Chicken Run
British theatrical release poster
Directed by
Screenplay byKarey Kirkpatrick
Story by
  • Peter Lord
  • Nick Park
Produced by
Starring
Cinematography
Edited byMark Solomon
Music by
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 23 June 2000 (2000-06-23) (United States)
  • 30 June 2000 (2000-06-30) (United Kingdom)
Running time
84 minutes[6]
Countries
LanguageEnglish
Budget$42–45 million[7][6]
Box office$227.8 million[8]

Chicken Run is a 2000 animated adventure comedy film[9] produced by Pathé and Aardman Animations in partnership with DreamWorks Animation.[10][11] Aardman's first feature-length film, it was directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park (in their feature-length directorial debuts) from a screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick and based on an original story by Lord and Park.[12] The film stars the voices of Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Tony Haygarth, Miranda Richardson, Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, and Benjamin Whitrow. Set in the countryside of Yorkshire, the plot centres on a group of British anthropomorphic chickens who see an American rooster named Rocky Rhodes as their only hope to escape the farm when their owners want to turn them into chicken pies.

Chicken Run was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $220 million and becoming the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film in history. At the time, this film was DreamWorks Animation's most successful release, but this was overtaken by Shrek the following year.[13]

23 years later, a sequel, titled Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, was released on Netflix on 15 December 2023.[14] Its Netflix release followed its world premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival on 14 October 2023, which would also see preview screenings taking place at UK cinemas at the same time.[15]

Plot

In the countryside of Yorkshire,[16] a flock of chickens live on an egg farm structured like a prisoner-of-war camp. The farm is run by the cruel Mrs Tweedy and her submissive husband, Mr Tweedy, who kill and eat any chicken that is no longer able to lay eggs. Led by the rebellious Ginger, the chickens constantly devise new ways to try to escape but are always caught. Mr Tweedy suspects the chickens are organised and plotting resistance, but his wife dismisses his theories while being frustrated with making minuscule profits.

One night, Ginger witnesses an American rooster named Rocky Rhodes glide over the coop's fences and crash-land; the chickens put his sprained wing in a cast and hide him from the Tweedys, who have been promised a handsome reward by Rocky's owner for his return. Inspired by Rocky's apparent flying abilities, Ginger begs him to help teach her and the other chickens to fly so they can escape, threatening to alert the humans if he refuses. Rocky reluctantly gives them training lessons. One evening, a load of equipment is delivered to the farm, containing the parts for a chicken pie machine that Mrs Tweedy has ordered as part of a plan to convert the farm into a profitable pie-making factory. When the Tweedys increase the chickens' food rations and ignore the decline in egg production, Ginger deduces that the couple's new plan is to fatten the chickens for slaughter. After Ginger and Rocky get into an argument, Rocky holds a morale-boosting dance party during which it is revealed that his wing is healed. Ginger insists that he demonstrate flying the next day, but Mr Tweedy finishes assembling the machine and puts Ginger in it for a test run. Rocky saves her and sabotages the machine, buying them time to warn the chickens and plan an escape from the farm.

The next day, Ginger finds Rocky has left, leaving behind part of a poster that shows that he is in fact part of a "chicken cannonball" act with no ability to fly on his own, making them realize that their chance to learn how to fly has been crushed. In the midst of being devastated, Ginger is inspired by elderly rooster Fowler's stories of his time in the Royal Air Force to build an aircraft to flee the farm. The chickens assemble parts for the plane as Mr Tweedy fixes the pie-making machine. Meanwhile, Rocky comes across a billboard advertising Mrs Tweedy's chicken pies and returns to the farm out of guilt.

Mrs Tweedy orders Mr Tweedy to gather all the chickens for the machine, but the chickens subdue him and finish the plane, which Ginger persuades Fowler to pilot. As the plane approaches the take-off ramp, Mr Tweedy is able to knock over the ramp before being knocked out; Ginger races to reset the ramp, but a now-alerted Mrs Tweedy attacks her. Before Mrs Tweedy can hurt Ginger, Rocky returns and subdues her, before holding up the ramp with Ginger, allowing the plane to take flight. Rocky and Ginger grab on to the runway lights, which have been snagged by the departing plane. An axe-wielding Mrs Tweedy follows them by climbing up the lights, but Ginger tricks Mrs Tweedy into cutting the line, sending her falling into the pie machine, causing it to explode in a mushroom cloud of gravy.

The chickens celebrate their victory after defeating the Tweedys while Ginger and Rocky kiss each other, and they fly to an island bird sanctuary where they make their home. Sometime later, the chickens have settled into their new home, and Rocky and Ginger have started a romantic relationship. Nick and Fetcher, two rats that have been helping the chickens throughout the escape, decide to set up their own egg farm, but they fall into a circular debate over whether they must use a chicken or egg to start it.

Voice cast

Top row: Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Tony Haygarth and Benjamin Whitrow respectively play the roles of Rocky, Mrs Tweedy, Mr Tweedy and Fowler.
Bottom row: Timothy Spall, Phil Daniels, Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton and Lynn Ferguson respectively play the roles of Nick, Fetcher, Babs, Bunty and Mac.

