15 Nugget-Sized Trivia Tidbits About ‘Chicken Run’
The Chicken Run sequel is out today, and having seen the trailer, I already have one major concern: It’s called Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, yet there appears to be no mention of Robert C. Baker, the Cornell University professor who invented the nugget in the 1950s, suggesting it’s hardly a comprehensive nugget history. And so, skip tuning into the sequel on Netflix and read these 15 trivia tidbits about the first film instead…
The First Serving
Celebrated for its stop-motion animated shorts of Wallace and Gromit, Aardman Animations’ first feature-length film was Chicken Run in 2000. Since then, it’s released other theatrical offerings like Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Flushed Away and Shaun the Sheep Movie.
Chicken Run was first conceived in 1995 by Aardman co-founder Peter Lord and Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park. It was intended as a parody of The Great Escape.
It Was Pitched in a Chicken Joint
As Park revealed in an interview, “It was when we were at the Sundance Film Festival showing A Close Shave that we got a call from DreamWorks. Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg sent a private jet to fly us to Los Angeles for a night — they wanted to know if we had any feature film ideas. By coincidence, they arranged for the meeting to take place in a famous chicken restaurant. At that point, all we had were a few thoughts scribbled on a scrap of paper, but the idea of chickens plotting their grand escape went down really well. I remember Steven saying that The Great Escape was his favorite film, and he had 300 chickens on his farm.”
It took 18 months to shoot Chicken Run, as only two to three seconds of the film were recorded daily.
Shooting Clay Chickens
The kind of clay used in the film is called plasticine, which is a “putty-like modeling material made from calcium salts, petroleum jelly and aliphatic acids.” It’s the kind of clay children are most often given. As Lord has explained, “Their heads and their hands are made of plasticine. We often say clay, and people often say clay in articles when they mean plasticine. Plasticine is the classic animation material that we’ve used for 30 years. The chickens’ bodies are made of other materials that we try to make look like plasticine as well. Originally, they’re all sculpted in plasticine from which we take molds then we make them in silicone rubber. Inside they have strong steel skeletons. We use silicone rather than plasticine because we wanted further detail and we wanted to use paint effects and you can’t paint plasticine effectively. Things would get smudged.”
Countless Clicks and Clucks
Because of the stop-motion process, there are over 110,000 separate shots in Chicken Run.
Absolutely Fabulous star Julia Sawalha voiced Ginger in Chicken Run. However, she was told she sounded “too old” for the sequel and was recast with Westworld star Thandiwe Newton.
Some Familiar Flavors
While both leads have been recast, many voices from the original film are returning, including Imelda Staunton as Bunty, Lynn Ferguson as Mac, Jane Horrocks as Babs and Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Tweedy.
The standard models of the chickens were about nine inches while the humans were about a foot tall. Different, smaller models of the chickens were used in shots where they interacted with humans.
Most films are shot at 24 frames per second, but Chicken Run used just 20 frames per second to make the stop-motion process somewhat easier.
That’s 35 Buckets’ Worth
More than 500 puppets were made for the film.
And About Two Cars’ Worth
Nearly 8,000 pounds of plasticine was used for Chicken Run.
When it was released in 2000, Chicken Run was a critical and box-office success, earning nearly $228 million on its $45 million budget.
Chicken Run was such a critical hit that there was a major push for it to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. While the effort failed, it did lead to the creation of the Best Animated Feature category.
Grade A Poultry
To this day, Chicken Run is still the highest-grossing stop-motion film in history.