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Hey boys and girls, weíre so happy to follow up on a story from earlier in the year when we first got a peek at footage from The Pirates, the newest claymation adventure from the excellent Aardman animation studios.  Director Peter Lord picked right up where we left off with an exclusive chat about the strange charms of flightless fowl, upcoming features from Nick Park and Steve Box, a possible Piratesí sequel and the excellence of Brian Blessed.

Dig it!

 

The Pirates

Director Peter Lord

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Thereís a very quick joke that appears on the Pirate of the Year application, when the Pirate Captain is asked to describe his roar and he has a choice of "regular," "incessant" and "Brian Blessed."  Where did that come from?

Peter Lord:  Oh! {Laughs} In the original book that Gideon Defoe wrote, he did a questionnaire in the end and the questionnaire says something like, ďApart from Brian Blessed, who would play the part of the Pirate Captain in a movie?Ē He asked.  And that was ten years ago when he wrote that joke.  Now, I knew Brian Blessed was never going to play the Pirate Captain -- that wouldnít be right at all.  But I knew he was going to be in the film somewhere, for sure.  And in Britain, heís a byword for piratical behaviour, so thatís why his name gets on the entry form there.

 

LMD:  See, I know in England theyíre going to get that, but how will that joke play in Idaho?

PL:  Interesting case in point, right?  In Idaho, theyíre not gonna know, but it doesnít matter, because the sceneís not about that, itís about something else.  Itís in the background.  If you get it, Iím delighted; if you donít, I donít mind.

 

LMD:  When it comes to those little asides and funny details that may contain specific references, how much of a discussion is there about the demographic?  How much consideration is given to something being perhaps too advanced for the younger kids that are going to see The Pirates?

PL:  Not much.  Thereís not much of that discussion, there really isnít.  But thereís a slightly different discussion, and I was quite active in this discussion that was to say, this film must be visually engaging the whole time, as well.  So, that if thereís a reference that children donít get -- and of course there will be references that children donít get, and some references that adults donít get -- that thereís nothing you misunderstand. The story, peopleís motives, what theyíre doing, why theyíre doing it and the consequence of what theyíre doing will always be clear.  Thatís the important thing.  So, thereís never any doubt about that.  And if something flies past youÖ  Letís say, big case in point, you know who Charles Darwin is, right?  It doesnít actually matter.  Heís a naturalist, isnít he?  But whatís clear is that heís a geeky little English gentleman, lousy with girls, feeling rather sorry for himself, and thatís clear.  If you never heard of Charles Darwin, the whole thing plays out perfectly well, but if you do know who Charles Darwin is, itís another layer.

 

LMD:  I was so taken with the 2D animation that appears in the opening credits and in segues throughout the film.  Is that a first for an Aardman film?

PL:  It sort of is, yes.  Now that you mention it, I hadnít thought about that.  Michael Schlingmann heís called, he did that.  Itís brilliant.  Thank you!

 

LMD:  It begs the question as to whether 2D animation is something that Aardman might ever be interested in doing?  Is it hand-drawn or CGI?

PL:  Itís all hand-drawn, but the comping is CG to get the 3D ship over the hill and that sort of thing. Yeah, we do do a bit.  Itís funny at Aardman; thereís always this one guy whoís there who wants to do a 2D project.  That wasnít him by the way, we got this guy in especially for the occasion.  Thereís something obvious about it, isnít there, something obvious about the treasure map that comes to life idea.  Thatís what it was.  Thereís a kind of a call back to old-style type of sequences, back in the day when 2D animation was king.  When I was a boy and I went to see a sort of comedy-adventure caper and it had an animated title sequence, I was in heaven; I thought it was the perfect combination, so I was trying to do that.

 

LMD:  Since The Pirates is ostensibly a period pieceÖ

PL:  Yes, allegedly.

 

LMD:  How careful were you about measuring how much anachronistic humour like the showing the Rubikís Cube during the science fair or the Pirate Captain making the ďcall meĒ gesture to a friend?

PL:  We didnít do much of that.  In fact, I can tell you that it was kind of a dirty word actually, to do too much of that.  We were very keen not to overplay that card.  When you think about it, you could do it everywhere.  The phone gesture was actually in the script from a long time ago and for some reason it seemed okay.  The Rubikís Cube was just a sight gag that I thought was really funny, but we were keen not to overplay it.  I think you get to be a bit smartass if youíre not careful and I didnít want to do that.  But itís absolutely, completely full of anachronism; itís so inaccurate.  I actually quite like history and Iím quite good with how people mightíve dressed, how they mightíve talked, the sort of things they wouldnít have done.  I read a lot of history and historical novels, so Iím quite good at it and I just forgot all that and just went for it.  Someone would say ďWhen is this film meant to be set?  It doesnít make any sense.Ē And I would say, ďAh, yes, itís set in the olden days.Ē And thatís about as good as it gets.  So itís s schoolboy understanding of history.

 

LMD:  Thereís a couple of cameos from famous people around that time.  The John Merrick appearance wasnít one I wouldnít have expected.

PL:  No, you didnít see that coming.  And apparently, Iím told that John Merrick was born about fifty years after Jane Austin.  So, not accurate.

