Comic-Con: Animation Presentation

Pirates & Arthur Christmas

Following hot on the heels of Twilight, there was a huge change of pace for Hall H at Comic-Con, with an animation presentation from Aardman, showcasing Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (subtitled Band of Misfits in the US) and Arthur Christmas. With Aardman head honcho Peter Lord and Arthur screenwriter Peter Baynham on hand to introduce them, both went down a storm, with people laughing a lot and in the right places.

Lord explained what Pirates is about first. “I hope that trailer has given you a clue that it’s not a conventional pirate movie; it’s a bit out there, very unconventional. This is the story of a pirate captain – cheerful, optimistic, outgoing, loves being a pirate. He’s played in the UK by a great charismatic comic actor. He’s played by Hugh Grant. He needs a crew, like a supporting lieutenant, and he’s played by the Pirate with a Scarf, and he’s played by Martin Freeman. So the captain needs a crew, a band of misfits – Albino Pirate, Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate and Pirate With Gout. And then every proper real pirate has a parrot. She’s called Polly [cue the pirate captain cooing over her]. The great thing is that nobody notices she’s a dodo.”

The film also stars Jeremy Piven as Grant's nemesis, Black Bellamy, who always wins the Pirate Of The Year competition; Salma Hayek as Cutlass Liz, Brian Blessed as the Pirate King, Imelda Staunton as terrifying villainess Queen Victoria and David Tennant as Charles Darwin. The clips, showing the pirates attempting to raid ships full of lepers, schoolchildren, nudists and scientists, were awesome.

After that, it was Baynham's turn to introduce Arthur Christmas. "“Once a year, on one single night, two billion children receive more than six billion presents. This incredible mission is achieved in absolute secrecy despite national defences and air zones by one man. How does one man eat two billion cookies left out for him? Does he really do this in one sleigh pulled by eight reindeer.

"Or does he do it in this? It’s an S-1, Santa’s state-of-the-art sleigh ship. Imagine the craft from Independence Day but full of elves. It has 50,000 bathrooms but only 1 coffee machine in a craft 1.6 miles wide. It can go at a quarter of a million miles per hour. It has an invisibility screen but also an app to find it if you forget where you’ve left it. Arthur Christmas lifts the lid on Santa’s global operation. Santa has a million elves out in the field, a team of covert professionals who has less than a minute per household to get in, get out and drop the presents."

The clip we saw showed Santa (Jim Broadbent) getting out of a close situation where a little boy wakes up while he's dropping off the presents. Hugh Laurie's Steve has to remotely guide his father and attending elves out of this sticky spot, while Arthur (James McAvoy) sits anxiously looking on.

Arthur Christmas is out in November, with Pirates! following in March.