By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

By Dave Shute

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow formally opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last week (it’d been in soft opening for a couple of weeks before then) and I had a chance to see it the other night.

This is a great little divertissement for big fans of the Pirates movies, or for those interested in developments in theme park tech and implications for future rides.

If your family fits into one of these two groups, it’s definitely worth seeing. If not, give it a pass unless you’ve got time on your hands.


This attraction has been described everywhere as a “walk-through” attraction, which is true I suppose if you are used to short walks.

It includes an unthemed outdoor (but roofed) queue, and two interior spaces that you walk into and experience.

However, the second space and what happens there really is the show, so think of it as more like a theater show–queue, pre-show, and show–than a walk through, and you’ll get it.

The second space includes a richly detailed physical set and multiple video and image projection deployments.

The quality of the video and image projections is astonishing, and sets a new bar for theme park tech.  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow combines image projections like what you’ll see on Cinderella’s Castle during Celebrate the Magic with the kind of lifelike video of Harry, Hermione and Ron that you can see at Harry Potter.

But the character video (of Captain Jack, reprised by Johnny Depp)  is even better than at Harry Potter, with astonishing dimensionality and detail–I have never seen video so life-like.

My photo doesn’t come even close to doing it justice–no two-dimensional medium could. (And yes, it’s a lousy shot anyway…but click it to enlarge it and it gets a little better…)

That said, though, there’s not quite enough here for anyone other than a Captain Jack or a theme park tech fan.

So why is it here? A couple of possibilities.

First, while all the noise lately has been about New Fantasyland, the fact is that each of the other Disney World parks has also had a recent minor upgradezebras on Kilimanjaro Safaris, the re-done test Track at Epcot, and this at Hollywood Studios.  (More on all this later this month.)

Each of these adds a little marketing frisson to its respective park, takes a little pressure off the Magic Kingdom, and–perhaps–creates the talking points to justify an early 2013 ticket price increase.

Second, and I’m pretty sure I’m kidding here, this may simply be a bit of spite from DHS towards MK.  Disney’s Hollywood Studios has had a Little Mermaid show for a long time, so what’s up with Magic Kingdom getting all excited about a recycled D-Ticket Ariel ride?  If MK can tread on the Studio’s Little Mermaid turf, well then DHS can grab a little Pirates and call it its own.

And third, this may be a test bed for future ride technologies, especially for “Avatarland.”  Disney still plans on doing Avatar at the Animal Kingdom. I’d been wondering about how it will depict the incredible visual setting of that film.  But the combination of images, projections, and physical settings in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow shows just how well that could be done…

So if you are a fan of the Pirates movies or of theme park tech, or just have some time to spare while at the Studios, check out Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow!



1 Tammi { 01.09.13 at 9:41 pm }

Would this be appropriate for younger children – 5 & 7?

2 Dave { 01.10.13 at 7:45 am }

Hi Tammi! If they’ve seen and liked any of the Pirates movies, sure it would be. Otherwise it might be a little dull to them.

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3 Thomas Fines { 03.18.13 at 2:18 pm }

We took our family to Hollywood Studios after spending a wonderful day at Universal (2 park pass) where we had a blast. The kids were not able to do everything in one day, so I would recommend 2 days at Universal.

As far as Disney Hollywood studios? Big fat dissappointment. Huge long lines, they were unprepared to handle the number of guests at a park where there are only 3-5 real substantial rides. The first ride (if you want to call it that), was Ride the Movies. Wierd…sadly in need up updating the video they play at the beginning that references movies through history…but only up until about the 1990?s….how hard would it be to add in a few later movies, Disney? Are short staffed?

And the Jack Sparrow experience. Let me share our reaction… When we came out of that after standing in line for 45 min to an hour, everyone in the group looked at each other and burst in to laughter. The overriding sentiment, “What the hell was that?!?” What a joke. Fire this team of people that created such a lame joke of an experience, Disney! So much less than we have come to expect from you.

I have seen many reviews of this ride and they all have a similar theme. This is like taking one of the portions of the QUE sideshows in the lines you wait on and segmenting it off and calling it a ride/show in and of itself. You feel cheated and ripped-off for standing in a line to go and watch a cheesy show and stomp and say argggg like a bunch of preschoolers. Disney as appears to have lost its moorings on this one.

And if you are visiting Orlando, avoid this attraction and go on the Star Wars ride another time. Or just go get a corn dog, it will be a better use of your time.

Better yet, just avoid Hollywood studios alltogether and go to Universal a second day. You will love it!!! New and changing rides, modernized, and they are better set up to handle the crowds.

4 Dave { 03.19.13 at 4:37 pm }

Hi Thomas, and thanks for weighing in!!

5 Rysn { 03.23.13 at 8:45 pm }

My wife and I (both 35, no kids yet) recently had the opportunity to experience this attraction. We live in South Florida and try to take a couple of short trips to Walt Disney World each year.

While we both love the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and find ourselves suckers for cool theme park technology this attraction was a waste of time.

I would give it an A+ in the tech department and characterize the content of the show to be nothing short of a ridiculous.

It was as if two writers wrote the script independent of each other. One was told to write the dialog for a children’s theme party and the other to create the voice over for a trailer of the next Micheal Bay blockbuster. Both creations were then stuck in a room and told to go at it. Children’s party wins…mostly. The End.

Disney! For the love of Walt! Please rethink this attraction.

6 Dave { 03.24.13 at 1:50 pm }


7 Jess Simpson { 03.31.13 at 2:46 pm }

This was a huge let down for me and my family because we waited in a hour long line- don’t wait for more than 10 minutes it really is not as great as it seems. BEWARE! The shades do not cover you when u reach parts of the line. THE SUN WILL HIT YOU we waited in that line and all got sun burned. The show was okay, but not worth a wait…it is intended for small small children but has a scary theme for some reason. Sadly for our family and others standing near us it was obviously a big CAPTAIN RIP-OFF! 🙁

8 Dave { 04.01.13 at 6:23 am }

Thanks, Jess!!

9 Seth { 07.11.13 at 8:31 pm }

Never go on this ride unless you get paid! Worst attraction ever and I think kids would have more fun at a quilting expo than going on this ride.

10 Dave { 07.12.13 at 8:52 am }


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