The first set photos from Disney’s blockbuster sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides showed up online last week as filming on the big-budget project began in Hawaii.

Now the Mouse House has sent out an official press release for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean adventure, which features – among other things – some basic information concerning the plot of the film.

We’ve long known that On Stranger Tides will share certain plot elements with a novel of the same title – namely, that it would revolve around a quest to find the Fountain of Youth.  The question since then has been exactly how new characters such as Ian McShane’s Blackbeard or Penelope Cruz’s “feisty” femme character would fit into the latest hair-brained venture undertaken by our favorite loopy buccaneer, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

Well, here’s the official word on the film’s story, via Walt Disney Studios:

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” captures the fun, adventure and humor that ignited the hit franchise — this time in Disney Digital 3D(TM).  In this action-packed tale of truth, betrayal, youth and demise, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) crosses paths with a woman from his past (Cruz), and he’s not sure if it’s love — or if she’s a ruthless con artist who’s using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth.

When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn’t know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.

Franchise players Kevin R. McNally (Joshamee Gibbs) and the malevolent Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) will return in On Stranger Tides as well.  Director Gore Verbinski has been replaced by Rob Marshall (Chicago) – however, the POTC trilogy screenwriting duo of Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio are back for the fourth movie.

If there’s any one word that can sum up the POTC films it is this: excessive.  The original 2003 flick (Curse of the Black Pearl) was fun, if overlong and crammed full with CGI effects and expensive set pieces going “boom!”  Both Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End were simply overloaded with characters, subplots, action sequences, and had even more butt-numbingly long running times. Ironically enough, the first film now seems almost low-key in comparison.

Will On Stranger Tides tone everything down a bit and favor quality over quantity?  Is anyone still really pumped for another Pirates of the Caribbean flick?  Feel free to let your voice be heard in the comments section below.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides arrives in regular and 3D theaters in the U.S. on May 20th, 2011.

Source: Walt Disney Pictures (via Coming Soon)