With infidel Mickey Mouse still in hiding after last week's death-sentence fatwa, Disney appears to be rolling the dice on a bold rebranding of sorts. Behold — Disney Depp (née Johnny), whose anchoring of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise yielded yesterday's news of not only Pirates 4, but also the star's attachment as Tim Burton's Mad Hatter in a live-action Alice in Wonderland and as Tonto in a revival of The Lone Ranger. The announcement was made Wednesday in Disney's marathon State of the Mouse Biennial, putting its jittery investors at ease, its fans in an uproar and the press into some kind of overwhelmed coma. Johhny Depp? As Tonto? In Josh Groban's incredulous words, "Really?!"Yes, really:

A daylong preview of upcoming Disney movies and projects, held Wednesday at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland, ended with a surprise appearance by the actor, outfitted as Jack Sparrow, walking onstage to the tune of "The William Tell Overture," the Lone Ranger theme. The Depp castings were just a couple of the developments that Disney execs, led by chairman Dick Cook, offered up to a packed house of exhibitors and media types. In lieu of doing major presentations at industry confabs like ShoWest, Disney traditionally throws elaborate show-and-tells in Los Angeles every few years to promote its wares.

Those wares include competition for Depp as the default Mouse Heir: Another report places Nicolas Cage in an updated Sorcrer's Apprentice, set in present-day New York and featuring Cage as the Sorcerer. We have 10 bucks on Miley Cyrus as the title character. Seriously, Mickey, nut up and come back anytime — all is forgiven.