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The Art of Pirates of the Caribbean

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The Art of Pirates of the Caribbean


Publication information:

Disney Editions


May 22, 2007

Media type







The Art of Pirates of the Caribbean is an illustrated book containing the artwork of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Accompanied by informative text written by the film's unit publicist, Michael Singer, this book showcases all relevant information of the visual development that went into the creation of the films. Concept art, digital renderings, costume sketches, prop schematics, and storyboards are the prized cargo aboard this ship of dreams. It was published by Disney Editions on May 22, 2007.

Publisher's summary

The Art of Pirates of the Caribbean presents a definitive, exclusive look into the preparation and production of the successful movie trilogy. Overflowing with hundreds of full-color images, the book showcases concept drawings, set designs, and costume sketches, as well as the intricate props, set pieces, and even special effects that contribute so much to the Pirates mythology. Even the cover is visually arresting—imitating the leather-covered log of a ship's captain. Also included is special commentary from the unit publicist who was there to see it all. For Pirates fans everywhere, this treasure chest of art and design from the entire movie trilogy is a visual feast that promises hours of endless browsing pleasure.


I did not set out to create a word, but rather to tell a tale, the by-product of which became the world of these three films. The collection of images gathered here represent the spent shells in a battle, or rather clues of a crime scene: There is a context missing, but if you look deeply you can witness the faint echo of a madness that was our collective creative process.

Working with writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and a team of talented and sleep-deprived artists and conceptual engineers, we set out at the confluence of two seemingly opposite yet undeniable facts: the blank page and the release date. We worked in an open format on these films, sharing and debating the story we wanted to tell and how that tale was to be sequenced and dramatized. We had the war room. A bull pen of outlines, ideas, images, and fragments of scenes all moving around in a blur of pins and tape, pencils and brushes, and a healthy waft of sweat and stale coffee.

The cadaver was on the table, the kidneys were out, and we shared that with the artists so that they always understood the narrative intention. It was beautifully symbiotic, and we could begin to see the films taking shape as ideas were transformed into images and the images generated new ideas.

For me, the renderings became the thing that the story was always moving toward or away from. They often represent the larger beats of the narrative, and became the tent poles from which the fabric of the film was hung. We knew where the bolder moments were and could see clearly where the character work had to be primed to get you there and what forms of acceleration you could expect from the idea ahead.

As the three films took shape they were scheduled and budgeted not from the yet-to-be written script, but from the walls of the room itself. Simply put: We were in process, throughout the process. The artwork in this volume was not designed for your coffee table; although I encourage it as a resting place.

These are working drawings, and represent a collection of evidence: evidence from a crime that was vehemently plotted and planned. As you peruse these images, I hope they take you back to those long nights before a frame of film was exposed, when the pages were blank and the empty canvas impatiently waited. For me, that is the wondrous and the strange ... the creative process.

Gore Verbinski, Director


Creating the environments for a film takes a designer on a journey. It's usually an inner, thoughtful one but occasionally, as with Pirates of the Caribbean, the voyage is also a real one to unknown parts, the scout for locations, a real adventure whose outcome is unforeseen and possibly quixotic. Director Gore Verbinski's risky quest for the unexpected within the real, and his openness to the possibilities that search may offer, have given these movies a fresh and substantial foundation for his story to unfold within. He, above all, seems to deeply understand the importance of the cinematic interplay of spoken word and image. Just as the script presents the characters of the story and follows the thread of their interaction with one another, the design of a film presents a visual continuity of the drama and meaning of what takes place—the real and expressive world these characters inhabit. It gives resonance to characters and events and helps propel their dynamic development.

Each of the images in this book distills past effort and offers up a vision of the future for a motion picture art department— they represent the conclusion of one phase of design and usher in the next. It is an interesting experience now to view them as simply ideas—visualizations that evoke emotional responses and establish environments—that exist in this book as ends unto themselves. As such, they are divorced from the research and exploratory doodles that molded them, just as they are complete without further reference to the finished film. The emotional response of the viewer to them gauges the substantial degree of power they have to evoke feeling and a sense of story.

It's important to acknowledge the many creative artists who contributed their talents to making these films such a memorable visual journey. Foremost would have to be Gore, who was drawing pirate ships and tentacles in his sketchbook the first time I met him to talk about the films. His eye for composition, texture, and color support his quest for interesting characters within a compelling world, and his driving energy and aesthetic held us accountable to his high standard of craftsmanship.

The talented production designer of The Curse of the Black Pearl, Brian Morris, first explored the look of that ship, Port Royal and the world of Captain Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth, and Will. In the process of developing and going beyond that world in Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, supervising art director John Dexter was my essential partner. In the words of Captain Jack Sparrow: "Obstacles arose, ensued, were overcome," only because John was there to help hone and deliver the vision.

All of the amazing illustrators whose work you see between these covers deserve our admiration for their sublime images. In addition, there are many artists who are not showcased here, but contributed mightily to the look of the Pirates films. Conceptual drawings are great for establishing the important broad elements of the world you're designing, but you can't hand an illustration to a carpenter, plasterer, or painter and ask them to build from it, no matter how superb a construction team Greg Callas had. Those unrepresented but equally important souls include art directors, set designers, set decorators, model makers, sculptors, graphic designers, coordinators—in short, all the excellent members of our first rate art department who, during their long tenures over the months and years of production making these films, surely know what the heck I mean when I describe a journey.

This great mix of talent doesn't just coalesce and thrive on its own. We were supported with resources, creative input, the respect to do our jobs to the best of our abilities, and the freedom and encouragement to reach for the stars by our producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, without whom the rest of these acknowledgements would be moot.

Rick Heinrichs, Production Designer


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