Team behind 'Chicken Run' sequel hail stop-motion filmmaking

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, sequel to the 2000 movie, will release on Netflix on December 15


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Photo courtesy: Netflix
Photo courtesy: Netflix

Published: Sat 14 Oct 2023, 8:06 PM

Last updated: Sat 14 Oct 2023, 8:11 PM

The director of a long-awaited sequel to stop-motion classic "Chicken Run" believes the "unique" filmmaking technique has enduring cinematic appeal, as the new film premiered in Britain on Saturday.

"Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget", from Aardman Studios — the British animation studio behind "Wallace and Gromit" — had a big-screen debut at the London Film Festival ahead of its release on Netflix on December 15.

The beloved original in 2000 — a spoof on wartime prison escape dramas, about a flock of chickens fleeing the clutches of a sadistic farmer — remains the highest-grossing stop-motion animation of all time.

The painstaking filmmaking method involves physically manipulating objects — in this case puppets of chickens, other animals and human characters — frame-by-frame to create the illusion of movement.

Sam Fell, the director behind the follow-up, expects it to prove similarly popular on the streaming platform because people still crave "the handmade" even as society becomes ever more technological.

"Stop motion is truly handmade, it's a very tactile thing, and a piece of stop-motion animation is a one-off event that's been captured on camera — it's lightning in a bottle," he told AFP ahead of its red carpet unveiling.

For the film's production designer Darren Dubicki, the use of physical materials in the process helps forge a special relationship with audiences.

"When you see characters made from materials that you're kind of used to... there's a warmth and charm to it that really appeals," he said.

"Dawn of the Nugget" sees returning lead characters Ginger and Rocky safe on an island bird sanctuary, but with a daughter, Molly, who is itching to see the world but gets trapped on a factory farm.

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Fell and Aardman Studios have been labouring over the much-anticipated sequel for six years, carefully plotting how to bring their cherished creations back to the screen for another action-packed adventure.

"In the end, the thing that cracked it was a simple line... 'this time they're breaking in'," the director explained.

"It just conjured up a new kind of movie for Aardman, like a break-in movie, like a heist film, and all of the promise of that premise."

Finishing the film took so long in part because of the Covid pandemic, which required some special measures for the crew — some of whom worked on the original — as well as the puppets.

"Once a chicken had been animated, it had to go into quarantine. So there was a chicken quarantine area with UV lights, where the chicken would be out of action for three weeks!" recalled Fell.

Dubicki, one of those to work on the original, as a graphic artist, was left amazed by the elaborate sophistication of the puppets used in stop-motion today.


"You see the character in its entirety -- it's a lovely, simple, cartoonish silhouette -- but under the hood, it's like The Terminator. It's amazing," he said.

The veteran filmmaker praised the animation team in particular for their ability to "visualise how characters can move and be portrayed".

"It still blows my mind 'cos I'm not an animator... you have a voice to a character from actors, but the actual performance is coming from the animator and it's just (a) magical world," Dubicki added.

Among those lending their voices to the sequel are Thandiwe Newton as Ginger, Zachary Levi as Rocky, Bella Ramsey as Molly and veteran British star Imelda Staunton returning as Bunty.

The original movie, which featured Mel Gibson voicing Rocky, was commended for its feminist messaging as well as action sequences, with the sequel team hoping another "female-centric film" will be equally well-received.

It could also prove a boon to vegetarianism.

Fell revealed that dedicating so many years of his life to telling a chicken-led story had prompted him to stop eating the birds.

"I've spent a long time living as a chicken basically, so I've kind of seen the world from that point of view," he said.

But the director noted he was not imploring others to follow suit, and he remains realistic about the film's likely impact amid widespread factory farming worldwide.

"The 'Dawn of the Nugget' really is just this gigantic, terrifying jeopardy for all of chickenkind now," he said of the plot.

"We wanted the challenge to be bigger and badder than the first film," Fell added, before noting: "I don't think people will stop eating nuggets after this film".

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