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Immersed in Movies: Aardman's Peter Lord Talks 'Pirates'

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood April 26, 2012 at 2:28PM

Stop-motion is back again this year with three animated releases: Aardman's "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" (opening tomorrow), Laika's "ParaNorman" (Aug. 17), and Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" (October 5). And what I've seen of all three, the bar has been significantly raised technologically to keep up with CG...

"The digital pipeline has been liberating for me," Lord adds. "Shooting digitally you can move on a shot any time of day or night. But shooting digitally with confidence on green screen backgrounds is wonderful. I really enjoy the CG enhancements. We have the CG team in-house so we're all under the same roof and it feels like a team. But the water is the obvious thing. The fact that we can take a big ship, which is made of wood and metal and string and canvas, and make it move as if it was at sea and then put the sea around it digitally afterwards is absolutely amazing. But it's stylized water that has to fit with the models.

"There's nothing I like more than the classic pirate image of a great, big ship thrashing into a wave, sinking, splashing, and rising above. Our model ship is the real star of the movie. It's actually two ships that have been badly stitched together. There was some crooked, backstreet shipyard that rather carelessly stuck two ships together. The front part is from 1820 and the back half is from 1680. But that's part of the backstory that's never discussed."

It's all about the marvelous detail, whether it's the captain's beard (animated from a guitar tuning head with 65 swirls on it) or the finely crafted Victorian London sets. However, Lord says there's a danger in getting mired in such detail. "The whole process gets slower and slower and a lot more agonizing. I actually believe in working as fast as you can. The faster you work, the more you hold the spirit of the shot or scene in your head. So that was my thinking. Some animators love to suffer -- it's a kind of macho thing. But I'm interested in animation energy and performance energy."

And is Lord anxious to make Defoe's follow-up book, "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling"? Absolutely. " I know for some people sequels are a dirty word, but this has proved to be such a great world to play in, so I'm very happy to do the second book." It all depends if "The Pirates" proves profitable for Sony.

This article is related to: Animation, Sony, Features, Immersed In Movies, Sequel

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.