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chickens out

Chicken Run

Chicken Run is a 2000 stop-motion animation British film made by the Aardman Animations studios (which produced the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit films).

Background

Chicken Run tells the humorous story of a band of chickens who seek to escape from their coop before their owners, the dim-witted egg farmer, Mr Tweedy, and his greedy, overbearing wife Mrs Tweedy, turn them all into chicken pies, as she is not making enough money by selling eggs.

The star roles in the film are those of Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha), a hen who has absolute faith that the chickens can fly out of the coop if only they train hard enough, and Rocky Rhodes (voiced by Mel Gibson), a rooster whom Ginger believes can fly, but actually got shot out of a cannon, which was how he "flew" to the farm. Mrs. Tweedy (voiced by Miranda Richardson) is the nefarious, grasping farm wife whose exasperation at low profits from egg sales leads her to reinvent her farm as a chicken pie factory, while her husband does all he can to prevent the chickens from (as he rightly believes they are) escaping.

The film proved a success with both children and adults, and showed that Peter Lord and Nick Park had the ability to handle the technical and writing challenges posed by a feature film, and thereby serving as a test bed for the 2005 movie outing for Wallace and Gromit, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Soundtrack

Chicken Run featured only 5 themes. The only important music in the film was its score by John Powell & Harry Gregson-Williams, who would next work on Shrek. Its soundtrack article can be found on The Chicken Run Soundtrack. Strong themes present in John Powell & Harry Gregson-Williams's score, cleverly injected just the right amount of whimsy and wit, according to several critics. The soundtrack clearly payed homage to the classic WWII movie themes; kazoos and whistling are added for comical and authentic effect. Generally, the soundtrack for this particular film has been regarded as a bombastically energetic approach to light-hearted film composing. Nevertheless, it is of the opinion of many people within the film industry that the brassy, punchy and varied score of Chicken Run was a success in the feature-length film.

Plot

The plot is based on a farm for chickens somewhere in Lancashire, England. Life for chickens within the chicken farm is similar to that of a World War II Prisoner of War camp, with solitary confinement, roll calls and an unsuccessful escape committee, lead by a chicken called Ginger. Guarding them is the dull-witted farmer Mr. Tweedy, who is convinced the chickens are smart and organised, but his nefarious, power-hungry, greedy wife tells him that this notion is all in his head. But egg-production at the farm is failing to sufficiently deliver on Mrs. Tweedy's money-making plans, and she decides to branch out with the purchase of a chicken pie machine.

A stray visitor arrives; an American rooster named Rocky Rhodes from a circus act involving a "chicken cannonball". By the manner of his arrival, flying though the air and crash landing within the confines of the farm, the chickens believe he can fly and holds the key to their escape. Temporarily injured, Rocky plays along with this misunderstanding, believing he will be rescued in good time by the circus before having to deliver on their expectations.

Slap-stick adventures follow as the chickens attempt to learn to fly under Rocky’s confident, but clueless, guidance, all the time unaware of their impending doom at the pie machine's arrival. But it becomes increasingly apparent that, despite all his bravado and talk, Rocky has no idea how to fly.

On completion of the construction of the pie machine, Mr. Tweedy selects Ginger as its first victim as he believes her to be the ring-leader and his chief tormentor, but Rocky rescues her from the jaws of the machine by sabotaging it, silencing the critics amongst the chickens who had begun to doubt him. However, Rocky disappears the following day, unable to keep up his deception any longer now that his wing has healed, and Ginger discovers the remnants of a circus poster he had left for her to find that reveals the truth of how he really achieved flight.

This discovery plunges the chickens into despair, but Ginger is enthused by the discovery that the elderly rooster Fowler used to belong to the Royal Air Force and knows about aeroplanes. They resolve to build a aeroplane and fly out of the farm. The film now becomes a race to see who will finish first, as Mr. Tweedy fixes the pie machine while the chickens scavenge for material and construct their plane.

Upon completing the aeroplane the chickens bravely rebel against Mr. Tweedy, tying him up. Despite Fowler never having actually being a pilot, he takes the controls. The Tweedys make one last attempt at grounding the aeroplane as Mr. Tweedy escapes and Mrs. Tweedy attacks Ginger, but they are thwarted by the eventual arrival of Rocky, returning to assist Ginger. The aeroplane takes flight to safety with all aboard, powered by frantically pedalling chickens. Mr. Tweedy reminds his defeated wife, "I told you, they was organized!"

