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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
Screenplay byGideon Defoe
Based onThe Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists
by Gideon Defoe
Produced by
CinematographyFrank Passingham
Edited byJustin Krish
Music byTheodore Shapiro
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing[2]
Release dates
  • 28 March 2012 (2012-03-28) (United Kingdom)
  • 27 April 2012 (2012-04-27) (United States)
Running time
88 minutes[3]
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States[4]
Budget$55 million[2]
Box office$123 million[2]

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (released overseas as The Pirates! Band of Misfits) is a 2012 stop-motion animated swashbuckler comedy film produced by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation in association with Aardman Animations, and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. The second and final collaborative project between Sony and Aardman, it is Aardman's first book-based movie as well as their first stop-motion feature film since Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), and Sony Pictures Entertainment's first stop-motion film. The film was directed by Peter Lord, co-directed by Jeff Newitt (in his feature directorial debut), and written by Gideon Defoe, based on Defoe's 2004 novel The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (the first book from The Pirates! series). The film stars the voices of Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton, Martin Freeman, Salma Hayek, and Jeremy Piven, and follows a crew of amateur pirates in their attempt to win the Pirate of the Year competition.[5][6][7]

The Pirates! was distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing and was released on 28 March 2012 in the United Kingdom, and on 27 April 2012 in the United States.[8] 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.[2][10] The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was the second film from Sony Pictures Animation to be nominated after Surf's Up.


In London, 1837, Queen Victoria is told by the Navy that the British Empire rules the entire ocean, with the exception of pirates, whom she despises. Meanwhile, The Pirate Captain leads an unorthodox group of amateur pirates who are trying to make a name for themselves on the high seas. One day, to prove his worth, The Captain enters the annual Pirate of the Year competition, with the winner being whoever can plunder the most treasure. After several failed attempts to plunder mundane ships, they come across HMS Beagle and capture its lone passenger, Charles Darwin, who recognizes the crew's pet "parrot", Polly, as the last dodo bird alive. Darwin recommends that they enter Polly in the Scientist of the Year competition at the Royal Society of London, and the Captain accepts, believing that winning the competition can help him win the Pirate of the Year award, while his assistant, the Pirate with the scarf, advises him not to. Allowing The Pirate Captain and his crew to stay at his house for the night, Darwin plans to steal Polly for himself in order to impress Queen Victoria, whom he's smitten with. He has his trained chimpanzee, Mr. Bobo, steal Polly, but their plans go awry.

The next day, the pirates disguise themselves as scientists to enter the competition, and the dodo display wins the top prize, which turns out to be a meeting with the Queen. The Queen requests that Polly be put in her petting zoo, but the Captain refuses and accidentally reveals his true identity. The Captain is about to be executed when Darwin reminds the Queen that Polly has been hidden and only the Captain knows where. The Queen pardons the Captain of his crimes and orders Darwin to find Polly by any means necessary. Darwin and Mr. Bobo take the Captain to a tavern, get him intoxicated, and attempt to steal Polly, but The Captain chases them into the Tower of London, where the Queen is waiting. She dismisses Darwin and Mr. Bobo and offers The Captain enough treasure to ensure his win for Pirate of the Year in exchange for Polly. The Captain accepts the offer and returns to his crew, assuring them Polly is still safe.

At the Pirate of the Year ceremony, the Captain is announced as the winner, but his rival pirate Black Bellamy finds a newspaper revealing the Queen's pardon and explains that if pardoned, one is no longer a pirate. The Captain ends up being stripped of his treasure and pirate attire and reveals to his crew that he sold Polly to the Queen for the treasure. Angry at him for his actions, they are prompted to abandon him. The Captain returns to London and reunites with Darwin, who has discovered that the Queen is part of a society of world leaders who dine on endangered creatures, and Polly is to be served at their next banquet. The Captain and Darwin work together to steal an airship and find the Queen's flagship, the QV1, while Mr. Bobo sets off to retrieve the Captain's crew members.

Aboard the QV1, the Captain and Darwin find Polly just before she's cooked and eaten, but the Queen finds them and attempts to kill both of them. Mr. Bobo and the crew come to their aid, but while fighting the Queen, they accidentally mix the ship's stash of baking soda with vinegar, causing a violent reaction that explodes and breaks the ship in two. The Queen tries to escape with Polly in the airship that the Captain and Darwin came on. Polly attacks her and causes her to rip a hole in the airship and drop Polly, and the Captain catches her before she falls into the ship's propeller. The Captain, along with Darwin, Mr. Bobo and the rest of his crew escape safely, leaving the furious Queen behind on her deflating airship. Due to their actions, the Captain is targeted with the highest bounty known to pirates, with 100,000 Doubloons placed by the Queen, restoring his pirate reputation as well as marking him as the most dangerous pirate alive. Darwin stays on an island to study more exotic animals, and The Pirate Captain continues his exploits with his crew, now joined by Mr. Bobo.

