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Hey kids, I'm so happy to have seen a few very funny minutes of early footage from the latest Aardman feature, The Pirates! Band of Misfits.  Director and co-founder of Aardman Animations, Peter Lord was there to give us some insight to the madcap magic of Bristolís most famous moviemakers.

Dig it!

 

The Pirates! Band of Misfits Work-in-Progress Presentation

Director Peter Lord

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  After viewing these hilarious clips, I have to wonder who Aardman makes films for?  Thereís plenty of slapstick and physical humour, but then you have the scene featuring the theme from 2001, A Space Odyssey, with a chimp playing the drums, which no small child is going to get.

Peter Lord:  I have no idea who thatís for.  Thatís a real good example because it actually works on several levels; because a three year old is going to be delighted by a chimp playing the cymbals.  I could tell you we had a story artist that came up the idea of playing the 2001 theme -- that was his idea, that wasnít in the script.  He came up with the idea of the guy with the accordion playing it -- good joke.  Originally, the same guy that played the accordion had played the drums -- boom-boom-boom-boom -- and that was pretty funny.  But then somebody said, ďOh, letís make Mr. Bobo the chimp play the drums.Ē  And there was no logic to it at all, because heís Darwinís servant, but then he gives a shrug as if to say, ĎIím sorry, they made me.í  And then everyone laughed at that, so we put in the crescendo and cymbal crash at the end that wasnít in there.  So thatís how it evolves.

And who do we make it for?  For ourselves is the honest answer. Yeah.  Who else can you make it for, really?  If you start calculatedly making a film for an audience, Iím very dubious about that.  I donít think that works.  It doesnít end well in my opinion.  So, we make it for ourselves {but} weíre not idiots; we know that parents will bring children who are too young to see it -- that does happen.  And you canít stop it.  Parents will bring a three year old and a three year old isnít going to be terribly interested in Charles Darwin, but what he might be interested in is the monkey, or the funny dancing.  Thereís lots of pure slapstick because I like slapstick.  I love slapstick well done.  I love verbal comedy.  I like visual comedy.  I like satire, I like a pratfall, I like a fart joke -- in fact, there arenít any in this.

The great thing about this film is what Amy Pascal, whoís the head of Sony said after a screening; she said, ďThe great thing is youíve found a way to tell any kind of joke.Ē And in some way, which Iím happy to put down to serendipity that it worked out that way; that we found a structure that will take lots of sorts of jokes.

 

LMD:  I recently asked Arthur Christmas director, Sarah Smith what made Aardman films so different and she thought part of it was being tucked away in Bristol.  Do you agree with that theory?

PL:  That is interesting, because we are in our own world, for sure.  Which I am so aware of when we come to visit Hollywood.  So, you come to Hollywood Ė WOW! -- you know, hereís a place where the whole damned city is all about film.  Everybodyís thinking about it, everyoneís talking about it, everyone is working in it, of course.  Stars on every corner.  Everyoneís a script writer -- itís all about film.  Now, in Bristol, not at all.  Itís a very small industry in Bristol.  Weíre most of it.  If I meet anyone in the movie business in Bristol, I probably employ them, the few that are out there.  So, weíre certainly not Hollywood and weíre not even in London, where thereís quite a big movie industry.  So, historically weíve set up in boondocks and weíre very, very happy there.  So, as a result, we have grown our own culture.  I think we have.  I donít want to sound inbred -- cos you hear about that.  Not inbred, but our own culture of filmmaking, but including in that practical thing, like the way the puppets are made, like the way the sets are made, thatís a highly evolved process now, included in that ...  Perhaps itís a sense of fun.  Even though we donít talk about it very much; we donít, but we know what we like, you know?  After so many pictures and projects, well, you just know.  You just know if you like that project, or you donít like this Ė thatís funny, thatís not funny, you just know even if you donít talk about it consciously.  And it could be also a culture of the sort of people we are.  For example, itís very, very important to me that people enjoy making the film as much as they enjoy watching it.  God knows itís five years of my life, itís two or three years of their life -- they should enjoy it.  I want the making of it to be as much fun as it can be given itís also hard work.

 

LMD:  Itís been so long since youíve directed a feature.  What are the differences either in technology or your approach to filmmaking since 2000ís Chicken Run?

PL:  It was much easier than Chicken Run; I will say that because I loved the digital filmmaking.  Loved it, it was great.  It was completely liberating.  There was something about the culture, again the culture, or the style of filmmaking.  It was as if there were no problems, when actually there were, but as if there werenít.  Do you know what I mean?  Like whatever I wanted, you could do; whereas in Chicken Run, it wasnít the case at all because it was shot on film and we didnít use much green screen and for various reasons.  It felt like we made Chicken Run in quite a constrained way.  Now, I think limitations can be good, but it felt as though Chicken Run was quite constrained and quite difficult.  I often remember saying, ďCan we move the camera a bit?Ē  ďOh no, we canít move the camera a bit because it will come off the set.Ē  That kind of thing.  Or literally, ďCan we do a camera move?Ē  ďNo, we canít do a camera move because we donít have enough camera moving devices,Ē cos you need tracking, panning and titling devices and computers to run them.  So, all that and the fact that the SLR cameras are lighter, weíve got more space, weíve have a bigger studio, more tracking rigs, green screen.  The rapid prototype of the puppetís mouths, I thought was a great idea.  Iíll tell you why; because to be absolutely honest with you, you lose a little bit of subtlety.  Wallace has substitute mouths, but theyíre made of plasticine, and so theyíre endlessly flexible.  This is slightly less flexible, but you save so many hours in the week -- and I want to say save those hours, which means the animators spends them animating, performing, instead of worrying about the damn mouth the whole time.  I always think, ĎWell, youíre not meant to be looking at the mouth, anyway.í  When you watch an actor on the screen, you donít look at their mouth, do you?  You look at their eyes, is what you look at.  So, I love that technology, because it meant that all the animators could stay on model and it meant it was a quicker shoot.  I donít believe in suffering any more than you need to.  Some of the animators like to suffer, they might say, ĎOh, I shot eight frames today. God, it was tough.í  But Iíd rather they shot faster cos I think itís better to shoot faster.  I think you keep the energy level up better.

 

LMD:  Recently, youíve mostly been the producer or executive producer on other Aardman projects.  Why so much time behind the camera and what has it been like to be back on the scene?

PL:  Iíve never been on the scene.  I donít know what the scene is {Laughs}, but no, it was easy.  I was very glad I did.  To be honest with you, I slid into producing; I never wanted to.  In fact, I never even claimed that title for myself.  I slid in to help out on some other projects, including Flushed Away and there was a thing called Tortoise and Hare that never happened -- thatís how the business goes.  So, I was helping out on those projects and that was so time-consuming and necessary that I never got the free time to do my own thing.  And then we separated from Dreamworks, which was by our mutual consent.  That was fine; that was a good for both of us, I think.  And then there was a bit of quiet time and then I thought, ĎWell, if I donít direct now, I never will.í Which is a really scary thought! {Laughs}

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

January 17th, 2012

 

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive photos by LMD

Stills courtesy of Sony Pictures

 

 

 

 

 

 

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