The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!

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The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!
British theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Lord[1]
Screenplay byGideon Defoe[2]
Based onThe Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists
by Gideon Defoe
Produced by
CinematographyFrank Passingham
Edited byJustin Krish
Music byTheodore Shapiro[3]
Distributed by
Release date
  • 28 March 2012 (2012-03-28) (United Kingdom)
  • 27 April 2012 (2012-04-27) (United States)
Running time
88 minutes[5]
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States[6]
Budget$55 million[4]
Box office$123 million[4]

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[6] 3D stop motion animated swashbuckler comedy film produced by the British studio Aardman Animations and the American studio Sony Pictures Animation as their second and final collaborative project. Directed by Peter Lord, the film is based on the 2004 novel The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, the first book from Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! series.[7] It follows a crew of amateur pirates in their attempt to win the Pirate of the Year competition.

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.[8] The Pirates! features the voices of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Lenny Henry and Brian Blessed. 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 animated film released in 3D and shot in 2.35:1 widescreen. The film received generally positive reviews,[9] and was a modest box office success, earning $123 million against a budget as high as $55 million.[4][10] The film was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Pixar's Brave. It was the second film from Sony Pictures Animation to be nominated after Surf's Up.


In London, 1837, Queen Victoria is told that England rules the entire ocean, with the exception of the pirates, whom she despises.

Meanwhile, the Pirate Captain, 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, 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. Darwin recognizes the crew's pet "parrot", Polly, as the last living dodo, and recommends they enter her 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 his love interest, Queen Victoria.

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 identity. The Queen, who hates pirates with a passion, orders him executed, 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 pardons the Pirate Captain 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 steal the bird, leading to a chase into the Tower of London where the Queen is waiting. She dismisses Darwin and instead offers the Pirate Captain enough money to ensure his win as Pirate of the Year in exchange for Polly. He accepts the offer and returns to his crew, assuring them Polly is still safe in his beard.

At the Pirate of the Year ceremony, the Pirate Captain wins the grand prize from the Pirate King. But rival pirate Black Bellamy makes the Queen's pardon known to all and explains that if the Pirate Captain has been pardoned, then he is no longer a pirate and, as such, cannot 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 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 Captain's Number 2, Mr. Bobo, and the crew come to their aid and together they beat 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 after the pirates reconcile. 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, 100,000 doubloons, which is the highest in the history of piracy, 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 stripped of his Pirate of the Year trophy by the Pirate King due to the Pirate Captain's new infamy; and the crew present the Pirate Captain with their very own homemade Pirate of the Year trophy.

Voice cast[edit]

Hugh Grant in April 2012 at the film's premiere in Sydney, Australia


Unlike Aardman's last film Flushed Away, which was computer animated in the style of claymation, 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 CGI, 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 CGI scene and believe it."[18]


For the release in the United States, the film was retitled The Pirates! Band of Misfits, as Defoe's books don't have "the same following outside of the United Kingdom", so it was not necessary to keep the original title.[19]

Hugh Grant, the voice of The Pirate Captain, said that the studio "didn't think the Americans would like the longer title".[20] 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?"[21]

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".[19]


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, "Gold? Afraid we don't have any gold, old man. This is a leper boat!" His arm then falls off, and he says "See?"[22]

Lepra Health in Action and some officials from the World Health Organization claimed that the joke depicted leprosy 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,[23] 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,[24] 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!" and when his arm falls off, he instead says "Or my left!"[25]


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,[26] and as a CD-R on-demand on 17 May 2012.[27] 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, "Fiesta" by The Pogues, "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.[28]

