Peter Lord, Director of Sony's The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Talks on Upcoming Release

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THE PIRATES! Band of Misfits, a Sony Pictures Animation, Columbia Pictures and Aardman Animation film, directed by Peter Lord is hoisting sails preparing to launch for its upcoming spring release.

THE PIRATES! Band of Misfits is co-directed by Jeff Newitt and Executive Produced by Carla Shelley, and is adapted from the book The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe.

THE PIRATES! Band of Misfits has an all star cast voicing the characters with Hugh Grant, in his first voice talent role creating the less than successful, although highly adventurous,  Captain Pirate, his arch nemesis Black Bellamy voiced by Jeremy Piven, the sultry Cutlass Liz voiced by Salma Hayek. Imelda Staunton voices the diabolical Queen Victoria, Martin Freeman voices Pirate with a Scarf, David Tennant voices a young upstart scientist Charles Darwin, Russell Tovey voices the Albino Pirate and Ashley Jensen voices the Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate.

Bob Osher, President of Sony Pictures Animation, during THE PIRATES! Band of Misfits Media Day sneak peek at Culver City Studios in Culver City, California described Aardman’s signature style animation as “technique rather than genre.” The partnership between Sony and Aardman’s Peter Lord and his team at the UK based production company have repeatedly developed, created, produced and directed, simply some of the best 3-D animated features on the market today.

Peter Lord set the tone throughout the day, with a warm persona and friendly manner. He is easy to speak with, fun to listen to, and has a depth of animation insight. One could ask him any question and get an insightful response.

In addition to the Sneak Peek, that included select clips of April release as well as behind the scenes footage, set design and production stills, select media, including this journalist, had the opportunity to participate in one: one interviews with Aardman Co-owner and Director Peter Lord.

Peter Lord is a fun guy to be around, has a pronounced British accent that draws you in closer as he speaks, and is very direct about the filmmaking process. The following is the transcripts of our interview.


Janet Walker: I think the best thing to do is to jump right in where the roundtable left off this morning. So this morning you talked about creating the dialogue of the screenplay when you were adapting it British verses American humor and when you adapted the Adapting the screenplay. Were there any difficulty British verses American humor and did you find when you first adapted it for British audiences that some of the humor may have been lost in translation?

Peter Lord: Well, good question. Um. In a way that’s kind of not been my problem. I tip my hat to the people at Sony really. Our job is to develop movies and their job is to jump in and say hang on. They’ve been very supportive of what we’ve been doing. The writer, Gideon, is a very interesting character and he’s English and very hip, he’s probably close to thirty now.  He knows pop culture inside out and he’s English he’s a very strict writer, mighty pirates ode, kind of refer to real pirates. The queens will speak very posh, as the Queen would. Wonderful discovery. Gideon’s found the comic tone that allows us to be very playful with language which I think makes it acceptable. It’s not English period drama. It’s a broad comic version of it. of what we want.

Janet Walker: Aardman has a reputation of making very crisp, 3-D sharp, and what’s typical day in your process.

Peter Lord: It’s a huge job directing this film. Really, really huge job; All encompassing for almost three years. A typical day I start looking at dailies, even though because of digital I can see dailies anytime and I see dailies anytime I want. I start with dailies, which is always great fun, and maybe the first thing you ask for corrections to be made, if it’s just rehearsals you’ve got the comments on it, then I would launch new shots which is to set the animators going, the animators time is all important to the production after the live rehearsals. The quickest way is to tell the animator what to do. I would visit set that were being lite to see how the lighting was getting along I would see animation tests. I would see animation tests.  I would go to the model making department to see how new puppets were being made because there was always someone making new puppets. And then you are making tiny decisions, color, tiny legs, thicker legs, you know, is the skull and cross bones the right design, you know tiny, a million, million tiny decisions, on model making and light and big decisions on lighting that should be still going on and editing and choosing which tape to us from a voice record sessions.

Janet Walker: You mentioned choosing which dallies. What’s the tipping point? How do you make that decision? Is it gut instinct? What is it about a shot that makes you say ‘Ok’ to this one and others not?

Peter Lord: Ok. Performance is number one. Most important thing to me. Sometimes, it would be able I’ve got an idea in my head as to what the particular performance should be. If it’s an actual joke, which, often a joke in a film is built up to over , a series of shots that build up to the punch line. Been waiting for this joke to pay off over a year.

Janet Walker: Was the experience of making the film different than you thought it would?

Peter Lord: Um. As it went along, as it got confidence in itself, in its style of filmmaking, it became more and more enjoyable the further it went on.  It was a very, what I was in for, I knew I was in for climbing a bloody red mountain which it surely is. I found the new technology very freeing and liberating, and delightful. I loved the way I could just give the responsibility to someone else. I could do my bit and with some of the shots and just leave it with these brilliant professionals, confident that they would bring it in looking better than I could dream. And that’s lovely. And by the way, that applies to animated films as well. Sometimes, you’re tired and you think well, and you just say, “make it funny” and they do! That’s the lovely thing.

Janet Walker: What was your memorable moment from working on the film?

Peter Lord: Wow. Ok. I think when the ship came into the studio. When the ship came in! (laughing).  So the ship was an iconic object at the heart of the film. In its shape and character’s design it encompassed the Pirate Captains character. It wasn’t just a prop it was like a living thing. As a piece of sculpture, a piece of art, it was absolutely joy interesting.

On the day it came into the studio, I had been down to the workshop where it was being made, and looked at it in its unfinished form and it looked pretty good and marks throughout and sails are hanging up all the ropes and the rigging is everywhere, everywhere you look is a brilliantly done And everywhere you look, the roof made of beaten lead, there were rotten timber that was clearly 200 years old, that had been eaten by worms and barnacles, there was rust where iron bands had rusted, there were frayed ropes, there were jokey things like a life ring, pirates don’t have life rings, but there was one there. It was such an inspiring thing.  You kind of felt, rightly, just looking the audience would be happy to look at this thing doing nothing, just floating around.

Janet Walker: So how intimating was this project for you?

Peter Lord: It’s intimidating only in scale, only in scale. The people at SONY were very encouraging about the way it was going. That’s nice. That’s how it supposed to be. They saw an outline which contained lots of the spirit of the thing. They loved the outline. They saw a draft, the third for fourth draft, they loved the draft.  In due course time, they saw the story reel, they loved the story reel. So, because they were behind it I felt luck, I felt somehow, that somehow this film had its own voice, it’s own comic voice early on. And that gave me great confidence. Whatever it is that someone’s got, I kept steering it.

Janet Walker:  We just came out of the Animator Roundtable and they talked about re-shoots and the length of time of the reshoot and he indicated there wasn’t a whole lot on this film

Peter Lord: No. No. It’s interesting. I did want to launch this by talking about. It’s tough to reshoot. We don’t like to reshoot for many, many, reasons. And the good news about that is that it doesn’t carry a very high energy intense focus performance. And I always think there’s adrenaline in the performance. In CG, because they shoot it and they can look at it and change it and can look at it and change it and that’s fine but and with us, especially on a five day shoot by the end, the energy is coursing around the body because you don’t want to screw up.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits opens in theaters everywhere April 27th, 2012.

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