Book Review: The Making of The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!
The Making of The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!: With Questions and Answers by Hugh Grant. Written by Brian Sibley. Welcome (foreword) from Peter Lord. London, Bloomsbury, November 2012, hardcover $41.99 (144 pages).
They couldn’t do anything right, including publishing this book! (Ahem!) Most coffee-table “making of” art books about the production of an animated feature film are timed for publication simultaneously (give or take a few days) with the theatrical release of the film. This book was published closer to the release of the film on DVD, in August in America and in September in Britain. Also, since it is a British book, it uses the film’s British title. The film appeared in Britain on March 28, 2012 as The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, and in America on April 27 as The Pirates! Band of Misfits.
It is still an extremely funny movie, and an exquisite stop-motion production, from a studio famous for this technique. It seems like all of Aardman Animations’ “Wallace & Gromit” films could have been leading up to this: 88 minutes of sheer stop-motion plasticine glory. For those who enjoyed the movie and regretted that there was no detailed art book about it, here it is! Better late than never, as they say.
Although Hugh Grant’s (voice of the Pirate Captain) questions & answers get a title billing, they are only two pages in the book. “Question 3: Are there any similarities between you and the Pirate Captain? Answer: I do love to run people through.” (p. 8)
For all of the quintessentially British snarky humor of the movie, familiar to fans of such British comedies as The Goon Show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and Blackadder, and captured excellently in this book, it is just like one of the lavish art books of production art of the making of an American CGI animated feature, only with clay or plasticine models instead of computer digital imagery. Author Brian Sibley has worked for thirty years as a BBC radio adapter of such fantasy classics as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and has written the official books on the making of other film adaptations of British fantasy classics such as The Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter films, and such other Aardman features as Chicken Run.
Chapter 1, A Cracking Good Yarn, describes The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, the comedic pirate novel by Gideon Dafoe on which the movie is based. This is actually the first of a series of Bloomsbury paperbacks much better known in Britain than in America; the four sequels include the Pirates’ encounters with Moby Dick, Karl Marx, Napoleon, and the Romantics (Lord Byron, Percy Shelly, and Mary Wollstonecraft). This chapter tells how Aardman Animations in Bristol, England, decided to film this novel, licensed the rights from author Dafoe and made him a part of the Aardman team, then persuaded Sony Columbia in Hollywood to become a partner in its production, financing, and distribution.