Disney and the Mystery of the Black Pearl

Yesterday I posted about the minor controversy surrounding the HMS Bounty’s recent tour of the UK. Last night I received the below Google Alert Black Pearl Sails into Plymouth. Interestingly, the URL for this alert is the Disney’s Official Pirates of the Caribbean website.

POC  blog alert 2

Clicking on the link in the Google Alert brings you to this page on the Pirates of the Caribbean website where there is a news section which displayed the same headline.

POC website 08 23 07

Following that link brings you to the website of The Herald, The Voice of Plymouth. Here’s a screen shot, too.

this is plymouth

What’s interesting in this link chain is Disney’s position right smack dab in the middle. From reading through the other “News” on the Official Pirates of the Caribbean website, it seems safe to assume that a human may actually enters these items. Most of the others are promoting the movie or ancillary products and from that perspective the Black Pearl Sails into Plymouth is unique.

There are some valuable lessons here about managing your brand. From working a bit with Disney in the past, I found it curious that the Black Pearl Sails into Plymouth would make it onto their website; their focus is selling all thing Disney. They certainly wouldn’t want to be associated with tall ships tour that was marketing itself inaccurately. POC fans will figure it out and they did.  Then there is European Maritime Events, the company involved in organizing the Bounty’s UK tour. Prior to arriving in Torquay, tour manager Wilf Lower sent a press release claiming: “The ship features in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 as Black Pearl.” As reported in The Daily Mail:

Mr. Lower said “As far as I know it was one of three ships used in filming for episodes two and three. The short answer is yes, she does appear at some stage. It’s an amalgamation.

“My understanding is that she did appear in the film as the Pearl. You’d have to watch pretty hard in the background to work out which bit is what.”

But speaking from New York, the executive director of HMS Bounty’s Organisation, Margaret Ramsey, said the whole claim was false.

She said: “We try to squash it whenever it comes up – she’s totally not the Black Pearl. She was the Edinburgh Trader in two episodes and we were thrilled with that.

“I would be really disappointed if I went to see her and then realised she wasn’t the Black Pearl. I can only ask that people accept an apology.”

Lesson 2: choose your partners carefully. Doing a Google search of tall ship Bounty brings up a number of negative headlines.

While the HMS Bounty organization has apologized to visitors who might have come to their vessel under false pretenses, they have been pretty clear that this was not of their doing. I’ve worked with them over the years and have no reason to doubt their claims. Hopefully most of the visitors to the Bounty will appreciate her for her own story. Of course, there will be a number who are disappointed that they are not stepping on the same deck as Captain Jack Sparrow but at least they have the chance to learn about some real maritime history.

One last thing. Several news articles stated that the Bounty voyage is helping to raise funds for the Cutty Sark which was significantly damages by fire back in May. I may have missed something but I looked through both organization’s websites as well as searched on Google and have not been able to turn anything up. If this is fundraising partnership is real, wouldn’t Bounty and Cutty Sark want to promote the heck out of it? It would seem to be a win/win/win for both organizations and maritime heritage in general.

It’s all very curious and entirely unnecessary for a grand ship like Bounty.

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Peter A. Mello

Father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

One thought on “Disney and the Mystery of the Black Pearl”

  1. This is a very belated comment on an issue posted by you way back in 2007 concerning HMS Bounty and claims that she was the ‘Black Pearl’ in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film(s) – a claim that seems to have surfaced again!

    I’m Wilf Lower – the ‘manager’ of Bounty’s UK tour in 2007. My company, European Maritime Events, was contracted by the Bounty Organisation to arrange the UK tour as part of what we were informed was to be the start of a world tour. We also handled the UK publicity, some mentioning that ‘Bounty’ had been the ‘Black Pearl’. This ‘fact’ had been revealed by a director of the Bounty Organisation during a pre-tour meeting at the UK port of Whitehaven – in response to a casual question from a member of port staff. Following the extensive news reports that ‘Bounty’ hadn’t been the ‘Black Pearl’, we were somewhat surprised when the organisation alleged they had never made such claims! It’s hardly surprising that our relationship with the Bounty Organisation became a trifle ‘strained’, despite a successful tour. However, the organisation terminated our contract before the final venue, Portsmouth, where we had arranged a special farewell for Bounty’s voyage around the world – possibly because (as we later discovered) the world tour had been aborted.

    Like you, we were bemused as to why Disney seemed to go along with the story…..maybe they felt any publicity was good publicity. As to the UK national press reports, it’s perhaps best to remember that today’s news is tomorrow’s fish & chip wrapping (or was, until Health & Safety rules banned use of old newspapers for food!)

    Bounty is now back in European Waters, participating in May as ‘flagship’ vessel at the prestigious ‘Ostend at Anchor’ maritime festival. The ship was highly popular, and also featured in the leading Belgian maritime magazine ‘Varen’ – with the article highlighting the fact that ‘Bounty’ had been the ‘Black Pearl’.

    Seems their source was the Bounty Organisation!

    With regard to the ‘Cutty Sark’ fundraising you mentioned:

    Shortly after the fire that destroyed much of the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, there was a further pre-tour UK visit by the Bounty Organisation. At their request we had arranged they meet the Cutty Sark Trust. The Bounty Organisation proposed it would donate 50% of monies generated during its UK tour to the Cutty Sark rebuilding fund. Obviously, as a marketing ploy, this would encourage more visitors. We’re not aware of the ‘detail’ – ie. what monies would be divided, etc, as our involvement was limited to introducing the Bounty Organisation to the Cutty Sark Trust. All subsequent discussions/agreements were between those two bodies, but we are aware the ‘Cutty Sark’ donation were promoted during ‘Bounty’s’ visits to Liverpool, Torquay and Hull during the UK tour. We don’t know how much was raised/donated to the Cutty Sark Trust.

    Notwithstanding all this. ‘Bounty’ remains an attractive and popular ship that creates interest wherever she visits – although she faces some stiff competition in Europe. Robin Walbridge is a dedicated captain with an immense awareness of sailing heritage. ‘Bounty’ may be a film ‘prop’, but she’s also a part of that heritage.

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