No human being who works at Aardman Animation is quite as famous as its iconic stop-motion characters, from the original Wallace and Gromit to the dysfunctional Santa family of Arthur Christmas. But if there's one person behind the scenes there who deserves to be the company's icon it's Peter Lord, who co-founded the company in 1972 and went on to co-direct their first feature, Chicken Run in 1999. He's remained the head of the studio as they've expanded even further into feature films, and now he's embarking on his first solo directing effort with Pirates! Band of Misfits, which opened last month in the UK and bows this week in the U.S.

Pirates!, adapted from Gideon Dafoe's series of children's books, is a classic Aardman style stop-motion comedy, crammed with jokes and visual gags and oddball characters and a distinctly British kind of humor. But even though Lord is the head of the studio, he says the process of putting together a movie like this one is hugely collaborative, from the years spent hammering out the story to the decision to stick with stop-motion at all in this age of CGI. I spoke to Lord earlier this year about how the story comes together at Aardman, how they adopted Dafoe's book, and why this was the movie that he knew he had to direct for himself. Pirates! opens in theaters this Friday.

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