The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (released in North America, Australia and New Zealand as The Pirates! Band of Misfits) is a 2012 British-American 3D stop-motion animated swashbuckler comedy film produced by Aardman Animations in partnership with Sony Pictures Animation. It was directed by Peter Lord.
The film was distributed by Columbia Pictures and was released on 28 March 2012 in the United Kingdom, and on 27 April 2012 in the United States football t shirt design. The Pirates! features the voices of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant commercial meat cuber, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Lenny Henry and Brian Blessed.
The film is loosely based on The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, the first book from Gideon Defoe’s The Pirates! series. It follows The Pirate Captain and his crew of amateur pirates in their attempt to win the Pirate of the Year competition.
The Pirates! is the fifth feature film by Aardman Animations, and its first stop-motion animated feature since Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in 2005, and Aardman’s first stop-motion clay animated film released in 3D and shot in 2.35:1 widescreen. The film received positive reviews, while it was a modest box office success, earning $123 million against the budget of $55 million.
The film was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (lost to Disney·Pixar’s Brave).
In 1837, the Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) how to tenderize steak without mallet, inexpert in the ways of pirates, leads a close-knit, rag-tag group of amateur pirates who are trying to make a name for themselves on the high seas. To prove himself and his crew, the Pirate Captain enters the Pirate of the Year competition, with the winner being whoever can plunder the most. After several failed attempts to plunder mundane ships, they come across the Beagle and capture its passenger Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin recognises the crew’s pet Polly as the last living dodo, and recommends they enter it in the Scientist of the Year competition at the Royal Society of London for a valuable prize. Secretly, Darwin plans on stealing Polly himself with the help of his trained chimpanzee, Mr. Bobo, as to impress Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) whom he has a crush on; the Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman) becomes suspicious of Darwin’s motive after one failed attempt to steal Polly.
The pirates disguise themselves as scientists to enter the competition, and the dodo display wins the top prize, which turns out to be minuscule trinkets and a meeting with the Queen. The Pirate Captain hides Polly before the meeting. There, the Queen requests that the Pirate Captain donate Polly for her petting zoo. The Pirate Captain refuses and accidentally reveals his true self, but Darwin steps in to spare the Captain’s life, secretly telling the Queen that only the Captain knows where Polly is kept. The Queen lets the Pirate Captain go and orders Darwin to find Polly by any means necessary. Darwin takes the Pirate Captain to a tavern and coaxes out of him that Polly is stashed in his beard. Darwin and Mr. Bobo are able to steal the bird, leading on a chase into the Tower of London where the Queen is waiting. She dismisses Darwin, and instead offers the Pirate Captain a large sum of money in exchange for Polly, which for the Pirate Captain would be enough to assure his win as Pirate of the Year. He accepts the offer and returns to his crew, assuring them Polly is still safe in his beard, though the Pirate with a Scarf is suspicious of his newfound wealth.
At the Pirate of the Year ceremony, the Pirate Captain wins the grand prize from the Pirate King (Brian Blessed), but rival pirate Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) makes the Queen’s pardon known to all and explains that if the Pirate Captain has been pardoned, then technically, he is no longer a pirate and, as such, can’t be Pirate of the Year. The Captain is stripped of the prize, treasure, pirate attire, and his pirating license and is banished from Blood Island by the Pirate King, and admits his loss of Polly to his crew who abandon him. The Captain returns to London, intent on rescuing Polly. He reunites with Darwin, learning that the Queen is a member of an exclusive dining society of world leaders that feast on endangered creatures, and that Polly is likely on her flagship, the QV1 to be served at the next meal. The Pirate Captain and Darwin work together to steal an airship to travel to the QV1. Mr. Bobo, meanwhile, goes to find the rest of the Captain’s crew to enlist their help.
Aboard the QV1, the Queen locates the Pirate Captain and Darwin and attempts to kill both of them, but together they best her. In the battle, they accidentally mix the ship’s store of baking soda with vinegar, causing a violent reaction that rends the ship in two. The Pirate Captain rescues Polly and they escape safely, leaving behind a furious Queen. With his reputation among pirates restored because of the large bounty now on his head, the Pirate Captain is reinstated as a Pirate, and he and his crew continue to explore the high seas in search of adventure.
In a few post-credits scenes, they leave Darwin on the Galapagos Islands, Mr. Bobo joins the Pirate Captain’s crew, the Queen is left at the mercy of some of the rare animals she had planned on eating, Black Bellamy is forcefully stripped of his trophy by the Pirate King because of the Pirate Captain’s new infamy, and the crew present the Pirate Captain with their own homemade Pirate of the Year trophy.
