I was quite surprised to learn that the first Aardman Animation feature film was 2000’s Chicken Run. I would have put money on it being one of the Wallace And Gromit adventures but had forgotten that the early ones were made for TV shorts. The first full length Wallace And Gromit was, actually, the 2005 Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. I remember watching Chicken Run back in the early days of the new millennium but its significance passed me by as regular Aardman Christmas treats had been popping up for years.
I remember thinking that it was very funny and studded with a spectacular cast. Twenty three years later, would they be able to repeat the success of their debut? Things, as we all know, have changed. CGI has come on in leaps and bounds so would that do away with the whole stop motion, plasticine animation genre? Throw in that the factory that made the actual plasticine has closed down: they bought enough to make another Wallace And Gromit film but, fortunately, have found a new supplier.
Okay Everyone, It’s Go Time
One of the big factors in a sequel that arrives following a pandemic and almost a quarter century is the cast; different things befall them. Four actors returned in the same role: Imelda Staunton (Bunty), Miranda Richardson (Mrs Tweedy), Jane Horrocks (Babs), and Lynn Ferguson (Mac). Tony Haygarth was Mr Tweedy but he died in 2017 and the character was written out; Nick Mohammed plays Mrs Tweedy’s love interest, Dr Fry. Another actor died in 2017; Benjamin Whitrow who played Fowler. Fowler returns but has been recast with David Bradley taking the role.
Other recastings include the main characters Rocky and Ginger; originally played by Mel Gibson and Julia Sawalha. Mel Gibson had been too troublesome and was replaced by Zachary Levi and Julia Sawalha was told she sounded too old. She was replaced by Thandiwe Newton who is a whole four years younger than her! The rats, Fletcher and Nick, were both recast for reasons I don’t know. Phil Daniels and Timothy Spall were replaced by Daniel Mays and Romesh Ranganathan.
It’s All Right, I Went Before We Left
Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget starts off on the island that the gang escaped to at the end of Chicken Run. They have a nice little society there and everyone seems happy. Apart from Rocky and Ginger’s teenage daughter Mollie (Bella Ramsey). As teenagers are all over the world, she wants adventure and sees some lorries on the road across from the island. The lorries have pictures of happy chickens on and she meets up with Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick-Davies) and they go off on an adventure which the rest of the chickens have to come and rescue them from.
Executive producer and visual effects supervisor, Nick Park, said that the stop-motion animation used throughout the film was more complex than anything Aardman had done before.There has, apparently, been a bit of CGI tweaking but, being honest, I never noticed where it was. But the thing that really makes the difference in an Aardman film is the humour in the script and that is still just as prevalent. There were masses of sight gags, plenty of one-liners, and a fair bit of funny back and forth. Fowler warning the others with “Careless squawks cost lives” tickled me. Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget is available on Netflix from 15th December 2023.
Movie Grade: A
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!