The chickens reach a lush green island in the middle of a crystal-clear lake, settling down there as their new home. Ginger and Rocky become a couple, and all the chickens nurse a whole flock of chicks as they live in paradise.

Critical reaction

The film has received excellent reviews from critics since its release and currently garners a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Production notes

  • Chicken Run was the first feature film in Europe to use the Digital Intermediate process, digitally storing and manipulating every frame of the film before recording back to film.
  • In early versions of the movie, Ginger had a little brother named Nobby, but the idea was dropped in order to make the film less cute.
  • An early storyboard idea was that the plane would breakup in the middle of its flight and that the chickens would suddenly find the ability to fly; the idea being to show that you can do things if you "believe in yourself".
  • It was also suggested that Fowler would be a drunk who felt useless and neglected until Ginger convinced him that he was needed. In the final film it is a sober Fowler who is made to believe in himself and fly the plane.
  • The reason all the chickens wear scarves is to hide the joint between the head and the body. The scarves hide the 'seam' which is present because the bodies of the chickens are articulated steel frames coated in silicon rubber while the heads are plasticine (this is similar to the reason why Ewoks in Return of the Jedi wore hoods: to hide the seam between the head and the body parts of the suit).

Historical and cultural references

  • One of the escape attempts shown in the opening credits is of the chickens tunnelling, and travelling on trolleys down the tunnel. This is a reference to The Great Escape, in which the escapees also travel on trolleys through the tunnel.
  • Ginger is seen to bounce a Brussels sprout off the wall of the bin in which she is held in solitary confinement. This is a parody of Hilts (Steve McQueen), in The Great Escape, who does the same with his baseball while in the cooler.
  • The coop that Ginger lives in is numbered 17, apparently an homage to Stalag 17.
  • Rocky is introduced shouting "Freedooooommm!" in a slightly comedic manner. This alludes to a line of Mel Gibson's portrayal of William Wallace in the movie Braveheart.
  • The scene where Ginger tells Rocky that she wants to get all the chickens out at the same time, and he thinks she is mad, is a reference to a similar scene in The Great Escape between Roger Bartlett and Hilts.
  • Fetcher's line "It's raining hen" during the scene where Rocky is teaching the chickens how to fly is a reference to the song "It's Raining Men"
  • The sequence in which Rocky and Ginger are trapped inside Mrs. Tweedy's pie-making machine and encounter various mechanical dangers is a parody of the three Indiana Jones films' various cliffhanger dangers and subsequent escapes, as well as Ginger rescuing her hat.
  • The propeller of the escape plane is made of road signs sharing names with famous RAF bombers of World War IIStirling Lane, Lancaster Avenue and Blenheim Place. Furthermore, the model aeroplane is of a moderately successful RAF bomber of the early war period, the Whitley.
  • Fowler repeatedly refers to his years as a member of the No. 644 Squadron RAF. This was a real squadron; it was formed on February 23, 1944, several months before D-Day. 644 squadron was based at RAF Tarrant Rushton airfield in Dorset, and exclusively flew Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers. The 644's primary missions were "special operations" over occupied Europe, such as making supply drops to various resistance movements, and towing troop transport gliders.
  • During the plane sequence, the Scottish chicken Mac shouts a few quotes from Scotty of Star Trek: The Original Series, such as "I cannot work miracles cap'n", "I'm giving her all she's got!", "A 'cling-on' (Klingon) cap'n," and "The engines can't take it!"
  • The promo title featured on posters for the film, "C:R-1", was a spoof of the promo title "M:I-2" for the film Mission: Impossible II. A teaser trailer included on the DVD spoofed Mission: Impossible II with scenes from Chicken Run.

Voice cast

Crew

Crew position
Directed by Nick Park
Peter Lord
Produced by Peter Lord
David Sproxton
Nick Park
Original story by Peter Lord
Nick Park
Screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick
Executive producer Jake Eberts
Jeffrey Katzenberg
Michael Rose
Associate producer Lenny Young
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
John Powell
Line producer Carla Shelley
Director of photography Dave Alex Riddett
Production designer Phil Lewis
Film editor Mark Solomon
Human model Sam White
Supervising animator Lloyd Price
Storyboard supervisor David Bowers
Production manager Harry Linden

Awards and nominations

Video game

Chicken Run is a stealth-based (nicknamed "Chicken Gear Solid") 3-D platformer based on the movie. The game is a loose parody of the famous The Great Escape movie, which is based in WWII.

See also

References

External links

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