Chicken Run is a 2000 stop motion animated comedy film produced by the British studio Aardman Animations in partnership with American studio DreamWorks Animation. The studio's first feature-length film, it was directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park from a screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick and story by Lord and Park. It was co-financed by DreamWorks Pictures and Pathé; the former distributed the film worldwide except for Europe, where it was handled by Pathé. The plot centres on a band of chickens who see a smooth-talking Rhode Island Red named Rocky as their only hope to escape from certain death when the owners of their farm decide to move from selling eggs to selling chicken pies. The film features the voices of Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Timothy Spall, Phil Daniels, Tony Haygarth, and Miranda Richardson.
British theatrical release poster
|Screenplay by||Karey Kirkpatrick|
|Edited by||Mark Solomon|
|Box office||$225 million|
Chicken Run received critical acclaim, and grossed over $224 million, becoming the highest-grossing stop motion animated film in history. A sequel is currently in development.
Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy operate an abusive poultry farm in Yorkshire; the chickens are caged in the style of a World War II POW camp with a high fence and barbed wire, and two dogs patrol the grounds. Any hen that ceases to produce eggs is slaughtered for food. Frustrated at the 'minuscule profits' generated by the farm, Mrs. Tweedy conceives the idea of converting their farm into automated production after seeing an advertisement in a magazine.
One chicken, Ginger, has long had visions of escaping with the help of her hen friends, including Babs, Bunty, and Mac, and two black-marketer rats, Nick and Fetcher, who help to acquire 'contraband' from the Tweedys to aid Ginger's plans. However, she is always caught and put into solitary confinement. While thinking of a new plan, Ginger observes an American Rhode Island Red cockerel, Rocky, flying over the fence and crashing into one of the coops, spraining his wing. Ginger and the other chickens help to hide him from the Tweedys and care for his wing. Ginger is particularly interested in Rocky's apparent ability to fly and begs him to help train her and the other chickens to do the same. Rocky is coy, but proceeds to try to help train the chickens, unable to fully demonstrate due to his sprained wing. Meanwhile, Mr. Tweedy begins assembling the production line, and the chickens' food ration is doubled in order to fatten them.
Amid the training, Rocky holds a large party to help relieve the stress; it is revealed his wing is healed, and Ginger insists he show them how to fly the next day. However, Mr. Tweedy completes the production line of a pie machine and immediately grabs Ginger for a test run. Rocky is able to save Ginger and helps to damage the machine, giving them time to warn the other chickens of the Tweedys' plan to make them into chicken pies and only a short time to plan their escape while Mr. Tweedy repairs the machine. The next day, Ginger finds Rocky has fled, leaving behind a part of a poster that shows him to be a stunt cockerel, shot out of a cannon from a nearby circus and unable to fly by himself. When the hens' morale plummets, Fowler the cock tries to cheer the chickens up by telling tales from his days in the Royal Air Force, leading Ginger to the idea of creating a flying machine, called the Old Crate, to flee from the Tweedys' farm. All the chickens, with help from the rats, secretly assemble the required parts for the plane from their coops and the Tweedy's farm while racing against Mr. Tweedy's repairs. While traveling the countryside, Rocky is hit with remorse upon seeing a billboard for Mrs. Tweedy's Chicken Pies and reverses his course.
With the machine now fixed, Mrs. Tweedy insists that Mr. Tweedy gather all the chickens, but the chickens are ready to escape. They gag Mr. Tweedy and tie him up long enough to complete assembly of their plane. Ginger expects Fowler to pilot the plane, but Fowler declines, admitting he was only a mascot in the RAF, not a real pilot. Nevertheless, Ginger convinces Fowler to fly it anyway. Just before they take off, Rocky returns and joins them. Whilst taking off, Mrs. Tweedy chases them down and grabs onto a Christmas light strand snagged in the wheels. Mrs. Tweedy climbs the strand with a hatchet, intent on decapitating Ginger, while Ginger races to sever the strand. Ginger manages to trick Mrs. Tweedy into cutting the strand, sending her straight into the safety valve of the pie machine and plugging it; pressure builds up and the machine explodes, destroying the barn. As the chickens continue their flight to freedom, Mr. Tweedy reminds his wife that he told her the chickens were organised. This causes Mrs. Tweedy to growl in rage, but Mr. Tweedy, having had enough of her abuse and hostility, pushes the heavy metal door down onto her, crushing her to death. Months later, the chickens have found a quiet island where they can enjoy their freedom and raise their chicks, while Ginger and Rocky have developed a romantic relationship. Nick and Fetcher decide to start their own chicken farm for eggs, but disagree on whether to have the chicken or the egg first.
- Julia Sawalha as Ginger, a hen who is determined to save her fellow chickens from their impending doom on the Tweedys' farm. She is usually the one that comes up with the ideas and is generally more intelligent than the other chickens.
- Mel Gibson as Rocky Rhodes, a laid-back American cockerel who crash-lands into the farm and "teaches" the chickens to fly at Ginger's request.