The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Film score by
Released24 April 2012
LabelMadison Gate Records
Theodore Shapiro film scores chronology
The Big Year
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Hope Springs
Track listing:[29]
1."I Hate Pirates!"2:25
2."Attacking Ships"2:22
3."The Competition"2:18
4."Not a Total Success"2:03
5."The Ascent of Man"0:38
6."Masked Monkey Chase"2:20
7."Attacking the Beagle"2:31
8."Feathery Heart and Soul"0:43
9."Fog on the Thames"1:02
10."Girl Guides"2:24
11."Wait a Mo'!"5:17
12."Dreams Turn to Dust"0:46
13."The Captain's Dream"1:33
14."Baby Clothes"2:56
15."The Queen's Lair"4:28
16."Market Chase"1:59
17."The Dream Fulfilled"3:23
18."Panda Face Fritters"2:51
19."Poor Defenseless Me"4:28
Total length:51:04


Home media[edit]

The Pirates! was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on 28 August 2012 in the United States,[30] and on 10 September 2012 in the United Kingdom.[31] The film is accompanied with an 18-minute[32] 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.[33]

The short was also released on DVD on 13 August 2012, exclusively at Tesco stores in the United Kingdom.[34] 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.[35][36]


Box office[edit]

The film has grossed $123,054,041 worldwide. $26 million came from United Kingdom,[37] $31 million from the United States and Canada, along with around $92 million from other territories, including the United Kingdom.[4] As of 2017, it is the fourth highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all time.

In North America, it ranked fifth on its opening day, taking in $2,749,959, slightly higher than Arthur Christmas’ $2.4 million opening day. The film eventually made $11.1 million on its opening weekend and reaching second at the box office behind Think Like a Man while averaging $3,315 through its 3,358 theatre’s, on its second weekend, it dropped by 50.6%, ranking fourth with $5,502,482, then to seventh place with $3,143,442, dropping by 42.9%.

In the United Kingdom, it opened to third with $3,486,095 behind The Hunger Games and Wrath of the Titans, averaging $6,443 through its 554 cinemas, it saw a 1.3% decline on its second weekend with $3,486,280, averaging $6,240 per cinema, and bringing the UK gross to $12,251,022.

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 86% approval rating based on 153 reviews; the average score is 7.25/10. 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."[9] 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, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[38]


Awards Body Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards[39] Best Animated Feature Peter Lord Nominated
Annie Awards[40][41] Best Animated Feature Julie Lockhart, Peter Lord and David Sproxton Nominated
Character Animation in a Feature Production Will Becher
Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Norman Garwood, Matt Berry
Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Imelda Staunton
Writing in an Animated Feature Production Gideon Defoe
European Film Awards[42][43] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Visual Effects Society[44][45] Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Will Becher, Jay Grace, Loyd Price Nominated

Cancelled sequel[edit]

By August 2011, Aardman had been already working on a sequel idea,[46] and by June 2012, a story had been prepared, awaiting Sony to back the project.[47] Eventually, Sony decided not to support the project due to insufficient international earnings. According to Lord, "it got close, but not quite close enough. I was all fired up for doing more. It was such fun to do! We actually have a poster for The Pirates! In an Adventure with Cowboys!. That would have been just great."[48]


