YOU GENUINELY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT........
CHICKEN RUN… AND CHICKENS
This Friday, the first
ever full-length movie from veteran British animation
studio Aardman opens in the UK. Coming from the subtly
twisted brains behind Wallace And Gromit, hopes are high
that Chicken Run will be the bestest thing ever, and
repeat the critical and commercial success, which saw it
achieve the highest ever opening US weekend box office
for a Dreamworks movie. Hey now – here’s a whole
bunch of stuff you genuinely didn’t know about Aardman,
Chicken Run – and chickens! Cluck-me-do!
was founded in 1972 by David Sproxton and Peter
Lord. The pair had met at school, and spent their
spare time making amateur animated films using David’s
dad’s 16mm camera. They formed the company after
being commissioned to provide a short animation for
quirky Tony Hart-fronted deaf kids show, Vision On.
It featured a clumsy super-hero, dubbed "Aardman".
ovulate almost every day, and cockerel sperm can
remain fertile inside a hen for up to 32 days.
Chickens can lay an egg approximately every 27
hours, and will ovulate 30 minutes after laying an
egg. Unless the egg is layed after 2pm, in which
case a delay of 16-18 hours is normal. A hen will
lay an average of 245 eggs a year.
continued its association with Tony Hart throughout
the 1970s. When Hart presented teatime art show Take
Hart, Aardman teamed him with a desktop lump of
Plasticine called Morph. The unintelligible Morph
spun-off into his own series of 26 episodes in 1981,
where he was teamed with Chas, a gruffer-sounding
unintelligible Plasticine guy, and Foily – a foil
woman. Just imagine munching on her bits with your
of the 10,000 species of bird, only 10 are
classified as poultry. These are turkey, duck,
goose, guinea, pea fowl, pigeon, pheasant, ostrich,
swan and – yes – those wonderful chickens!
1978 Aardman produced a pair of short animations
based around dialogue recorded from members of the
general public. Though the two films – Down And
Out and Confessions Of A Foyer Girl – were
disregarded by the BBC, they were seized upon a
couple of years later by Channel 4. The new station
commissioned a further five pieces in a similar
style, paving the way for Aardman’s Oscar-winning
Creature Comforts (best remembered as part of a
1980s electricity ad campaign).
have no sweat glands, and do not urinate.
the 80s Aardman moved into pop videos, and their
most well known was probably Peter Gabriel’s
Sledgehammer – which was worked on by newcomer
Nick Park. When Park joined the company in the
mid-80s he was already working on the first Wallace
And Gromit film, A Grand Day Out. The subsequent two
Wallace And Gromit films both won Oscars for their
full length Wallace And Gromit movie will be Aardman’s
next major project, after The Tortoise And The Hare.
navels are connected to the intestine. Also,
chickens are unable to bend their backs.
Run was the inspiration of co-director Park, who
worked in a chicken-packing factor and
slaughterhouse when he left school, where he spent
time gutting the chickens. He describes his
experiences as "horrible". Park and Peter
Lord pitched the idea to Dreamworks boss Steven
Spielberg as "The Great Escape – with
chickens". Bizarrely, they discussed the idea
with the legendary director over a dinner of roast
lay their eggs backwards – large end first. Oh
man! That must be like shitting a boot!
on Chicken Run begun in 1996, though principal
photography took around 20 months for a crew of 40
animators to complete. The total crew numbered 457.
Due to the length of the production, Aardman had to
use a special blend of Plasticine for the more
expressive features of the film’s models. The
"Aardman Mix" is harder and more durable
than the Newplast clay used on most Aardman films.
In total, 57 different colours of Plasticine were
used for the characters. To achieve the correct hue,
the Plasticine is mixed in a converted chewing gum
machine. The first model of each character – the
bodies of which comprised of foam latext constructed
around a steel armature – cost around £10,000.
Subsequent models cost "just" £2,000.
Each of the chickens in the film had dozens of
different mouths, shaped to vocalise each letter of
the alphabet, as well as to convey emotion.
have cannibalistic tendencies. Farmers will often
"de-beak" them, in a process which removes
the end of the beaks, in order to prevent them from
eating one another.
human characters in Chicken Run also wear fabric
clothes. Mrs Tweedy’s dress was wired stiff to
allow it to be animated, and took one person three
weeks to complete. Mr Tweedy originally wore a tweed
jacket, but the animators found the material
restrictive, and so changed it to a leather jerkin
(though his name didn’t change to "Mr
Leathery"). It wasn’t the only change made to
the film – the inventor chicken Mac, voiced by
Lynn Ferguson, was originally named "McNugget".
Suffice to say, the name was shortened upon legal
have hollow bones, and are able to breath through
are 24 individual poses per second of film in
Chicken Run. The team managed to get 100 seconds of
film in the can each week.
chickens have their testes inside their body cavity.
Aardman was signed to produce Chicken Run for
Dreamworks, the Park and Lord insisted the company
wouldn’t compromise its trademark Britishness. By
way of a compromise, Mel Gibson was cast as the
anti-hero Rocky. Gibson, a big fan of Wallace And
Gromit, was more than happy to sign. However, he was
busy filming The Patriot at the time the production
required him, so he recorded many of his lines via
digital phone lines.
process of viewing chicken eggs for quality is via a
special machine, and is called "candling".
actors were required to record their lines in up to
40 different ways, and the animators would later
choose the line which best matched the animation.
Even then, the actors were often called back to
re-record dialogue. Gibson’s co-star Julia Sawalha
said it was the most difficult job she’s ever
done. However, because of the meticulous planning
which went into Chicken Run, the film only required
four weeks of post-production.
go like this: "Bok bok bok"!
Chicken Run opens on
Friday 30th June.
The Official UK Chicken
Run web site at www.chickenrun.co.uk