The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (released in North America, Australia and New Zealand as The Pirates! Band of Misfits) is a 2012 British/American 3D stop-motion animated swashbuckler comedy film produced by Aardman Animations in partnership with Sony Pictures Animation. It was directed by Peter Lord. The film was distributed by Columbia Pictures and was released on 28 March 2012 in the UK and on 27 April 2012 in the US. The Pirates! features the voices of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, Salma Hayek, Lenny Henry and Brian Blessed.
The film is loosely based on The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, the first book from Gideon Defoe's The Pirates! series. It follows The Pirate Captain and his crew of amateur pirates in their attempt to win the Pirate of the Year competition. 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 clay animated film released in 3D and shot in 2.35:1 widescreen.
The film received positive reviews, while it was a modest box office success, earning $123 million against the budget of $55 million. The film was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
In 1837, the Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant), inexpert in the ways of pirates, leads a close-knit, rag-tag group of amateur pirates who are trying to make a name for themselves on the high seas. To prove himself and his crew, the Pirate Captain enters the Pirate of the Year competition, with the winner being whoever can plunder the most. After several failed attempts to plunder mundane ships, the Pirate Captain talks with his best friend and first mate, the Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman), about giving up and selling baby clothes as a living, but is convinced to try boarding the next ship they find, which happens to be the Beagle. They find no treasure but succeed in capturing Charles Darwin (David Tennant). Darwin recognizes the crew's pet Polly as the last living dodo, and implores the Pirate Captain to enter it into the Scientist of the Year competition at the Royal Society in London for a valuable prize. The Pirate Captain directs his ship to London. The Pirates disguise themselves as Girl Scouts, so that they don't get caught and executed, as Queen Victoria has a strong hatred of Pirates.
Darwin desires to win the Scientist prize on his own in order to impress Queen Victoria, on whom he has a crush. He uses Mr. Bobo, his trained chimpanzee, to try to steal Polly. The Pirate with the Scarf witnesses the kidnapping but the attempt goes awry after alerting the other pirates. Darwin gets off the hook, much to the Pirate with the Scarf's frustration, but the Pirate Captain insists on hiding the bird and entering the competition on his own, disguising himself and the whole crew as scientists. The display of the dodo takes the top prize: a minuscule trophy, an Encyclopedia set and an opportunity to meet Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), who requests Polly for her petting zoo. During the ceremony, the Pirate Captain accidentally reveals his pirate identity, but Darwin convinces the Queen to spare the Captain's life because he knows the location of Polly. The Queen lets the Captain go free with a full pardon, but orders Darwin to locate the dodo by any means necessary.
Darwin takes the Pirate Captain to a tavern, and the latter ultimately reveals that he had stashed Polly in his beard. Darwin and Mr. Bobo are able to capture Polly and are chased by the Captain up into the Tower of London, where the Queen is waiting. The Queen quickly dismisses Darwin and Mr. Bobo, and then offers the Pirate Captain a large amount of treasure in exchange for Polly. Soon, the Pirate Captain reunites with his crew with his newfound wealth, stating that Polly is sleeping within his beard, and sets off for the Pirate of the Year ceremony. The Pirate with a Scarf expresses doubt to the validity of the Captain's story.
At the ceremony, the Pirate Captain wins the grand prize from the Pirate King (Brian Blessed), but rival pirate Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) makes the Queen's pardon known to all pirates in attendance. The Captain is stripped of the prize, his plunder and his pirating licence, and is exiled from Blood Island. The crew also deserts him when they find out that he lied about Polly's fate. The Captain returns alone to London to sell baby clothes, but soon becomes determined to free Polly. He re-encounters a now-devastated Darwin, who has learned that the Queen is part of a secret dining society with several other world leaders who are now aboard her steamship, the QV1, waiting to eat the most rarest and most endangered animals. According to the menu, the highlight of the year is: "dodo à l'orange". The Pirate Captain enlists Darwin's help to steal an airship presented at the science contest and rescue Polly.
Aboard the QV1, the Pirate Captain and Darwin disrupt the meal, and are soon joined by the rest of the Captain's crew, who have been informed by Mr. Bobo of his need. The Queen locates them and attempts to kill both of them, but together they best her. In the battle, they accidentally mix the ship's store of baking soda with vinegar, causing a violent reaction that rends the ship in two. The Pirate Captain rescues Polly and they escape safely, leaving behind a furious Queen. With his reputation among pirates restored because of the large bounty now on his head, the Pirate Captain and his crew continue to explore the high seas in search of adventure.
In a few post-credits scenes, they leave Darwin on the Galapagos Islands, Mr. Bobo joins the Pirate Captain's crew, the Queen is left at the mercy of some of the rare animals she had planned on eating, Black Bellamy is forcefully stripped of his trophy by the Pirate King because of the Pirate Captain's new infamy, and the crew present the Pirate Captain with their own homemade Pirate of the Year trophy.
- Hugh Grant as Pirate Captain
- Martin Freeman as the Pirate with a Scarf/Number Two
- Imelda Staunton as Queen Victoria
- David Tennant as Charles Darwin
- Jeremy Piven as Black Bellamy a former member of the Pirate Captain and who turned out to be on Queen Victoria's team.
- Salma Hayek as Cutlass Liz
- Lenny Henry as Peg-Leg Hastings
- Brian Blessed as Pirate King
- Russell Tovey as Albino Pirate (UK version)
- Anton Yelchin as Albino Pirate (US version)
- Brendan Gleeson as Pirate with Gout
- Ashley Jensen as Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate
- Ben Whitehead as Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (UK Version)
- Al Roker as Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (US Version)
- Mike Cooper as Admiral Collingwood
- David Schneider as Scarlett Morgan
- Mitchell Mullen as Gameshow Host
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 CG, 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 CG scene and believe it."
- The film gained an controversy on one of the trailers 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, The Pirate Captain lands on a ship demanding gold, but is told by a crew member, "Afraid we don't have any gold old man, this is a leper boat. See?" when his arm falls off. Lepra Health in Action and some officials from the World Health Organization take offense for the line, and they demanded an apology and removal of the offending scene. So Aardman changed the line in the final version in question to "Gold? This is a plague boat, old man. I'll give my right arm for gold. Or my left."
The Pirates! was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on 28 August 2012 in the US, and on 10 September 2012 in the UK. The film is accompanied with an 18-minute 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. The short was also released on DVD on 13 August 2012, exclusively at Tesco stores in the UK. 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.