The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! poster.jpg
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 dates
  • 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 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 also served as the first stop-motion feature film released by Sony Pictures Entertainment. 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 by her servants that England 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. 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 the HMS Beagle and capture its lone passenger, Charles Darwin, who recognizes the crew's pet "parrot", Polly, as the last living dodo bird. 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, despite his assistant, The Pirate with the scarf, advising 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 in a mysterious disguise, but the pirates give chase, which leads to Darwin's house being destroyed.

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 Queen orders to have him executed, but Darwin intervenes, reminding 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 steal Polly, but The Captain chases them into the Tower of London, where the Queen is waiting. She gets rid of Darwin and Mr. Bobo for their incompetence via a trapdoor which leads to a dumpster, and offers The Captain enough treasure to ensure his win as Pirate of the Year in exchange for Polly. He accepts the offer and returns to his crew, telling them that he stole the treasure and assuring them Polly is still safe.

At the Pirate of the Year ceremony, the Captain is announced as the winner, but rival pirate Black Bellamy finds a newspaper revealing the Queen's pardon and explains that if pardoned, one is no longer a pirate, and cannot be Pirate of the Year. The Captain is stripped of his treasure and pirate attire and admits to his crew that he sold Polly to the Queen for the treasure, prompting them to abandon him. The Captain returns to London and reunites with Darwin, who, while in the dumpster, found a brochure advertising a dining society of world leaders that feast on Endangered creatures, and Polly is to be served at their next banquet. Realizing that the Queen's a part of the society, 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 disbanded crew members.

Aboard the QV1, The Captain and Darwin find Polly 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 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 was 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

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


Unlike Aardman's 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 do not 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 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".[19][22]


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 2011, 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 left arm then falls off, and he says "See?"[23]

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,[24] 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,[25] 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 left arm falls off, he adds "Or my left!"[26]


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 who made his animated feature score debut with this film. The score was released digitally by Madison Gate Records on 24 April 2012,[27] and as a CD-R on-demand on 17 May 2012.[28] 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.[29]


Home media

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

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

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 86% approval rating based on 153 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".[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

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.
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  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. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. 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. ((cite news)): |first= has generic name (help)
  22. ^ 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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  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (24 January 2012). ""The Pirates!": Aardman To Change Scene After Outcry From Leprosy Orgs". Deadline. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  26. ^ Askew, Robin (March 2012). "Who wants to be a buccaneer?". Venue. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  27. ^ "'The Pirates! Band of Misfits' Soundtrack Details". Film Music Reporter. 19 April 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  28. ^ "The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Original Motion Picture Score)". Amazon. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  29. ^ The film's credits
  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. Fandom, Inc. 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.