A self-proclaimed polite pirate, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) with metro-sexual tendencies has his eye on the prize of winning a local annual contest to be named “Pirate of the Year”. Only things getting in his way are his lack of assertiveness resulting in not producing the required booty and the other competitors that consists of a cut-throat woman pirate, Cutlass Liz (Selma Hayek), and a self-absorbed cocky pirate, Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven).
In this Sony Pictures Animation in 3D, their adventurous race to win the award for themselves is told through the art and technique of stop-motion film making done by the leading artists in the field, “Aardman Animations”, a UK-based studio that has a past history of nine Academy Award nominations, winning four, for films: Creature Comforts (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993), A Close Shave (1995), Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005).
Ardman Animations was created in 1972 and is co-founded by Peter Lord and David Sproxton. A 40-year partnership has brought audiences top-notch stop-motion story-telling with their latest, “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” as no exception. A quirky group of characters fills-out the imaginative story based on the book “The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists: A Novel” by Gideon Defoe whom also wrote the screenplay for this movie.
In a recent press conference and clips screening, Sony’s President of Digital Productions, Robert Osher gave an introductory speech. He stated, “we view animation as a technique rather than genre”. Osher also said that Ardman is most famous for stop-motion with their latest being “Arthur Christmas”. “You can’t take your eyes off it and it pulls you in” he said referring to Ardman’s stop-motion craft.
Directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt, Lord was also on-hand for an introduction of movie clips and questions. Lord said that Ardman came to Sony five years ago with one half page of sketches with the pitch that it’s not your standard Pirates film. The clips from “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” that followed were telling of an extremely detailed and imaginative one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
One piece of trivia from the set is that the pirate ship that was built for the film was completely hand-crafted and was made up of 44,569 parts. It took 5,000 hours of development and ended up weighing 770 pounds at 14 feet long and 20 feet high and made out of wood. The designer of the ship also worked on the movies, Time Bandits, Brazil, and Hook.
Two particular scenes that were unforgettable had the movie’s hero, Pirate Captain, in uncompromising positions. The first had him placed in a daunting and intimidating bar situation that grouped him with his pirate competitors where they showed-off their enormous troves of booty as they filled-out their entries for “Pirate of the Year” contest. The second was a hilarious scene that included Charles Darwin where Pirate Captain had to present his parrot, which in reality is a Dodo bird, to a Scientist Symposium. One invention that proceeded his was the hot-air balloon. The inventor explained the purpose as “to see down women’s shirts”.
A very impressive character featured in this movie is Mr Bobo, Pirate Captain’s monkey who does not speak, but communicates through incredible gestures and facial expressions. We asked Key Animator, Ian Whitlock who acts-out each characters scenes while animating them, if he got any inspiration for this character by watching silent films. Whitlock said, “we did initially starting-out to get an idea. There’s a really strange chimpanzee. I have no idea who he is”, Whitlock may have been referring to either Snooky the Chimp, or Jiggs who appeared in “Tarzan” films as well as “Laurel and Hardy”.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” is said to be Ardman’s most ambitious film to-date, employing 320 animators compared to their past project Wallace & Gromit that required 240 animators. When a reporter asked, why stop-motion?, his response was because “it’s what we do best…we’ve evolved this amazing team that does it so well”. The other reason he stated is because “the audience kind of knows that it’s real. They feel the reality and they can feel how much care and love has gone into everything. Most movies now are in CG which is fine and wonderful but there’s no wonder in it because everyone from a four year old to an eight year old, can see something amazing and say great design, great special effects. But, you don’t believe it. In our world there’s a sense of wonder. People like puppets and Muppets. They believe it’s alive. It’s a mystery, it’s magic.”.
Whitlock agreed and said that adults get to be a kid again and get to play with it. As for puppets, this movie used 6,818 puppet mouths created for all the characters. Unlike past projects, this Ardman stop-motion project combined visual effects and computer animation because, Lord stated, “one thing you can’t do in stop-frame animation, it’s the sea”.
“The Pirates! Band of Misfits” opens in 3D in theaters April 27, 2012. www.ThePirates-Movie.com