They are prisoners in a chicken coop guarded by a cruel warden with barbed
wire standing between them and freedom. Can a fear of death, and dreams
of freedom, lead a troupe of chickens to successfully escape from Tweedy's
Chicken Farm? These issues are explored in DreamWorks Chicken Run,
sweeping through the U.S. Box Office and forcing analysts to wonder if
some people will give up eating chicken after seeing the film.
In Chicken Run,
every escape is a dead-end and the ringleader of the chickens, Ginger,
is thrown into solitary to do hard time. But these chickens will never
give up, for they know that if they don't produce enough eggs they will
wind up as someone's dinner. Worst yet, word in the coop is that Tweedy
is going to turn all the chickens into chicken pie, making the need
for escape more pressing.
The chicken clan
is now hatching its most daring escape plan. With the help of Rocky
(The Lone Free Ranger), these chickens plan to fly the coop. Are they
really organized or are rumors of their organization just a bunch of
In 1994 Aardman Studios won an Academy Award for its animated short
film, The Wrong Trousers (which at the time was their longest
short at 30 minutes). It was after this achievement that the team started
having serious talks about producing its first full-length feature.
They felt confident that if their storytelling techniques were good
at this length that they could successfully venture into feature length
The Aardman team
asked itself two questions regarding their first feature length feature:
1) What would the
story of this new feature animation be about?
2) Where would they
get the finances to accomplish such a project?
knew that the kind of money needed would have to come from America.
In addition, having access to Hollywood distribution and marketing would
only secure the success for the movie. Peter Lord and Nick Park knew
that they would need an agent between them and the studios of Los Angeles.
Canadian producer Jake Eberts, who was associated with Pathe studios,
step in as their contact. Aardman meet the right people at the right
Now with the money
and power behind them, Lord and Park needed a story. Dozens of ideas
poured in about legends, fairytales, and popular classics. But the shoes
just didn't seem to fit properly. None of the stories could truly inspire
the Aardman artists. They thought about doing their first feature on
their already popular Wallace & Grommit series. However, Lord and
Park wanted this feature to introduce new characters and new challenges.
Park, out of habit,
liked to always doodle in his notebook. This sometimes created visual
gags that would be considered for one of Aardman's shorts. During one
these "doodle sessions," Park sketched a chicken trying to
dig its way under a fence. After some thought he determined that this
sketch had the power to be turned into a humorous feature film. Chicken
Even though Lord
loved the idea, it was sheer terror to even begin imagining how to animate
the form of a chicken! Skinny legs, big round bodies covered with feathers
is something you generally want to stay away from when doing an animation.
do feathers in Plasticine, you can't do thin legs, and the bodies are
going weigh a ton," said Lord. Even so, the wackiness of doing
chickens proved to be too irresistible for the two directors at Aardman
and the green light was finally given.
Lord and Park drew
story inspirations from P.O.W. movies and a short story by Anthony de
Mello titled "The Golden Eagle," which is a story about a
baby eagle who is raised by chickens and believes it is a chicken. He
lives and dies not realizing who he is and what he is capable of becoming.
It was this lesson that inspired the theme in Chicken Run - a
yearning ambition to go beyond the obstacles that are imposed by others.
Ginger hatches this theme in the hearts of her fellow chickens, who
never had a desire to escape until she painted a brighter picture of
life outside the coop. But it wasn't until Lord and Park combined their
talents with scriptwriter Karey Kirkpatrick, did the story come together
as it's seen in the movie.
Aardman's first choice because he was American, and both Lord and Park
always believed that the best scriptwriter for Chicken Run needed
to be a British writer. But when things didn't work out with their British
writer, Jack Rosenthal, Eberts recommended Kirkpatrick. He assured the
two directors that this was their film and that he was not here to take
over but to realize it. It didn't take long for the three to develop
a wonderful working relationship. Kirkpatrick was the American coming
into the hen house, which sparked the idea of making Rocky's character
an all American rooster invading the scene. It also staged the set for
the love conflict between Ginger and Rocky in the beginning; sort of
a clash of cultures. Park then sparked the idea of the circus and Rocky
being blasted out of it and landing in the chicken coop.
Other ideas flowed
and finally the basis of the story, plots and twists were worked out.
Each of the three story developers had their strengths to bring the
process to a successful realization. Lord was excellent in visualizing
the entire story and the sensibility of it. Park was talented in the
area that needed great detail and developing the moments of the story.
Kirkpatrick guided them along the way interjecting ideas and workable
scenarios for a movie.
The result... Chicken
Vicki Tracy is editor
of Animation Artist Magazine.
Run - Characters
is a hen on a mission to lead her flock to freedom before it's too
late. Although she may be capable of escaping, she will not leave anyone
of her fellow hens behind. Often she risks getting caught and is thrown
into the coal bin for "solitary confinement" by Mr. Tweedy
as punishment in order to protect her friends. She dares to dream the
impossible for everyone and gives the flock it's courage to go on. She
longs to escape, but she wants that for all her friends too. After all
their efforts have failed one of the hens tells her the odds of breaking
out are one in a million, Ginger simply replies, "Then there's
still a chance."
