Steve Granitz/WireImage
Carrie Bell
May 22, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

There ain’t no party like a Pirates party. ”I have never experienced anything quite like this before,” marveled franchise newcomer Chow Yun-Fat at Saturday’s premiere for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, which raised $3 million for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. ”No one warned me how crazy this would be, although I’m not sure I would have believed them if they tried. There are people on stilts and live animals and people dressed up like pirates that Jerry [Bruckheimer] didn’t even have to pay.”

As with the premieres for the first and second installments of Pirates, the premiere of At World’s End was held at Disneyland, with the screening taking place just a few bootsteps away from the ride that inspired it all. Some 15,000 fans came from near and far — some lining up with their autograph books, Johnny Depp posters, and exposed cleavage as early as 6 a.m. — in hopes of landing a coveted spot on the 1,000-foot long Main Street red carpet opposite the media. ”This carpet is longer than the movie. In fact, I think it might be longer than it took us to shoot the movie,” joked Geoffrey Rush, who was joined by Barbossa’s simian sidekick for his journey past the journalists. ”I am not as good-looking as Johnny or Orlando [Bloom], so I need a gimmick if I’m to have any chance of getting my picture in the papers.”

Bill Nighy made some life-saving adjustments to his pre-show routine, having learned from his experience at last summer’s showing of Dead Man’s Chest. ”More comfortable shoes and I drank less coffee,” he reported. ”Last time, I was wired when I first hit the carpet and I crashed by the end. So this time, I am powered exclusively by Yorkshire tea, which I brought with me from home. It’s also quite cooler than last year. I am very old, you see, and things like heat become your enemy at my age.”

Mickey Mouse wasn’t the only one wearing his Pirate best. NCIS‘ Lauren Holly went for ”pirate-inspired couture” while her son slathered on guyliner and carried a faux sword. Teri Hatcher, Keith Richards, Holly Robinson Peete, and others donned skull-covered or ship- and sword-themed scarves, shirts, and jewelry. Many of the rides were open to guests, and Janice Dickinson was set to take them on with her kids wearing a pair of very high-heeled Christian Louboutin pumps. ”I’m a pro,” she explained. ”I wear high heels to bed and could sleepwalk in them.”

At 8:45 p.m., when the last schmoozer was finally pulled away from the complimentary churro cart and seated in the stands opposite the outdoor screen on Tom Sawyer’s Island, Hans Zimmer and his orchestra opened the show by playing selections from the score. Then, Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski, and the cast marched out one by one (except Richards, who dragged a costumed wench/route escort with him all the way to his seat) for introductions.

Despite thunderous applause and post-credits fireworks, a touch of the doldrums tainted the Happiest Place on Earth. Bruckheimer said he wished Keira Knightley could have made it to the premiere (she was working in Europe) and was a little wistful that the final Pirates — the franchise’s Elizabeth Swann song, if you will — was about to hit theaters. ”It’s hard to believe we’re done,” he said. ”Pirates has been a part of a lot of people’s lives for so many years that tonight is bittersweet.” Yet, he didn’t extinguish all yo-ho-hope of future voyages. ”We left it open at the end in case somewhere down the road we all want to do this again. Maybe they’ll all forget how sore they were and how long these movies took to make.”

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