Last Thursday I was invited to get my ‘swash’ and ‘buckle’ on with the chance to preview a brand new, and very special exhibition that is invading Birmingham’s ThinkTank this summer. A part of the Thinktank museum has been transformed into the world of ‘The Pirates’, the Academy Award nominated film from Sony Pictures and Aardman Animations, and I was lucky enough to get a peek at what was happening behind the scenes, before the exhibition actually opened. I was very excited by this, but not being an expert on all things ‘Pirate’, I thought it best to call on an expert I know very well, so I also took my four-year old, Joe along for the ride.
The exhibition is the first time that the exquisite sets and puppets from the film have toured, and is both exhilarating fun for children, and a show of expert mastery of set design and creation for adults. The piece de resistance is the beautiful pirate ship, which is quite simply alive with detail – there is simply so much to look at and notice.
The smaller set pieces were equally fascinating. I personally loved the setpieces that showed the ‘Rare Creatures Dining Club’ at dinner, complete with the tiniest of details like goblets of wine, and individual knives and forks so small as to almost require a magnifying glass. Joe was a little obsessed with the sea creatures and bugs, loving the grasshoppers, and making me giggle when he referred to the sea anemone as a squidgy ball. And of course, there was the Dodo…
Polly is the Dodo in the film who thinks she is a parrot, and in honour of this, the famous Oxford Dodo is paying a visit to Birmingham, coming from the Oxford Museum of National History. This reconstruction of the extinct bird totally fascinated Joe, who asked numerous questions about what happened to this bird, and why he wasn’t around anymore. Which, to my view, is what a great exhibition should do – make little ones ask questions and become interested in learning new things.
Peter Lord, the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Aardman Animations was at the launch on Thursday, and I was lucky enough to interview him about the project, and his other famous works including Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Creature Comforts. I will post a link to the interview later next month, but will say that I was thrilled to hear that Morph is still his favourite character, one close to his heart.
Even more thrilling was seeing Peter show Joe how to make simple animations using a computer and Playmobil. Joe was just fascinated to see how the figures could be shown moving around and actually doing things – how you could actually make your own film. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to try this for themselves, as well as other form of animation like flicker movies using paper and light sources.
‘The Pirates!’ is a fabulous, fun exhibition which will truly appeal to swashbucklers of all ages. It is open until September and I would definitely recommend you pay a visit. If you don’t, you may just be forced to walk the plank…