Aardman productions was started in 1972 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton. Based in Bristol, their first big success came in the character of Morph, created for the kids TV show ‘Take Hart’. The orange, plasticine figure featured in minute-long clips, later with a cream, plasticine character – Chas, his cousin. Other characters were produced, but the ever popular Morph still features in current television, most recently in the CBBC show ‘Ricky’s Radical Reinventions’ in 2012. ‘Creature Comforts’ and of course ‘Wallace and Gromit’ have also proved extremely popular amongst viewers. The duo Wallace and Gromit have had several works including The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and A Matter of Loaf and Death – which was broadcast on Christmas Day 2008 on BBC1. Teamed with DreamWorks Animation, Chicken Run was their first feature animation in 2000, followed by Flushed Away, their first computer animated film.
With work for companies such as the BBC and Channel 4, they have also completed work for some more unusual clients. They created the music video for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer in 1986, a jittery edit of Gabriel’s head amongst abstract backgrounds and objects. Perhaps even more unexpectedly, they created the Potato Parade for McCains, an online device where you can send Potato Parades to your nearest and dearest. Needless to say, Aardman have a vast array of experience.
So with all this success, not to mention four Oscar wins, I had high expectations for their latest flick The Pirates! An Adventure with Scientists. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. Based on the first two books of The Pirates! Series by Gideon Defoe, the film tells the fictional story of Captain Pirates’ desperate attempts to win the annual Pirate of the Year Award. He tackles the challenge with his enthusiastic crew and beloved bird Polly, while encountering both Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria along the way. Directed by Peter Lord, the star studded cast, including Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant, and Selma Hayek, bring their roles to life. Perhaps the most impressive being Mister Bobo – Darwin’s ‘man-panzee’; for a creature who communicates with flash cards, it has some of the funniest moments.
The brilliant stop-motion action scenes, and some emotionally filled facial expressions, remind me of the time and difficultly the company must have worked through to make this non-stop action film. However, sometimes the pace felt just that little bit too fast, and lost some of the gags and detail, which could have taken so long to make. But like any Aardman production, there is something for all the family. As a U rating, kids in the cinema seemed to love the slapstick comedy, while adults laughed at tiny onscreen details and quick one liners. The soundtrack was also surprising, with some standout classic tunes, my favourite being The Clash with ‘London Calling’. So with booty and ham galore (don’t ask), and a potentially impossible standard to uphold, Aardman have given us yet another family favourite.