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Hugh Grant Joins Voice Cast for Sony-Backed Pirate Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  3. ^ filmmusicreporter (18 March 2011). "Theodore Shapiro to Score 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'". Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e "The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
  5. ^ "3D - PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS". Cineworld Cinemas. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b "The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b c O'Hara, Helen (25 October 2011). "Exclusive! New Pirates! Trailer". Empire. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  8. ^ "Pirate Captain and his crew wish you a happy Chinese New Year". Sony Pictures Animation. Facebook. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
  9. ^ a b "The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  10. ^ "2012 Recap (cont.): Losers". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  11. ^ James Silver. "How Aardman is embracing the digital age". Wired UK. Wired Magazine.
  12. ^ a b c McWeeny, Drew (22 July 2011). "Comic-Con: Sony Animation panel puts Aardman's 'Pirates' front and center". HitFix. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  13. ^ Lord, Peter (16 November 2011). "@PeteLordAardman". Twitter. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  14. ^ Mclean, Craig (5 September 2010). "More Mr Nice Guy: Why everyone loves Russell Tovey". The Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
  15. ^ Berkshire, Geoff (27 April 2012). "Review: 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits' sets sail with Aardman charm". HitFix. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  16. ^ Lord, Peter. "Captain's Log Production Blog". Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  17. ^ "Nifty Selection of The Pirates! Model Sheets". Animation World Network. 27 April 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  18. ^ Huver, Scott (15 August 2011). "EXCL: Lord and Baynham on The Pirates! and Arthur Christmas". Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  19. ^ a b Cooper, Quentin (13 April 2012). "Scientists: Band of misfits?". BBC. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  20. ^ Hardie, Giles (3 April 2012). "Cap'n Hugh fires on media". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  21. ^ Lord, Twitter (25 November 2012). "@A7exand3r well, you know, some people reckoned the United Kingdom title wouldn't charm/ amuse / work in the United States. Tricky to prove eh?". Twitter. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  22. ^ "The Pirates! Band of Misfits - Trailer 2". iTunes. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  23. ^ Lakhani, Nina (13 January 2012). "Wallace and Gromit creators in leprosy row". The Independent. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  24. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (24 January 2012). ""The Pirates!": Aardman To Change Scene After Outcry From Leprosy Orgs". Deadline. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  25. ^ Askew, Robin (March 2012). "Who wants to be a buccaneer?". Venue. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  26. ^ "'The Pirates! Band of Misfits' Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  27. ^ "The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Original Motion Picture Score)". Amazon. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  28. ^ The film's credits
  29. ^ "The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Original Motion Picture Score)". iTunes. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  30. ^ Katz, Josh (18 June 2012). "The Pirates! Band of Misfits Blu-ray". Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  31. ^ "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (DVD)". Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  32. ^ "THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS, ADDED VALUE". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  33. ^ Sony Pictures Animation (6 April 2012). "Sky Movies in the UK posted the first five minutes". Retrieved 6 April 2012. Sky Movies in the UK posted the first five minutes of The Pirates! Band of Misfits short that will plundering on DVD and Blu-ray later this year. Take a look and tell us what you think!
  34. ^ "Win! A portable DVD player plus So You Want To Be A Pirate! on DVD". gootoknow. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  35. ^ "Sack it to Me: Arrr! The Pirates Board LittleBigPlanet". PlayStation Blog. 27 August 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  36. ^ "The Pirates! Minipack". LittleBigPlanet. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  37. ^ "United Kingdom". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  38. ^ "The Pirates! Band of Misfits". Metacritic. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  39. ^ Finke, Nikki (10 January 2013). "OSCARS: 85th Academy Award Nominations – Only 9 Best Pictures; 'Lincoln' Leads With 12 Nods, 'Life Of Pi' 11, 'Les Misérables' And 'Silver Linings Playbook' 8, 'Argo' 7, 'Skyfall' And 'Amour' And 'Zero Dark Thirty' And 'Django Unchained' 5". Deadline. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  40. ^ "Annie Award Nominations Unveiled". Deadline. 3 December 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  41. ^ Beck, Jerry (2 February 2013). "Annie Award Winners". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  42. ^ Anderson, Paul (17 September 2012). "Pirates Sets Sail For European Film Awards". Big Cartoon News. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  43. ^ "The 25th European Film Awards: Winners". European Film Academy. 1 December 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  44. ^ "Nominations for the 11th Annual VES Awards". 7 January 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  45. ^ "VES Awards: 'Life Of Pi' Wins 4 Including Feature, 'Brave', 'Game Of Thrones' Other Big Winners". Deadline. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  46. ^ Lord, Peter (14 August 2011). "Happy to say we're working on a sequel idea already. Just so we're prepared!". Twitter. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  47. ^ Jardine, William (21 June 2012). "Interview: Peter Lord, Co-founder of Aardman and Director of The Pirates!". A113 Animation. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  48. ^ Ritman, Alex (2 November 2016). "Aardman Animations Co-Founders Talk 'Early Man,' 'Shaun the Sheep' and Their Swashbuckling Near-Miss (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 March 2017.

External links[edit]