Julia Sawalha says
this about her character, "She's very kindhearted, though she comes
across as a bit bossy at times, but it's only because she wants the
best for all her mates."
is a "free" rooster and sweeps the chickens off their feet.
He's the first young rooster in the hen house they've seen for a while.
His saying in the beginning is simply "I've got my own problems,
doll face." A fugitive from the circus, he's on the run and finds
out that he needs them as much as they need him. Ginger believes that
he can fly and convinces Rocky to teach them in exchange for hiding
him. He plays along until he falls in love with Ginger. Not able to
confront her with the truth about how he really flies he runs away.
This cocky rooster soon learns what it means to love and become the
hero to help save the day.
This romance "follows
the usual formula," Mel Gibson jokes about his character. "Rooster
meets hen, rooster and hen fall in love, rooster loses hen...you know."
is a very small minded hen who loves to knit with a British accent.
She has very little concept of the danger they are all in. She is a
sweet and innocent chicken. Everytime Ginger comes back from solitary
confinement, Babs believes she has "gone away on 'oliday, then."
After all the hard work on training to fly, Babs forgets to tell Ginger
that she hasn't laid any eggs for three days. When roll call is called
everyone fears the worst that Babs will be the next chicken to go to
the chops and become a Tweedy's main course dinner.
she's a larger chicken doesn't mean she has to have a larger voice,"
says Jane Harrocks, who played Babs. "I think it's quite nice that
her voice is sort of sweet and innocent, which fits her personality."
is the inventor and engineer who helps Ginger make all the escape
plans come to life and work. After many attempts of flying with Rocky's
training methods and not one hen succeeding in flying, Mac comes to
the conclusion that they need "more thrust." When all else
fails, it's Mac who engineers Ginger's masterpiece of an escape craft.
She is constantly communicating with Ginger, being her right hand chicken.
is a tall British speaking hen, who lays the most eggs a day. She prides
herself on this, however she is always glad to give her eggs to those
chickens who did not meet there egg quota and save them from the chop.
Bunty is not only a good egg layer but also a good doubt layer. She
is discouraged easily at all these unsuccessful escape attempts. The
last straw for her is when it seems all hope is gone and she begins
picking on Mac, but it's not until Fowler steps between them does an
outright chicken fight start. She is sick and tired of all this talk
about Fowler's air force days. But when it comes time for hard work
and working together on the great escape machine, you can count on Bunty
to pull her fair share of the work.
is the old rooster of the hen house, who loves to tell his tall tales
of his glory days in the RAF (Royal Air Force). When Rocky first comes
on the scene, the old rooster is suspicious of this American Rooster
saying, "Poppycock! Pushy Americans, always showing up late for
every war. Overpaid, oversexed, and over here!" He hates having
to share his bunk with Rocky and grumbles untiringly about him being
here. However, over the course of time Rocky seems to prove himself
to Fowler after rescuing Ginger from the hands of the Tweedy's and gives
Rocky his entire bunk.
At the end Fowler
proves his own worth as he's nominated to pilot their escape craft.
Tweedy is the villainous woman who runs the egg farm. Her only thought
is for her pocket book. If the chickens do not lay enough eggs for her
to profit from, she takes them to the chop and they end up as dinner
on her table. It is she who calls all the shots and makes all the business
decisions. After doing the accounting books Mrs. Tweedy is unhappy with
her profit margin and her eye catches a glimpse of a magazine telling
her how to turn an egg farm into a gold mine, by making and selling
chicken pies. She does her own agenda and refuses to listen to a word
from Mr. Tweedy.
comments about her character, "She's vile to the chickens; she's
vile to Mr. Tweedy...she's relentless really." She gets her due
reward in the end.
Tweedy is the real owner of the chicken farm. It has been in his
family for many generations. But when he married Mrs. Tweedy she took
over. He cowards to her every whim. When he tries to tell her that the
"chickens are organized" she tells him to shut up that chickens
don't do things like that. Mr. Tweedy has a bone to pick with Ginger.
He is always catching Ginger escaping and throws her into the coal bin
to do time. When Mrs. Tweedy tells him to get a chicken for the pie
machine, he replies, "I know just the one."
is a British speaking rat. He is the ring leader of the twosome
partnership with Fletcher. When Ginger needs items she calls on Nick
and Fletcher to make a deal with them. She gives them feed, they get
her the things she needs for her escape plan. But when the stakes are
high he bargains for more than feed. Nick wants their valuable eggs
this time. Eventually Nick and Fletcher make a deal with Rocky for his
eggs. Nick's the smarter of the two.....well, just a little. He soon
figures it out the Rocky can't lay eggs, "it's a lady's thing apparently."
is Nick's partner in crime. He's even dumber than Nick. However, Ginger
still doesn't trust either one of them. But when Mrs. Tweedy doesn't
care about their eggs anymore, Ginger then bargain their eggs for the
rat duo to get all the necessary equipment and supplies to make their
grand escape. These rats become Ginger's accomplices and truly help
her and the folk escape.
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