Director Peter Lord Talks Aardman’s THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS; Plus 10 Things to Know About the Film

     March 27, 2012


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.  During the interviews Lord talked about how the project came to him, the challenges of making the film, how Aardman’s relationship with Sony actually works, why the UK and the US have different titles, Easter eggs, the music, voice casting, and a lot more.  In addition, I’ve picked out a few of the highlights of the interviews and created a ten things to know about the film.  It’s all after the jump.

peter-lord-image10 Things to Know:

  • Wallace from Wallace and Gromit makes a small, subtle appearance in the film.
  • The Pirate of the Year Awards sequence was the toughest one for the studio to create, as it involves slow-motion, big crowd scenes, camera tracking shots, and elaborate sets.
  • From finding the book to finishing the film took five years.
  • The biggest issue with the book was that it lacked story, so they fleshed out a lot of the characters and expanded the story in their adaptation.
  • The book was initially suggested as a television series.
  • Aardman’s relationship with Sony involves the animation studio pitching projects to Sony verbally. If Sony is interested in a verbal pitch, Aardman then works up a treatment. If the studio takes a liking to a treatment, then Aardman fashions a full script.
  • They integrated CG with puppets for some of the crowd scenes in the film.
  • After The Pirates! is finished, Aardman won’t have another movie for a while. Nick Park is currently in development on a movie for Sony, but he’s not ready to film yet. They currently have a TV series in production called Shaun the Sheep Herder.
  • The titles are different in the UK and the US because they wanted to keep the book title in the UK for name-recognition.
  • They initially had the Sex Pistols song “Friggin in the Riggin” in the film, but decided it was too inappropriate.

THE-PIRATES-BAND-OF-MISFITS-posterPeter Lord Exclusive Interview

  • :26 Their secret studio location. Talks about how no one has found them.
  • 1:18 How have things changed since the studio’s inception in the 1970s? Says when they began, it was a small animation world with small opportunities, but now it’s a huge open world with huge opportunities. If Nick Park hadn’t come on with his Wallace and Gromit shorts, he doesn’t think they’d be here now.
  • 2:52 Advances in technology. Says the advances haven’t made as a big a contribution as you’d think, as the model-making process of their features are still extremely labor-intensive.
  • 4:17 Easter eggs. Says Wallace makes a subtle appearance in the middle of the film.
  • 5:17 Are there any models that he plans on keeping from this film? Says they made all of the pirates as girl scouts for one gag and he’d like to have one of those.
  • 6:07 Says the Pirate of the Year Awards was the one sequence that was the hardest to work on. It has slow-motion, big crowd scenes, camera tracking shots, and elaborate sets.
  • 7:30 Does he have a favorite of the commercials they’ve done? Says they did one for Golden Syrup that was really bizarre. English comic Spike Mulligan sang the song and it features syrup being poured on cakes and things. It was done in George Powell style, Robert Krum tracking movement, with a surrealist songwriter.

The-Pirates-Band-of-MisfitsPeter Lord Group Interview

  • :13 Reshoots. Says it’s tough to reshoot and talks about the stress of shooting with stop-motion.
  • 1:31 It took five years from finding the book to finishing the film.
  • 2:03 Changes from the book to the movie. Says the book is very funny but doesn’t have a strong story. They fleshed out the characters more.
  • 4:30 Says he was always the one pushing for the visual and the spectacular. The author did a lot of undercut gags and underplayed moments where he would skip over the battles and exciting set pieces, so Lord wanted to bring out the visuals.
  • 5:51 How’d the book come to their attention? During a development meeting, someone brought the book onto the table and suggested it as a television series.
  • 7:07 The studio’s relationship with Sony. They pitch Sony projects in a verbal form, then if they’re interested the show them a treatment, and eventually a screenplay.
  • 8:15 Their biggest challenges on the project. Says it almost doesn’t feel like there were challenges because everyone in the crew were so up for it. He would tell them to go make the ship sail on the sea and six months later his crew would come back with a variety of choices for the sea.
  • 11:05 Was there a technical challenge that they had never came across before? Says there were lots. The captain’s beard was a big issue. Talks about shooting the film digitally.
  • 12:46 Integrating CG with the puppets. Says as they went on it got easier and easier. Talks about shooting crowd scenes.
  • 13:50 Talks about the wacky character names.
  • 15:29 How many projects does Aardman have going on? Says when The Pirates! is finished there won’t be another movie for a while. “Nick Park is working on a movie for Sony, but he’s not ready to start shooting yet. But that’s in development, then we have a TV series in production now called Shaun the Sheep Herder.”
  • 16:45 How’d they come up with the casting? Says Hugh Grant came up early on, but he was hard to convince. Jeremy Piven said he would sign on as long as the character was nothing like Ari from Entourage.
  • 18:17 Talks about the different titles in the US and the UK. They wanted to keep the book title in the UK for name-recognition, but since the book isn’t widely known in the US they didn’t feel attached to it.
  • 19:38 Music and songs. Says they ended up with a bit of a punk theme. They initially had the Sex Pistols song “Friggin in the Riggin” that everyone thought was so funny, but then decided it was too suggestive to use in the film. Says the score by Theodore Shapiro is mischievous.


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