Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean

While the FSR staff spent most of yesterday at various beaches around the world, sipping Mai Tais and pretending to be secret agents in order to attract members of the opposite sex, it appears that the rest of the movie reporting world was at the Walt Disney Showcase, where the mousy studio let fly all kinds of plans for the future. Among them was the further pillaging of the box office power of one Johnny Depp.

After the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies made the weight of the Magic Kingdom in gold for Disney over the past 5 years, it appears that he might be their sole solution for the current economic crisis. Today they confirmed that Depp has officially signed on to star in the upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer produced adaptation of the classic radio and TV show The Lone Ranger. Depp will play Tonto, the Native American sidekick to the masked Texas Ranger, and together they will dispense justice and whatnot.

As well, the rumors that Depp had been cast as The Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s 3D live-action/CG-animated adaptation of Alice in Wonderland were also confirmed. And according to my good friend Pete over at Slashfilm:

Principal photography is set to begin in November, with a March 5th 2010 release date previously announced. Concept art from the film was shown, showing the classic Alice in Wonderland scenes done in Tim Burton style, complete with curved and slanted corners. Everything is really stylized. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb have huge heads, and are shaped like upward missiles. None of the characters look like a dramatic departure from the traditional designs.

And finally, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Richard “Dick” Cook announced that Depp has signed on to reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean 4. As of the end of the third film, Captain Jack had set sail by himself to go in search of the fountain of youth. We can only assume that the fourth installment will follow that journey.

So as you can see, Johnny Depp is going to be the adult version of a Mouseketeer for the next few years, a Disney contract star akin to Miley Cyrus. The only difference is that Depp is one of the best actors on the face of the planet, and he’s been at the top of his game for a few years now. Okay, so that isn’t the only difference, but you get the point. Personally, I am very excited to see what Tim Burton does with Alice and as long as Pirates 4 isn’t three and a half hours long, it should be a winner. As for The Lone Ranger, we’ll see — that could go either way. It still needs a script, a director and a star to fill the title role — then we can start speculating.

Of the three upcoming Disney projects that Johnny Depp will be involved with, which one are you most interested in?

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