles with his management company, with whom he has been embroiled in a financial tussle since the start of this year.