Earlier this year saw the release of what was undoubtedly Aardman Animations most ambitious, elaborately-detailed feature film, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (or as audiences in the USA saw it, The Prates! A Band of Misfits).
Based on the wittily inventive books by Gideon Defoe, The Pirates! is shortly to be released on DVD and Blu-ray and, to accompany it, comes my book, The Making of The Pirates!, a lavishly illustrated, behind-the-scenes tour of the Aardman studio where Plasticine people come alive and have the most outlandish adventures.
The film follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of a bumbling bunch of buccaneers – led by the magnificently bearded (but totally incompetent) Pirate Captain – whose ineptitude in their chosen profession is given an unexpectedly positive boost when their fate become inexplicably (and inextricably) tangled up with that of Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria.
Those book is packed with fascinating detail about how the characters – pirates and landlubbers alike – developed, and how their worlds (the Pirate Headquarters on Blood Island, the Royal Palaces and fog-filled alley-ways of Victorian London and, aboard ship, on the high seas) were designed and built.
With contributions from the film's director (creator of Morph and co-founder of Aardman), Peter Lord, along with the designers, art-directors, model-makers, animators and special effects boffins, the book takes you inside the process of creating a film through the painfully painstaking process of stop-motion animation.
There are also intriguing insights into the characters from the starry cast of voice talents who speak for the film's Plasticine players: Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant, Imelda Staunton and Brian Blessed.
I have had a long and very happy collaboration over many years with Aardman Animations from the time when I worked with Nick Park on the first draft screenplay for The Wrong Trousers, through several books – notably Cracking Animation and Chicken Run: Hatching the Movie – so I was delighted to be able (between chronicling the goings-on with the hobbits in Middle-earth) to chart the course of this beautifully preposterous piratical carry-on from page to screen.