The Pirates! Band of Misfits Preview: A Conversation With Director Peter Lord

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With a proclamation of ‘Lights, Camera, Animation,’ the press recently got together with British director Peter Lord (Arthur Christmas, Chicken Run), for a sneak peak at highlights from his upcoming March animated Sony Pictures feature, The Pirates! Band Of Misfits. The filmmaker, animator, producer and co-founder of the Academy award-winning Aardman Animations Studio, best known for its clay animated films and in particular his plasticine duo Wallace & Gromit, expressed an immense joy for his latest project that was a combination of dedicated creative perseverance and abundant enthusiasm.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits stars Hugh Grant in his first animated role as the somewhat less than focused Pirate Captain, presiding over a rowdy crew counting Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson, Russell Tovey and Ashley Jensen. And crossing swords so to speak, with competitor buccaneers Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (Salma Hayek), for the coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. Likewise running interference on unfettered marauding on the high seas, is a cranky Queen Victoria, animated with exuberant gusto by Imelda Staunton.

Lord described The Pirates! Band of Misfits, adapted by Gideon Defoe from his own book, as ‘a journey of five years’ from page to screen. And the crafting of Hugh Grant’s Pirate Captain as ‘good hearted, optimistic, cheerful, and great to be around. But with a dramatic lack of insight and tunnel vision.’ And to round out the story, a formidable quest fitting for a bold buccaneer – namely the Pirate Of The Year Award – ‘a bit like the Oscars.’

And somehow Charles Darwin fatefully enters into the tall tale mix, with the plundering of his beloved Beagle ship and all scientific specimens on board. Even as an irate Queen Victoria threatens major mayhem against Pirate Captain and his crackpot crew. Also factoring in, are ridiculous hats and ‘the Captain briefly disguised as a Girl Scout.’ But as Lord pointed out with a kind of mischievous pride that would include science benefiting from a bit of magic, ‘If you’re looking for historical accuracy, this is not the place to come. We try to be as wrong as possible!’

On a more serious note, Lord displayed images of the magnificently hand assembled models of the cast, the combined efforts of sculptors, woodworkers and painters. Along with eighteen months of crafting over 8,000 mouths, teeth and lips. And finally animation involving ‘every frame by hand and by eye’ with precise ‘expression, gesture and timing’ in the creation of the puppetry.

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits opens in Theaters on April 27, 2012.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.