‘The Road To El Dorado’ was one of my favourite films as a child, and when I discovered the Pirates of the Caribbean films I loved them too. This isn’t surprising since, as I later discovered, they shared the same writing duo of Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, who brought a similar feel of swashbuckling adventure mixed with supernatural elements and modern wit to both worlds. They also share at least one other name behind the scenes in composer Hans Zimmer; listen to the soundtrack for ‘El Dorado’ and you’ll hear some similar themes to his work on the ‘Pirates’ franchise. However the two worlds presented here may have even more in common, and I intend to prove that they are, in fact, one and the same.
The opening of ‘El Dorado’ tells us it is set in 1519, and of the four ‘Pirates’ films, the only one with a confirmed date is ‘On Stranger Tides’, which production designer John Myhre confirms is set in 1750. With over two hundred years between the films, it’s feasible that ‘El Dorado’ could be a prequel, but does it display enough of a connection to be considered as such? Well, the most overt link is the mention of the real-life Spanish conquistador Cortés in ‘Curse Of The Black Pearl’. Barbossa and his crew are made undead by the gold they discover, which was originally cursed by the Aztec peoples Cortés stole it from. In ‘El Dorado’, heroes Miguel and Tulio hitch a ride to South America with Cortés’ expedition, and must rescue the city of gold from him at the end. But aside from the inclusion of an historical figure and the theme of gold in both stories, why else would the two worlds be connected? That brings me to my main theory that links them, and it’s a major one; Jack Sparrow’s father, Captain Teague, is Tulio.
A seemingly outlandish theory. How can the characters be the same seeing as there’s more than two-hundred years between their appearances? The answer lies in dialogue between Jack Sparrow and his father from the third ‘Pirates’ film, ‘At World’s End’. Jack is considering gaining immortality by stabbing the heart of Davy Jones and taking his place as Captain of the Flying Dutchman. Teague gives him some knowing advice; “It’s not just about living forever, Jackie. The trick is living with yourself forever.” From the sounds of it, Teague knows a thing or two about immortality. Jack mentions that his father has “seen it all, done it all”. One of those adventures could have been the discovery of the legendary lost city of gold, and a later one involving him achieving immortality. In ‘On Stranger Tides’ in response to Jack’s enquiry, Teague asks sarcastically “Does this face look like it’s been to the Fountain of Youth?” Though this isn’t an actual denial, we can infer that he achieved an extended lifespan through some other means, like Barbossa’s crew or Davy Jones did. But just because he’s a character who’s implied to be immortal, why does that link him to Tulio? For that, we go back to his first appearance in ‘At World’s End’.
When Jack asks “How’s Mum?” Teague holds up a shrunken head, which Jack confirms is his mother with the response “She looks great.” Time for some more real history; the only documented practice of headshrinking was in the northwestern Amazon, by native tribes in Ecuador and Peru. And the source of the legends of El Dorado was eventually discovered to be the Muisca tribe who lived in present-day Columbia, which shares a border with both Ecuador and Peru. Though the real Muisca tribe simply passed down legends about past kings who would cover themselves in gold and jump into a nearby lake, ‘The Road To El Dorado’ purports the legend to be a real place, so it likely takes place in Columbia. And the largest part of the Amazon rainforest (which ‘El Dorado’ shows us is where the city is hidden) found in Columbia is toward the borders with Ecuador and Peru. Why is this relevant? Because Tulio falls in love with El Dorado native Chel and leaves the city with her. And if the city of gold is based nearby to the only people confirmed to practice headshrinking, the citizens of El Dorado may have practiced it as well.
So in Tulio we have a European man who loves a girl from the only area where headshrinking was practiced, and in Captain Teague we have a European man living over two hundred years later who is implied to be immortal, with a shrunken head of his wife. And if Tulio/Teague gained a long lifespan, Chel may well have too, letting them live long enough to conceive Jack Sparrow, who as far as we know ages normally. Even though Teague is clearly still around in the ‘Pirates’ films, Chel could have died in a way that circumvented whatever made them live so long, and Teague could have shrunken her head in respect for her people’s traditions. Combine that with the reference to Cortés’ gold, similar supernatural themes (though the creation story of El Dorado is never confirmed to be more than a legend, the city’s high priest Tzekel-Khan clearly has some dark magic powers, and the ‘Pirates’ series includes literal goddess of the sea Calypso) and the fact that both ‘El Dorado’ and ‘Pirates’ have the same writers, and you have a strong case for presenting the two movie universes as one.
Now, if only I could find a link to ‘Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull’ somehow….