Production

Chicken Run was first conceived in 1995 by Aardman co-founder Peter Lord and Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park. According to Park, the project started as a spoof on the 1963 film The Great Escape.[17] Chicken Run was Aardman Animations' first feature-length production, which would be executive produced by Jake Eberts. Nick Park and Peter Lord, who run Aardman, directed the film,[18] while Karey Kirkpatrick scripted, with additional input from Mark Burton[citation needed] and John O'Farrell.[citation needed]

When a chicken speaks, each sound corresponds to a different beak that was placed on the character.[19]

Pathé agreed to finance the film in 1996, putting their finances into script development and model design. DreamWorks officially came on board in 1997.[4][20] They beat out studios like Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. and largely won due to the perseverance of DreamWorks co-chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg; as a company they were eager to make their presence felt in the animation market in an attempt to compete with Disney's dominance of the field.[4] Katzenberg explained that he had "been chasing these guys for five or six years, ever since I first saw Creature Comforts."[4] DreamWorks secured their first animated feature with the film, and they handled distribution in all territories except Europe, which Pathé handled.[4] The two studios co-financed the film.[4] DreamWorks also retains rights to worldwide merchandising.[4]

Principal photography began on 29 January 1998. During production, 30 sets were used with 80 animators working along with 180 people working overall. The result was one minute of film completed for each week of filming, with production wrapped on 18 June 1999.[20]

John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams composed the music for the film, which was released on 20 June 2000 under the RCA Victor label.[21][22][23]

Reception

Critical response

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 97% approval rating and an average rating of 8.1/10, based on 173 reviews. The website's critics consensus reads: "Chicken Run has all the charm of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit, and something for everybody. The voice acting is fabulous, the slapstick is brilliant, and the action sequences are spectacular."[24] At Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[25] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[26]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave three and a half stars out of four, writing: "So it truly is a matter of life and death for the chickens to escape from the Tweedy Chicken Farm in Chicken Run, a magical new animated film that looks and sounds like no other. Like the otherwise completely different Babe, this is a movie that uses animals as surrogates for our hopes and fears, and as the chickens run through one failed escape attempt after another, the charm of the movie wins us over."[27]

Chicken Run and its sequel has been noted for its depiction of feminism,[28][29][30][31] revolution,[28][29] Marxism,[32][28][33] veganism[34] and fascism.[35] According to Florentine StrzeIczyk, Chicken Run points to the way that masculinity and femininity are mediated in popular film genres.[35] It also received attention for its female-led cast. Film School Rejects called the movie feminist, noting that "the stereotypical 'woman's work' of these female chickens (such as their sewing and knitting) is crucial in constructing their mechanism for escape and vital towards the revolution itself."[29] The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network argued it was a way to disguise Zionism[36] and Western propaganda.[30][36]

Box office

On opening weekend, the film grossed $17,506,162 for a $7,027 average from 2,491 theatres. Overall, the film placed second behind Me, Myself & Irene.[37][38] In its second weekend, the film held well as it slipped only 25% to $13,192,897 for a $4,627 average from expanding to 2,851 theatres and finishing in fourth place.[39] The film's widest release was 2,953 theatres, after grossing $106,834,564 in the United States and Canada. In the United Kingdom, it was the third highest-grossing film of the year with a gross of $43 million.[40] With an additional $75 million from other markets, it grossed $224,834,564 worldwide. Produced on an estimated budget of $42–45 million, the film was a huge box office hit. To date, it is still the highest grossing stop motion animated movie.

Accolades

Group Category (Recipient) Result
Annie Awards[41] Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Theatrical Feature Nominated
Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production (Nick Park and Peter Lord) Nominated
Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Feature Production (Karey Kirkpatrick) Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[42] Best British Film Nominated
Best Visual Effects Nominated
British Academy Children's Awards[43] Feature Film Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics[44] Best Animated Feature Won
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics[45] Won
Empire Awards Best British Director (Nick Park and Peter Lord) Nominated
Best British Film Nominated
Best Debut (Nick Park and Peter Lord) Nominated
European Film Awards[46] Best Film Nominated
Florida Film Critics[47] Best Animated Feature Won
Genesis Awards[48] Best Feature Film Won
Golden Globe Awards[49] Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics[50] Best Animated Feature Won
Las Vegas Film Critics[51] Best Family Film Won
Los Angeles Film Critics[52] Best Animated Feature Won
National Board of Review[53] Won
New York Film Critics[54] Won
Phoenix Film Critics[55] Won
Best Family Film Won
Best Original Score (John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams) Nominated
Satellite Awards[56][57] Best Motion Picture - Animated or Mixed Media Won
Best Sound Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics[58] Best Film Nominated

Home media

Chicken Run was released on VHS and DVD in the United States on November 21, 2000 by DreamWorks Home Entertainment.[59]

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released Chicken Run on Blu-ray in North America on January 22, 2019.[60]

Sequel

Main article: Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

In January 2022, the title for the sequel was revealed as Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget and was announced for a 2023 release on Netflix.[61][62][63] Zachary Levi, Thandiwe Newton, Romesh Ranganathan and Daniel Mays were revealed to be replacing Gibson, Sawalha, Spall and Daniels as the voices of Rocky, Ginger, Nick and Fetcher; David Bradley will voice Fowler due to Whitrow's death in 2017, while Horrocks, Staunton and Ferguson will reprise their roles as Babs, Bunty and Mac.[64] Bella Ramsey has been cast as Molly, while Nick Mohammed and Josie Sedgwick-Davies will voice two new characters, Dr Fry and Frizzle, respectively. Sam Fell would direct with Steve Pegram and Leyla Hobart producing. Kirkpatrick and O'Farrell wrote the script with Rachel Tunnard.[64] In June 2023, Gregson-Williams was revealed to be composing the sequel.[65] Later that month, it was officially announced that the film would release on Netflix on 15 December 2023.[66] Its Netflix release followed its world premiere at the 67th BFI London Film Festival on 14 October 2023, which would also see preview screenings taking place at UK cinemas at the same time.[15]

Video game

Main article: Chicken Run (video game)

Chicken Run is a stealth-based 3-D platformer based on the movie. It was released in November 2000 on most consoles. The game is a loose parody of the film The Great Escape, which is set during World War II.[67]

See also

References

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