Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. was transformed on Saturday for the world premiere of Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
“They told me it was going to be a big deal, but I didn’t imagine this. This is a spectacle, and it’s surreal,” Ian McShane, who joins the franchise as the dread pirate Blackbeard, told EW exclusively. “I can’t even see the end of the carpet.”
The party started long before before McShane, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, and the rest of the cast stepped foot on the gigantic black carpet as costumed fans lined both sides of Main Street, many having stood there for hours in the hopes of meeting or landing an autograph from Capt. Jack Sparrow himself. Hired pirates and wenches led the crowd in numerous rounds of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride’s theme song and entertained them with stilt-walking, juggling, balancing, and family-friendly smack talking.
The crowd wore their free pirate-themed Mickey ears and generally went bananas for every level of star who walked past including numerous ‘tween Disney Channel kids; rock royalty Keith Richards and Steven Tyler; Oscar winners Jodie Foster and Geoffrey Rush; and more than half the current cast of Dancing With the Stars. (Lacey Schwimmer and the head mouse got their ballroom on during arrivals and Bruno Tonioli was even there to offer criticisms.) “This must be how the Twilight actors feel at their premieres,” said Pirates costar Sam Claflin, who coincidentally is working with Kristen Stewart on a Snow White adaptation. “I’m the new guy and not only do they know my name, but they want to take a picture with me. I just hope I don’t disappoint them once they see the film.” (To see how some of the stars in attendance looked, click over to our Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides red carpet photo gallery)
Of course, no one got a louder, bigger reception than Depp–even when it was only an impersonator walking by. (There were several in attendance, but the one in his signature premiere look fooled even this reporter who has interviewed the actor many times and crushed on him since 21 Jump Street.) After doing less than a dozen interviews, the actual Depp, looking dapper in a vintage suit, gave his full attention to the fans. “Who doesn’t love Johnny Depp?” asked Ashley Tisdale, who arrived with her High School Musical costar Vanessa Hudgens. “He’s so cool and mysterious and perfect as Captain Jack.”
The spectacle did not stop on Main Street. Two thousand guests–many of whom paid $1,000 a seat for the event, which benefited the Boys & Girls Clubs of America–made their way to Adventureland and New Orleans Square to feast on sausage, mac-n-cheese, and churros. They could also try out the five rides that remained open, including the Pirates ride, which already has been updated for the four-quel. (Blackbeard now threatens fans instead of Bill Nighy’s tentacle-tastic Davy Jones.)
Around 8:15 p.m. lights began shutting down in order to corral people to their seats within the temporary outdoor amphitheater. (The screen itself, at 9 stories wide and 6 stories high, was quite impressive. It sat on an island in the middle of the Disneyland Rivers of America attraction.) Finally, almost an hour after it was supposed to begin, the lead cast, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and director Rob Marshall were introduced. The applause eventually died down and the movie was screened without a hitch. Fireworks exploded as credits rolled and guests were free to warm up with coffee or cool down with ice cream bars in the shape of Mickey’s head. (An odd dessert choice considering how unseasonably chilly it had gotten–many folks including celebs like Andy Garcia, Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, and Jennifer Grey were spotted wrapped in the blanket provided for the screening.) Each guest left with a limited-edition pair of XPAND universal 3-D glasses with the premiere logo.
“Nobody does a premiere quite like Disney,” said Joey Lawrence. “They go big. It is impossible to leave here unhappy.”