“But I don’t want to be a pie!” yells Babs, “I don’t like gravy!” That’s the predicament that all the chickens face on Ms. Tweedy’s farm in Aardman Studio’s stop-motion animated feature, Chicken Run (2000). Except its not just the fact that they’ll be slathered with gravy, but that they’ll be killed and then slathered with gravy and baked in a pie (“Ooh. What kind of pie?”). But hope is not all lost, for the smooth talking Rocky (Mel Gibson) the rooster has come, claiming that he can help teach them to fly out of their prison camp!
While stop-motion animation is nothing new, Aardman Animation is one of the few contemporary studios that are known for their stop-motion films, and they have a very particular style that sets them apart from other animation studios such as Laika (Paranorman, Boxtrolls etc.). Being the first stop-motion feature by Peter Lord and Nick Park (creators of Wallace and Gromit), Chicken Run retains all the trademarks of an Aardman clay-mation, from the hilarious visual comedy and witty premise, to the recognizable style of character design (the bulgy eyes, oversized toothy mouths, pudgy fingers).
Watching Chicken Run as a kid, I was captured by the great characters, the funny visual gags, and the charming story. Watching it now as an adult and as a filmmaker/animator, I can truly appreciate the mastery that went into the art design and animation of this and other Aardman films (see Wallace and Gromit shorts, Shaun the Sheep)
As opposed to other forms of animation such as hand-drawn or computer 3D, stop-motion films such as Chicken-Run utilized physical models that were painstakingly animated frame-by-frame by moving each part ever so slightly and taking a photograph. Each blink, wrinkle of fabric, dirt splatter from a footstep, and other tiny movement details taken into account. And as if doing that for one character wasn’t hard enough, they had to do it for Every. Single. Chicken (and basically everything on screen for that matter). Just look at the amount of chickens in the above screenshot alone. Impressive, right? During production, on average each animator managed to complete only 2.5 seconds of animation per day!
But the results were well worth the effort, Chicken Run still holds the record for highest grossing stop-motion animated feature film, and rightfully so; It is an absolute delight to watch. So whether you want to be baffled by the artistry of stop-motion animation or just looking for something entertaining to watch on a Friday night, Chicken Run is surely a treat for all. Join us this Friday Nov 27 at 5:00pm in SS203 to witness flying chickens!
By Simon Chan