Key Animator Ian Whitlock Talks Aardman Animation’s THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS

     April 22, 2012

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If you’re a fan of Aardman Animation (Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away), I’m pretty sure you have April 27th circled on your calender.  That’s because on that date, we finally get a new movie from one of the best animation companies in the world.  In their latest film directed by Peter Lord, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Hugh Grant stars in his first animated role as the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain who is trying to win the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award with his rag-tag crew (Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey, and Ashley Jensen).  However, with a diabolical queen (Imelda Staunton) and bitter rivals like Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek) trying to stop him, it’s not going to be an easy task.  David Tennant is also along for the ride as the voice of Charles Darwin.  For more on the film, here’s a featurette, behind-the-scenes images, and my set visit.

I recently got to speak with Peter Lord in both a group setting and on my own (click here for the interview).  On the same day, I got to participate in a roundtable interview with Key Animator Ian Whitlock.  If you’re curious about the technical challenges of making a stop-motion movie, you’re in the right place.  Whitlock talks about what he did on the project, the various jobs of the animators, matching up voice performances, Easter eggs, and a lot more.  Hit the jump to watch.

THE-PIRATES-BAND-OF-MISFITS-posterIan Whitlock time index:

  • :02 Talks about how long he’s been on the project and what, specifically, he did on the film. To begin with he worked on the design sculpts and then he moved on to the time-consuming process of working on the characters’ mouths. He built mouth shapes to capture all the dialogue needed. For the Pirate Captain character, they did about 250 mouths. In total, about 7,000 mouths were made for all the characters in the film.
  • 4:09 Talks about the test time, during which they work with the models to decide how the final versions of the characters should be. He spent a lot of time on the character of Darwin.
  • 5:50 Talks about the shoot, which lasted about 17 months. Says he spent about a year working in one little cabin of the film for Darwin’s scenes.
  • 7:07 The jobs of the animators. Talks about how the director puts certain animators on specific sequences for long periods of time.
  • 7:53 Props. After working for so many years, they have a pretty good idea of what the character models can and can’t interact with.
  • 9:02 When working on their specific sequences, the animators will be on set working on the sequence instead of at a desk somewhere.
  • 10:27 Matching up voice performances with the mouths on the characters. Says a team listens to the lines and makes a selection of mouths to use on the characters.
  • The-Pirates-Band-of-Misfits-behind-the-scene-image12:48 Does he miss the way they worked on the character before on Wallace and Gromit, with clay mouths? Says it was incredibly labor intensive. Talks about the difficulties of working before they had the pop-out mouths that they use now.
  • 14:04 Easter eggs. In the pile of gold in the Queen’s gold room there are quite a few things hidden.
  • 14:37 Talks about The Pirates! having the largest scope of any film they’ve done before.
  • 16:05 The pick-up shots they were able to do at the end of the shoot. Talks about getting to add things they they initially thought wouldn’t fit into the film.
  • 17:02 Did they ever talk about digitally correcting things that they didn’t nail? Says no, but since they shot digitally it was a lot easier for them go back and add things in.
  • 18:09 What happens to the puppets once they’re through with them? A lot of them get boxed up to go on exhibition. Since they’re foam latex they have to do their best to preserve them.
  • 18:48 Will they re-use the puppets for the sequel? They have all the molds so they can go back and recreate every puppet.

The-Pirates-Band-of-Misfits-behind-the-scene-image

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