PIRATE'S PASSAGE, a full-length animated feature, opens with a pirate ship attack on another ship in July 1717, apparently not far from Gray Rocks, Nova Scotia. The attack is especially brutal and "without mercy", and the victim ship is scuttled with, presumably, the death of all hands.
The 7 chests collected in the raid are taken back to Gray Rocks and hidden in a secret cove below the great manor house that sits on the hill above it. It is the cruel master of the manor that runs the merciless bunch of pirates we observed in the attack.
One Capt. Charles Johnson has watched these events with strong disapproval. He asks a young lad, Jim Hargreaves, who apparently is employed in the great manor house, to show him the secret cove where the treasure was hidden; Jim seems to be fully aware of what is happening. Having seen enough, Capt. Johnson, who has his own pirate ship and crew, chases after the departing pirate ship belonging to the cruel master of the manor and summarily sends it to the bottom with all hands as retribution, and does it where the master of the manner can see these events through a spyglass. Capt. Johnson and crew then depart Gray Rocks with the intent to return sometime in future years.
Fast forward to 1952, and at the height of a roaring storm, who should come sailing masterfully back to Gray Rocks? None other than the selfsame Capt. Charles Johnson. And, interestingly, not looking a day older.
In 1952, the great manor house is owned by down-on-her-luck widow and her young son, also called Jim and who (of course) is the spitting image of that same Jim from so long ago. Jim meets the Captain as he docks his small sailing vessel.
Pending inspection by the local immigration officials, Capt. Johnson takes up residence in the manor, which the widow is running as a restaurant and inn, befriending Jim and making room and board payments that allow the widow to stave off foreclosure of the inn. The threat of foreclosure comes from one Roy Moehner (pronounced "meaner"), a Mr. Potter -like character, who is grimly determined to take over the inn and most of the town. Of course, Moehner holds the mortgage on the inn.
At this point there will be no more surprises from the story arc. The set up makes it clear that the Captain will obviously save the day, somehow removing the threat of Moehner and retrieving the treasure to ensure the financial security of the widow and her son forever.
But while there are no surprises from the story arc itself, there are a number of elements from the plot details that are VERY surprising. Here are a few
Capt. Charles Johnson is some sort of a supernatural person. Within minutes of the beginning of the film we establish that he has "signed on" to a mission spanning hundreds of years of who-knows-what. Apparently of doing good. If that isn't unusual enough, he maintains a very low level of secrecy as many people throughout history are aware of his nature and accept his presence without comment or surprise. Exactly WHAT sort of supernatural character he is is never made clear. The only supernatural characteristics that are ever established are that he can grab burning logs with his bare hands, travel through time with guests within something similar to visions, live for hundreds of years, and apparently gets really cold on occasion.
The Capt. takes Jim on vision journeys to the past to help teach Jim life lessons. Given the premise of the overall story, this is not that unusual. What IS unusual is that these journeys are half visions but also half very solid. People they encounter in these visions, should the Captain and Jim be seen, are quite capable of seeing our time traveling pair and in numerous instances interact with them. Jim even returns from one vision quest with a bit of gore on him from a battle they were observing. And evidently if Jim were to be injured on one of these vision journeys, he would actually be hurt. And yet the most common way they return from one of these trips is by being awakened by Jim's mother as Jim and the Capt. have fallen asleep by the fire.
While the movie is an animated feature, it does not appear to be intended for children. People are frequently killed, the Capt. drinks rum at every opportunity, and the notion of confronting and perhaps even killing one's enemies is spoken about quite baldly. There is NOT a lot of political correctness in this movie.
Most stories nowadays don't allow people who find treasures to keep them, but there's none of that here.
And when the Capt.'s work is finished with the removal of any threat posed by Mr. Moehner and the retrieval of the treasure for the widow, as is traditional, one would expect the Captain to be on his way. Perhaps in a puff of smoke or a nice fadeout. On the contrary, the Captain makes it quite clear that he intends to hang around for quite some time.
The quality of the animation is above average, and Donald Sutherland is not only the voice of Capt. Charles Johnson but he also is one of the two people who wrote the screenplay based on the novel "Pirate's Passage" by William Gilkerson.
Worth a watch but make sure you view it before you let your younger kids see it.