October 19, 2011


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was a very different film than its three predecessors. Whereas Gore Verbinski’s trilogy traded on the charm of Johnny Depp’s anti-hero swashbuckling his way through some of the biggest effects ever committed to film, this latest entry took a more intimate approach, focusing on the love story of a mermaid and a young missionary who fights to protect her.

Read on to find out why what became of the most extreme monsters.

When Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides began to film, there was a brand new inhuman beast, the mermaid.


As with the Zombie crew in the original and Davey Jones in the earlier sequels, the mermaids in part four were originally designed to be completely digital. Each of the actresses playing a mermaid was fitted with tracking dots so that an otherworldly sea beast could replace her familiar shape.

The first version of the mermaids was closer to the Na’Vi from Avatar. They had giant, anime style eyes, blue skin and incredibly large mouths, in which they hid rows of piranha teeth. As they swam through the ocean, the mermaids were supposed to have hair that turned into seaweed and surrounded them like a veil, covering the parts of their bodies that were too provocative for a Disney film.

The look was startling and appealingly grotesque, very much in keeping with the strangeness of the franchise. But with only months to go before opening night, director Rob Marshall decided that the mermaids were a bit too strange, even for these Stranger Tides.

He feared that audiences might have trouble accepting the young missionary’s (Sam Claflin) attraction to the mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) if she were not immediately identifiable as a woman. If their love story didn’t play, then the entire movie might, if you’ll pardon the pun, sink.

Consequently, Syrena had to be distinctly human. But if Syrena were human, then the other mermaids had to match. Consequently, Marshall and the producers decided to scale back the creepy weirdness of the mermaids in order to accommodate a more human romance.

While it’s a Monday morning quarterback move to debate the wisdom of Marshall’s decision, you can still imagine what might have been if you check out the Blu-Ray’s concept galleries. Watch the video below for more on the story and check back tomorrow for details on some of the disc’s other unique features. Finally, later this week, look for full interviews with Visual Effects Art Director Aaron McBride and Visual Effects Supervisor Ben Snow.


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