Johnny Depp Returns as Jack Sparrow to Surprise Unsuspecting Audiences in Denizen’s Latest Disneyland Experience

Creative company Denizen worked with Johnny Depp to welcome back the actor’s iconic Captain Jack Sparrow character and surprise some lucky, unsuspecting Disneyland visitors in the process.

In a recent stunt teasing Disney’s upcoming summer blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Denizen and franchise star Depp, dressed in full Sparrow garb, treated guests of Disneyland’s venerable namesake ride to a brief, real-life interaction with the legendary pirate himself. “Johnny was set up in the Well Scene of the ride,” explains Denizen Co-Founder Joel Jensen. “Each boat passes by the scene over the course of about 15 seconds, so it was just long enough to have a genuine interaction.”

According to Jensen, the ensuing surprise, elation and engagement reflected how much Jack Sparrow still resonates with fans, even though some time has passed since the swashbuckler last graced the big screen. “It’s been five years since the last Pirates movie arrived in theaters and Disney wanted to rekindle fans’ excitement and love for the franchise. There’s this authentic connection between audiences and Sparrow, and it’s there because Johnny Depp animates it in a way nobody else could even hope to do. We simply wanted to put audiences in a place where that authentic relationship between them and Johnny – and Jack Sparrow – could take place.”

The Pirates project marks the second collaboration between Denizen, Depp, Disney Parks and Disney Studios, following the group’s highly successful, interactive Mad Hatter digital poster effort to promote Alice Through the Looking Glass. While the element of surprise remains intact with the Pirates project, the environment was altogether different as the parties involved had to shoot inside a live, active, functioning attraction that’s over 50 years-old and wasn’t designed for people being inside while it was running. “There are a great deal of regulations for safety and guest experience to work within,” Jensen explains. “We needed to set up lighting, 20 cameras, microphones and speakers, and strategize blocking in the space while the park was closed, and keep it all extremely discreet to avoid breaking guests’ sense of immersion while on the ride. We were very lucky, though, to be collaborating with a team who accommodated the creative and production as much as possible.”

Of course, working with an amenable A-lister like Depp also helped ease the overall process of executing the stunt. “Johnny is a generous, gracious, and brilliant creative mind and actor, “ Jensen says. “He owns that character, he’s in Jack’s DNA and vice versa, so we did everything we could to set him up and let him enjoy the moment. It was an honor to be able to pitch ideas, lines, and gags to him and watch him turn those thoughts into fully baked Jack Sparrow fodder.”

With the Johnny Depp Disneyland surprise, Denizen has created a timely, clever tie-in to the May 26th release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which Jensen has deemed an “event” of its own. “It’s the first Pirates movie since 2011, the first time back with Captain Jack since then, so this Disneyland project was really was meant to fit into the presentation of the film as an event. It was about putting Captain Jack back behind the wheel of the franchise and letting him take audiences wherever he saw fit, in his unique and iconic way. With a character this perfect, sometimes it’s enough to just let them take over.”



Client: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Agency: Denizen Company
Title: Johnny Depp Surprises Fans as Captain Jack Sparrow at Disneyland!

Production: Denizen Company
Director: Denizen Company
Director of Photography: Hal Long
Producer: C. Fitz
Production Manager: Carmen Quiros
Production Coordinator: Sam Rowin
Post Production: Bubba’s Chop Shop
Post Producer: Ben Silverman
Post Supervisor: Ian Nelson
Colorist: Jennifer Gittings
Editor: Oliver Thompson
Additional Editor: Andrew Putschoegl
Assistant Editor: Will Barton
Audio Mix: Michel Tyabji

About Denizen:

Denizen Company wins audiences for brands by creating and distributing headline-grabbing, internet-breaking, award-winning content. We’re not an agency, we are a mission to make the internet better for brands and users alike. We’re all denizens of the web. It’s our job to make it as awesome as possible to be here.