Remember a time when Pirates of the Caribbean referred solely to a New Orleans Square attraction at Disney’s theme parks? Jump forward to 2011, which will see the release of  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – a fourth movie based off the ride – and chances are good it won’t be the last installment in the franchise.

A new featurette for Pirates of the Caribbean 4 has been released, and it very briefly summarizes the history and evolution of the Pirates concept – going so far as to include archived footage of Walt Disney showing off miniatures that provided the blueprint for the original ride.

For those who need their memory refreshed, here’s the official synopsis for On Stranger Tides:

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope 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 (Ian 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.

For more, check out the second TV spot – which amounts to a truncated version of the second theatrical trailer – for On Stranger Tides (via TheMovieBox.net) below:

Now check out the behind-the-scenes featurette for On Stranger Tides – as hosted by Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush in character as his scraggly sea-faring counterpart, Hector Barbossa:

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer plans for all future Pirates movies to follow On Stranger Tides‘ example and be stand-alone ventures featuring Captain Jack Sparrow. Before that, though, the fourth film in the series has to demonstrate that Depp’s rascally buccaneer really works as the central character around which the main storyline – and all the related subplots – of the movie revolves.

While that was in part the case with the first film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, it was less so with the sequel Dead Man’s Chest. By the time the threequel, At World’s End, arrived, Captain Jack didn’t even show up until around the forty-minute mark or so. The success of this franchise is due to Depp’s take on the character, no one denies that – and yet the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have only really been partly the story of Jack Sparrow, up to now.

We’ll see how Captain Jack handles the spotlight by himself in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which arrives in the 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D format next month on May 20th.

Source: Walt Disney Pictures