Aardman extensively used computer graphics to complement and enrich the primarily stop-motion film with visual elements such as sea and scenery.
Peter Lord commented, “With Pirates!, I must say that the new technology has made Pirates! really liberating to make, easy to make because the fact that you can shoot a lot of green screen stuff, the fact that you can easily extend the sets with CG, the fact that you can put the sea in there and a beautiful wooden boat that, frankly, would never sail in a million years, you can take that and put it into a beautiful CG scene and believe it.”
For the release in the United States, the film has been retitled to The Pirates! Band of Misfits. The official explanation from Aardman was that Defoe’s books don’t have “the same following outside of the United Kingdom,” so it was not necessary to keep the original title.
Hugh Grant, the voice of The Pirate Captain, said that the studio “didn’t think the Americans would like the longer title.” Response from the director of the film, Peter Lord, was that “some people reckoned the United Kingdom title wouldn’t charm/ amuse / work in the United States. Tricky to prove eh?”
Quentin Cooper of the BBC analysed the change of the title and listed several theories. One of them is that the British audience is more tolerant for the eccentricity of the British animators. Another is that the film makers did not want to challenge the United States viewers who do not accept the theory of evolution. He also developed his own explanation, in which he notes that the word “scientist” is rarely used in the Hollywood films due to it not being “cool,” representing “the mad scientist or the dweeby nerd that dress funny, have no social skills, play video games, long for unattainable women.”
In January 2012, it was reported that the latest trailer of The Pirates! attracted some very negative reactions from the “leprosy community”. In the trailer that was released in December, The Pirate Captain lands on a ship demanding gold, but is told by a crew member, “Afraid we don’t have any gold, old man, this is a leper boat. See?” when his arm falls off.
Lepra Health in Action and some officials from the World Health Organization, expressed that the joke shows the illness in a derogatory manner, and it “reinforces the misconceptions which leads to stigma and discrimination that prevents people from coming forward for treatment.” They demanded an apology and removal of the offending scene, to which Aardman responded: “After reviewing the matter, we decided to change the scene out of respect and sensitivity for those who suffer from leprosy. The last thing anyone intended was to offend anyone…”.
LHA responded that it was “genuinely delighted that Aardman has decided to amend the film,” while the trailer was expected to be pulled down from websites, and the final version of the film changes the line in question to “Gold? This is a plague boat, old man! I’d give my right arm for some gold! Or my left! “
The film’s score was composed by Theodore Shapiro who made his animated feature score debut with this film. The score was released digitally by Madison Gate Records on 24 April 2012, and as a CD-R on-demand on 17 May 2012. The film also includes a number of previously released songs by various artists, including “Swords of a Thousand Men” by Tenpole Tudor, “Ranking Full-Stop” by The Beat, “London Calling” by The Clash, “You Can Get It If You Really Want” by Jimmy Cliff, “Alright” by Supergrass, and “I’m Not Crying” by Flight of the Conchords.
The Pirates! was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on 28 August 2012 in the United States, and on 10 September 2012 in the United Kingdom. The film is accompanied with an 18-minute short stop motion animated film called So You Want to Be a Pirate!, where The Pirate Captain hosts his own talk show about being a true pirate.
The short was also released on DVD on 13 August 2012, exclusively at Tesco stores in the United Kingdom. As a promotion for the release of The Pirates!, Sony attached to every DVD and Blu-ray a code to download a LittleBigPlanet 2 minipack of Sackboy clothing that represents 3 of the characters: The Pirate Captain, Cutlass Liz and Black Bellamy.
The film has grossed $123,054,041 worldwide. $26 million came from United Kingdom, $31 million from the United States and Canada, along with around $92 million from other territories, including the United Kingdom.
The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 86% of 144 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.2 out of 10. The website’s consensus is, “It may not quite scale Aardman’s customary delirious heights, but The Pirates! still represents some of the smartest, most skillfully animated fare that modern cinema has to offer.”
Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 73 based on 31 reviews.
On 14 August 2011, Peter Lord tweeted that they are working on the sequel idea. In June 2012, Lord said in an interview that, “We’ve got the story, all we need now is the backing.”
In January 2013, Lord responded to a question on Twitter on whether the sequel will be out soon: “There’s not going to be a sequel – well not in the foreseeable future.” In March 2013, he explained this was due to the film not meeting box office expectations in the United States.