Animation Features Movies

Chicken Run

Producer-Directors: Nick Park, Peter Lord – Producer – David Sproxton – 2000 – UK – Cert. PG – 84m


Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Plasticene stop-frame animation house Aardman Animations’ debut feature film reconceives The Great Escape with chickens – review originally published in year 2000

Aardman Animations’ A Close Shave (1995), the third half-hour outing for Nick Park’s popular Wallace & Gromit duo, exhibited several danger signs – specifically its close resemblance to brilliant, immediate precursor The Wrong Trousers (1993). Clearly aware of such pitfalls, Park and founding Aards Sproxton and Lord shrewdly signed a five-picture deal with Dreamworks but refused to rush into a first feature. Their caution has paid dividends: this first full length Aardmovie proves an unexpectedly wondrous odyssey.

It’s The Great Escape reconceived with chickens: familiar WW2 prison camp is reconfigured as North of England chicken coop with impenetrable fencing, rows of huts and a motley assortment of portly hen inmates. Ginger (voice: Julia Sawalha) wants to escape, but several disastrous attempts lead to solitary confinement (where she bounces a ball off the wall Steve McQueen style). Other chickens can’t see a problem – Bunty (voice: Imelda Staunton) simply keeps on laying eggs, while Babs (Horrocks) busies herself with constant knitting.

Meanwhile, human proprietor Mrs. Tweedy (voice: the deliciously villainous Miranda Richardson) is planning to shift production from eggs to chicken pies. When the arrival of flying rooster Rocky (voice: Mel Gibson) sets Ginger thinking about flight as a means of escape, Ginger enlists Rocky’s help in training her compatriots.

While children will inevitably love it, the whole thing is pitched squarely at adult sensibilities and relies more heavily than prior Aardman shorts on humourous dialogue. Pie machine interiors (far outdoing A Close Shave’s Mutton‑O‑Matic) jostle with distinctly un‑Hollywood verbal gems (“pushy Americans – turning up late for every war”) and knowing nods to war movies (Dave Alex Riddett’s perfectly recreated nighttime prison camp lighting).

With this remarkable first feature – one of year 2000’s best – the Aards further consolidate their status as a Great British institution. Long may their cinematic innovation continue.

With the voices of: Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Tony Haygarth, Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton, Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson, Timothy Spall, Benjamin Whitrow.

Trailer 1:

Trailer 2:

This review first appeared in year 2000 in UK regional listings magazines including AdHoc and What’s On In Birmingham.

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