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Did Pirates of the Caribbean copy the story of Monkey Island?

A round trip

If we have to put a first date on the creation of the pirate phenomenon, we have to go back to the year 1967 when the attraction first opened which later gave its name to the film franchise starring Jack Sparrow. At Disneyland they took us by the hand of a somewhat wilder Caribbean, full of parties and cruel murderers and thieves who destroyed everything they could. In the retina of millions of kids, those images were recorded with the town on fire or the giant galleon in which a whole battle was unleashed with cannon fire while a group of imprisoned animatronics gave a dog a bone to bring them the keys of his cell.

So good and imaginative was that a very young Ron Gilbert fell in love with her and years later he recognized that it inspired him to create the universe and the staging of a graphic adventure that practically changed everything: The Secret of Monkey Island.

so what confessed the American, although later he put a lot of talent on his part and that point of imagination and humor so great in the title of what was then known as Lucasfilm Games. So in the late ’80s it’s obvious who was inspired by whom. But the thing did not end there.

A little fantasy never hurts

Now, Ron Gilbert and the entire Lucasfilm Games team did not stop at a simple pirate story and, as you may remember, things were a bit more complex: a clumsy would-be cruel pirate (Guybrush Threepwood) appears on Monkey Island, a Governor (Elaine) with very clear ideas steals his heart and in the background emerges the figure of an evil (LeChuck) who returns from the dead, in a kind of hell that cuts through seas of lava thanks to a ghost ship.

That was the point of difference. The Secret of Monkey Island that Pirates of the Caribbean would you copy? in the first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl, where there are very clear references to video games: Jack Sparrow is a full-fledged captain but almost as clumsy as Guybrush; Elizabeth Swann could well pass for courage and courage as Governor Elaine herself (although she is actually the Governor’s daughter), although she does not fall in love with the protagonist; and clearly the reflection of the pirate LeChuck and her curse must be sought in Barbossa, owner and lord of a cursed Black Pearl in the first film.

So it is here that the second friction between the two franchises occurs, with a clear transfer of ideas from the video game to the big screen with the productions promoted by Disney almost 20 years ago now. It seems that things are tied but what happened next?

Are two people to blame?

Surely this transfer of ideas from The Secret of Monkey Island until Pirates of the Caribbean because for much of the 1990s, Lucasfilm and LucasArts considered the possibility of making a film project and even put some of its members to work to explore its viability. And don’t think that the thing was just a simple intention, since they were working on what the visual style would be like and, of course, on the story and plot.

And this is where two names appear: Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott. As told in February 2021 to polygonal David Carson, visual artist for Industrial Light & Magic (George Lucas’ famous ILM), the two were invited to the company offices of visual effects to convince them to join the film project of The Secret of Monkey Island and, to do so, they gave them a tour of the facilities and, incidentally, showed them some of the visual concepts they were working on.

What Carson stated was that “they toured ILM and came to the history group offices. We talked to them about the movies they had been in and lis we show the art we were working on for Monkey Island«. But of course, the surprise came when they found out the little secret they were keeping: «what we did not know was that at that time Ted and Terry were developing a script for Disney based on the attraction of Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.” Is it possible that the two took good note and took those clear points that exist between the two franchises? Did they need to do that tour to get references from video games?

Basically this is the story, summarized, of what happened between two mythical sagas: one in the world of video games and another in theme parks and movie theaters. Do you think there is a clear plagiarist? Or have the two of them influenced and helped each other with their ideas for more than 50 years? The decision is complicated, isn’t it?

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