Voice cast[edit]

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

Additional voices by Tom Doggart, Sophie Jerrold, Sophie Laughton, Kayvan Novak, David Schaal, David Schneider, Ben Whitehead and director Peter Lord.


Aardman Animations, who primarily use stop-motion animation, extensively used computer graphics to complement and enrich the primarily stop-motion film with visual elements such as sea and scenery.

The project was originally envisioned as a CGI animated film, but when Sony executives saw the models of the Pirate Captain and his cabin that had been created as references for the animators, they requested that it be made in stop-motion.[18]

Director 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."[19]


For the release in the United States, the film was retitled The Pirates! Band of Misfits, as author/screenwriter Gideon Defoe's books do not have "the same following outside of the United Kingdom", so it was not necessary to keep the original title.[20]

Hugh Grant, the voice of the Pirate Captain, said that the studio "didn't think the Americans would like the longer title".[21] Lord's similar response was that "some people reckoned the United Kingdom title wouldn't charm / amuse / work in the United States. Tricky to prove eh?"[22]

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 quoted science writer Jennifer Ouellette's 2010 statement at the Science & Entertainment Exchange that scientists are undesirable in American popular culture, being represented as "the mad scientist or the dweeby nerd that dress funny, have no social skills, play video games, long for unattainable women".[20][23]


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 released in December 2011, the Pirate Captain lands on a ship demanding gold, but is told by a crewmember, "we don't have any gold, old man. This is a leper boat!" before his arm falls off.[24]

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,[25] 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,[26] and the final version of the film has "leper boat" replaced with "plague boat".[27]


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

The film's score was composed by Theodore Shapiro in his animated feature score debut.[28] The score was released digitally by Madison Gate Records on 24 April 2012,[29] and as a CD-R on-demand on 17 May 2012.[30] 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.[31]


Home media[edit]

The Pirates! was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on 28 August 2012 in the United States,[32] and on 10 September 2012 in the United Kingdom.[33] The film is accompanied with an 18-minute[34] 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.[35]

The short was also released on DVD on 13 August 2012, exclusively at Tesco stores in the United Kingdom.[36] 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.[37][38]


Box office[edit]

The film has grossed $123,054,041 worldwide. $26 million came from United Kingdom,[39] $31 million from the United States and Canada, along with around $92 million from other territories, including the United Kingdom.[2] 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% increase 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 154 reviews; the average score is 7.3/10. The website's consensus reads, "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".[40]


Awards Body Category Recipients Result
Academy Awards[41] Best Animated Feature Peter Lord Nominated
Annie Awards[42][43] 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[44][45] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Visual Effects Society[46][47] 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,[48] and by June 2012, a story had been prepared, awaiting Sony to back the project.[49] 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."[50]


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  13. ^ Lord, Peter (16 November 2011). "@PeteLordAardman". Twitter. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
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  23. ^ Sarewitz, Daniel (1 July 2010). "World view: Entertaining science". Nature. 466 (7302): 27. doi:10.1038/466027a. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 20595990. S2CID 205056644.
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  25. ^ Lakhani, Nina (13 January 2012). "Wallace and Gromit creators in leprosy row". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
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  28. ^ filmmusicreporter (18 March 2011). "Theodore Shapiro to Score 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'". FilmMusicReporter.com. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  29. ^ "'The Pirates! Band of Misfits' Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
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  31. ^ The film's credits
  32. ^ Katz, Josh (18 June 2012). "The Pirates! Band of Misfits Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  33. ^ "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (DVD)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
  34. ^ "THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS, ADDED VALUE". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  35. ^ 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!
  36. ^ "Win! A portable DVD player plus So You Want To Be A Pirate! on DVD". gootoknow. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  37. ^ "Sack it to Me: Arrr! The Pirates Board LittleBigPlanet". PlayStation Blog. 27 August 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  38. ^ "The Pirates! Minipack". LittleBigPlanet. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
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  43. ^ Beck, Jerry (2 February 2013). "Annie Award Winners". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
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  50. ^ 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]