 

LMD:  Speaking of anachronistic things, the soundtrack is fantastic.  How did you go about choosing those amazing songs?

PL:  Thank you, I love them.  I must give a lot of credit to my editor, Justin Krish, she was very active in finding music.  It came piece by piece.  The very first thing we had on there was even better.  The Sex Pistolsí Friggin' in the Riggin', but that couldnít happen.  That was not just a bit naughty, but utterly obscene, Triple-X obscene, so we couldnít do that.  And then we had the ďLetís set a course for London,Ē London Calling is a little bit obvious, I suppose, but it works so well.  We just saw it up there and it gave such a kick of energy and it sounds so English, doesnít it?  Classic, classic English punk. It sounds so British, that.  Itís a full-on, hearty, risk-taking adventure theyíre going on. That was great.  The Tenpole Tudor song {Swords of a Thousand Men}, I tried that out in San Diego, I showed a making-of, a two-minute compilation, we cut it to Tenpole Tudor, ďWow, thatís great!Ē  I can see and hear it in the room, so thatís why that was in there.  Flight of the Conchords was ďyes!Ē  You know, itís just brilliant, a perfect match.  We ended up cutting the whole sequence to their song and itís perfect.  Itís interesting, Jemaine Clement actually worked on proposing a title song for us, but it didnít work because he was too funny and it was too confusing to have funny images and funny sound.  Iím Not Crying, the sad song -- the really funny sad song -- is kind of perfect because the picture is quite calm, itís not boring, but itís not a gag, itís a bittersweet, fairly ridiculous atmosphere and that song matched it perfectly.

 

LMD:  What is Aardmanís love affair with flightless fowl?

PL:  Thatís an intriguing question. {Laughs}

 

LMD:  Well, thereís Feathers McGraw, who was a penguin, thereís been many, many chickens such as in Chicken Run, and now we have Polly the dodo.

PL:  Isnít that interesting?  Why flightless fowl particularly?  Isnít it funny?  Birds are curious creatures, arenít they?  Itís because theyíve got beaks, I think.  Theyíre much less human than some of the animals that have mouths.  Polly was an interesting creation because the really intriguing thing to those that see the film, is she came in quite late -- not very late, but surprisingly late.  Weíd been talking about the story for some months and she wasnít in it and so we had some other adventure that didnít involve her at all, and then she came in and that was the key to the plot, really, when she came in.  So then sheís in the plot, but she had no character.  She was just a commodity to move the plot along.  And then she was drawn, built-- very quick sculpt, the guy sculpting her got her straight away, it was very good -- but then she had no character, still.  And then somebody made her do that funny walk with her legs swinging out and her bum swinging to and fro, suddenly she was alive and then suddenly she became sort of delightful.

 

LMD:  This is your first 3D project.  Were there a lot of changes in your animation approach or in staging due to this new aspect?

PL:  There certainly were changes; there were things you do and donít do with regard to composition.

 

LMD:  Thereís not a lot of pop-out moments; thereís the ďextra-gruesomeĒ pirate flag and the Pirate Captainís sword coming toward the screen at one point.

PL:  Thereís not much.  Do you know, I could tell you I actually wanted to do more, but the pacing would never allow it; you sort of stop things when you stick something out at the audience, cos I love watching that, actually.  I could never find the time to do it and I wanted to, so thereís not much of that.  So mostly we used it like as they say, immersively, just to take you into our beautiful world.  We made these fabulous models; the Captainís cabin is such a beautiful model, itís a lovely thing and everything in it has a little story to tell about the captain, his history, his vanity, his insecurity and his holidays.  Itís all there and 3D gives you slightly more chance to enjoy that and to really be delightfully immersed in that world, Iím very happy with it.

 

LMD:  Speaking of things tucked around the Captainís cabin, I wondered if hidden there or around the film might be little homages to previous Aardman victories?

PL:  Wallace and Gromit do make a brief appearance.

 

LMD:  Where are they?

PL:  I canít tell you.  I kept saying we shouldíve got the techno-trousers {from The Wrong Trousers} in the science fair.  Damn.

 

LMD:  When we spoke previously about The Pirates, you mentioned the new method that allows you to move the claymation charactersí mouths faster, but loses a bit of the range of expression, and I know you embrace new technology, but it is possible the technology makes it too perfect?

PL:  Ah, well, thatís a very interesting question, cos perfect is not a good word for me.  Iím not looking for perfection.  There is a danger there, I know there is.  I know perfectly well that there are those people who will just prefer Wallace and Gromit because itís so clay and hand-made.  I made a choice and it was aesthetic/practical equally to shoot it this way.  I would lose a certain something, but the advantage was we could shoot a lot faster as a result, and I think that we gain by shooting faster because I think you gain more energy out of the performance when you can shoot faster.  So, that was my logic to myself.

 

LMD:  What is next for Aardman?

PL:  Well, Nick Park and Steve Box both have project sort of jostling at the line.  And I donít know how weíre going to do it.  I donít know which will be lucky first.  And Iím hoping for a Pirates sequel.  That would be my ideal.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

April 20th, 2012

 

Click here for our coverage of The Pirates special presentation with some words from Peter Lord.

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive photos by L.M.D.

Stills courtesy of  Sony Pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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