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

P irates of the Caribbean and The Secret of Monkey Island are two of the most successful sagas of the last 30 years. One on the screens of cinemas since its first appearance in 2003 and the other, on computers practically all over the planet where it has become the reference for graphic adventures. So with the imminent arrival of Return to Monkey Island , it’s time to clear up a doubt that gnaws at all of us gamers. Who copied who?

A round trip

Did Pirates of the Caribbean copy the story of Monkey Island

If we have to put a first date for the creation of the pirate phenomenon, we have to go back to the year 1967 when the attraction that later gave its name to the film franchise starring Jack Sparrow premiered for the first time . In 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.

It was so good and imaginative that a very young Ron Gilbert fell in love with it and years later 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.

This is how the American confessed , 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 crosses between seas of lava thanks to a ghost ship.

That was the differential point of The Secret of Monkey Island that Pirates of the Caribbean would 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 this is where the second brush 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 to Pirates of the Caribbean is not accidental, since during a good part of the 90s, Lucasfilm and LucasArts considered the possibility of making a movie project and even put some of its members hands to work to explore its feasibility. 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 David Carson, a visual artist for Industrial Light & Magic (George Lucas’s famous ILM), told Polygon in February 2021, the two were invited to the visual effects company’s offices 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, along the way, 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’d been in and we showed them the art we were working on for Monkey Island .” But of course, the surprise came when they found out the little secret they kept: “what we did not know was that at that time Ted and Terry were developing a script for Disney based on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction 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 the other in theme parks and cinemas. 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?