Warning: A cluck load of chicken puns
A chick-flick that has every viewer cracking up, Chicken Run (2000) is timeless, it’s heart-felt, it’s – undoubtedly – egg-cellent. Delighting children, adults and pensioners alike, this film is a classic and has earned its spot in history, thanks to the committed and talented team of filmmakers who first hatched this brilliant story.
Aardman studios was initially set up in 1972 by Peter Lord and David Sproxton following their graduation. Nick Park joined the team in 1985 after Lord and Sproxton were impressed by his student film A Grand Day Out (1989), and thus the Claymation team we all love became whole. In the following years Aardman Studios earned award after award for widely cherished projects like Creature Comforts (1990), The Wrong Trousers (1993) and more. They charmed the world with lovable and memorable characters, all of whom had distinctive and expressive visual features that amused every viewer. Their long history of creative success was eventually awarded with funding from the major studio DreamWorks, which led to perhaps their most widely beloved feature film to date, Chicken Run. A runaway success, Chicken Run is still the highest grossing stop motion animation to date and, re-watching this timeless classic, it’s easy to see why it’s so far up the pecking order.
Chicken Run follows a coop of chickens trapped on a farm desperately fighting to escape. Led by the tenacious rebel Ginger (Julia Sawalha), the chickens endure countless failed attempts until finally one day the possible answer lands right in their laps. Rocky (Mel Gibson), a rooster blown from the cannon of a nearby circus, crash lands into the pen and inspires the chickens to escape through flight. Unsuspecting of any possible fowl play, the chickens embark on the mission of flying, a mission that grows in desperation as the menacing farmer Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) and her hopelessly dopey husband Mr Tweedy (Tony Haygarth) purchase a pie-making machine with plans of turning their egg farm into a booming chicken pie production business. A cheeky parody of WW2 film The Great Escape (1963), Chicken Run is endearing, exciting and absolutely hilarious.
Every character is distinctly memorable, with more emotive power than most Hollywood actors. The catalogue of instantly quotable lines is practically the length of the original script, as the meticulous care that went into puppeteering those models also went into the writing. Who doesn’t occasionally grumble in their best northern accent “Those chickens are up to something”, or squeak “all me life flashed before me eyes…! It were really boring”? Marrying together physical comedy with clever quips and pitch perfect delivery, the comedic power of Chicken Run is precise, silly and quintessential Aardman.
If the timeless storytelling of Chicken Run wasn’t already enough to ensure its place forever in our hearts, the meme-able subtext that the internet has embraced is – and that’s socialism, dollface. Comrade Ginger inspiring a coup within the coop and leading a charge to seize the means of production and escape the literal machine of capitalism that exists only to grind up the lives of the many for the monetary benefits of the few is too deliciously evident to miss. Despite this film being 20 years old, it is in fact true that Karl Marx watched Chicken Run before writing his 1848 Communist Manifesto (Google it). Revolutionary as well as staunchly feminist, Chicken Run is more than just a delightfully fun family film – for many it was our first glimpse into the injustices of capitalism and the cruelty of prison labour systems (and they wonder why our generation is majorly embracing socialist politics).
Chicken Run is the film I put on when I need cheering up. It’s the film that has played every year in my house at Christmas and it’s the film that unites every generation. The playful creative genius that the Aardman team embodies is, in my eyes, unmatched. They are a staple of British cinema, and the widely shared adoration for Chicken Run rightfully soars higher than most. A clucking fantastic film that inspires revolt just as much as it inspires laughter, Chicken Run is exactly what we need in 2020. So, happy 20th anniversary, chicks.