- Miranda Richardson as Melisha Tweedy, a greedy and cantankerous lady who decides to convert her farm into a chicken pot pie factory solely for monetary reasons.
- Tony Haygarth as Willard Tweedy, Mrs. Tweedy's oafish, henpecked husband. Despite his unintelligence, he's cruel to the chickens and is more suspicious than his wife of their escape plans, and he correctly identifies Ginger as their leader.
- Benjamin Whitrow as Fowler, a feisty elderly cockerel who regularly prattles about his Royal Air Force experiences.
- Timothy Spall as Nick, a cynical, portly rat who smuggles contraband into the compound.
- Phil Daniels as Fetcher, Nick's slim, slow-witted partner.
- Jane Horrocks as Babs, a stout hen with a dim-witted innocence and a love of knitting.
- Imelda Staunton as Bunty, the champion egg-layer and group cynic who is the most skeptical of Ginger's escape plans.
- Lynn Ferguson as Mac, Ginger's brainy Scottish assistant.
Chicken Run was Aardman's first feature-length production, which would be executive produced by Jake Eberts. Nick Park and Peter Lord, who runs Aardman, directed the film, while Karey Kirkpatrick scripted the film with additional input from Mark Burton and John O'Farrell. Chicken Run was first conceived in 1995 by Aardman co-founder Peter Lord and Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park.
Pathe agreed to finance Chicken Run in 1996 putting their finances into Script Development and Model Design. DreamWorks officially came on board in 1997. DreamWorks 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. Katzenberg explained that he had "been chasing these guys for five or six years, ever since I first saw Creature Comforts." DreamWorks secured their first animated feature with the film, and they handled distribution in all territories except Europe, which Pathé handled. The two studios co-financed the film. DreamWorks also retains rights to worldwide merchandising. During the production of the film, 30 sets were used with 80 animators working along with 180 people working overall. Despite this, one minute of film was completed with each week of filming.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 97% approval rating and an average rating of 8.1/10 based on 170 reviews. The website's 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." The film also holds a score of 88 based on 34 reviews on Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim."
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."[full citation needed]
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 and Irene. 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. The film's widest release was 2,953 theatres, after grossing $106,834,564 domestically with an additional $118,000,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $224,834,564. Produced on a $45 million budget, the film was a huge box office hit. To date, it is the highest grossing stop motion animated movie.
|Annie Awards||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|
|BAFTA Awards||Best British Film||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Nominated|
|Broadcast Film Critics||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics||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||Best Film||Nominated|
|Florida Film Critics||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Genesis Awards||Best Feature Film||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
|Golden Tomato Awards 2000||Best Films||Won|
|Kansas City Film Critics||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|Las Vegas Film Critics||Best Family Film||Won|
|Los Angeles Film Critics||Best Animated Feature||Won|
|National Board of Review||Won|
|New York Film Critics||Won|
|Phoenix Film Critics||Won|
|Best Family Film||Won|
|Best Original Score (John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams)||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Motion Picture - Animated or Mixed Media||Won|
|Southeastern Film Critics||Best Film||Nominated|
|3.||"The Evil Mr. Tweedy"||4:22|
|5.||"Chickens Are Not Organized"||1:01|
|6.||"We Need a Miracle"||2:03|
|7.||"Rocky and the Circus"||3:51|
|9.||"A Really Big Truck Arrives"||5:56|
|10.||"Cocktails and Flighty Thoughts"||1:58|
|11.||"Babs' Big Break"||1:40|
|12.||"Flip, Flop and Fly" (composed by Charles Calhoun and Lou Willie Turner, and performed by Ellis Hall)||2:09|
|13.||"Up on the Roof"||3:08|
|14.||"Into the Pie Machine"||3:10|
|15.||"Rocky, a Fake All Along"||3:28|
|16.||"Building the Crate"||3:32|
|17.||"The Wanderer" (composed by Ernest Peter Maresca, and performed by Dion)||2:47|
|18.||"The Chickens Are Revolting"||2:45|
|20.||"Escape to Paradise"||4:59|
Chicken Run was released on VHS and DVD on 21 November 2000. In July 2014, the film's North American distribution rights were purchased by DreamWorks Animation from Paramount Pictures (owners of the pre-2005 DreamWorks Pictures catalog) and transferred to 20th Century Fox before reverting to Universal Studios in 2018. Chicken Run was released on Blu-ray in North America on 22 January 2019.
A sequel for Chicken Run was announced on 26 April 2018, set for unknown release. Aardman Animations will reunite with Pathé and StudioCanal for the sequel though unlike the first film, DreamWorks Animation will have no involvement as they ended their partnership with Aardman after the release of Flushed Away. Sam Fell is attached to direct, with Paul Kewley producing. The original Chicken Run writers Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell are reuniting for the sequel, though no story information has been uncovered. Aardman co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton will be the executive producers.
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