07 Dec 23
Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Bella Ramsey, Imelda Staunton, Lynn Ferguson, David Bradley
The first Chicken Run was a game-changer for Aardman. Their first feature film started a new decade for the studio, leading to their expansion as well as international popularity. It was inevitable that they would come to revisit a film that made such an impact on them and now, some 23 years later, arrives the sequel, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.
Set some time after the first film, Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) and Rocky (Zachary Levi) are living in a utopian, isolationist chicken paradise – a self-sustaining and secluded island community away from all the humans. Their daughter, Molly (Bella Ramsey), has inherited the couple's adventurous and rebellious spirit, and starts to question them about the world beyond their island.
Ginger does everything she can to shut this down, sheltering Molly from the outside and, in her mind, from people like Mrs Tweedy. Whereas in the first film it was Rocky who underwent a journey of personal growth, from a charlatan who claimed he could fly to a more selfless and honest rooster, Dawn of the Nugget builds its caper around Ginger's fear of the past repeating itself.
The worst comes to pass: Molly is overly curious and gets whisked away to a brand-new industrial chicken complex where scientists tinker with nefarious new concepts: "fast food" and something called a "chicken nugget".
Cheekily referred to as "Chicken Impossible" in interviews with its director Sam Fell (ParaNorman, Flushed Away), this belated sequel to the highest- grossing stop-motion animated film of all time comes back even bigger, its sets larger, its stakes higher.
Instead of a pastiche of The Great Escape set on a Yorkshire farm, Aardman's latest film riffs on Cold War spy thrillers and heist movies. It's couched in the studio's trademark sense of humour, a delightful collection of slapstick gags and sharp witticisms, including '60s parody.
The character animation is expectedly charming – every second Babs is on screen is a delight. Also immediately striking is how splendid the sets are: the chicken sanctuary is lush and expansive, contrasting with the brutal grey concrete of the industrial farm. Even with that imposing look, its details are full of Aardman silliness: the perimeter is surrounded by a moat full of exploding robot ducks; on the inside its staff are dressed like they're clocking in for shifts on the Death Star.
The film's sense of humour is so natural that it's easy to forget the incredibly dedicated care that goes into making it, especially in a traditional way. Aardman have expanded to using new technologies in recent years, but Dawn of the Nugget shows their classic charms remain.
In the film's large production it feels like a passing of the torch and a visit from old friends. On one hand there's Fell taking over as director, on the other, there are names like director of photography Charles Copping stepping up from assistant cameraman on the first film. Many other familiar names are behind the camera (as well as in front of it).
There is both a sense of familiarity and of renewal, recapturing what made Chicken Run so much fun in the first place, while furthering their timeless craft. Kambole Campbell
More than 800 chicken wings were made for the production, while over 150,000 feathers had to be hand-painted. Most puppets have a set of 14 mouths but Molly had the largest mouth set, at 24. With 16 Molly puppets made in total, this meant there were 384 Molly mouths created for Dawn of the Nugget.
To prevent the chicken puppets from having too much of a sheen on camera, each one had finely sifted icing sugar puffed onto its surface, creating an even, matte effect.
The film contains around 1,400 shots in total. The longest shot is the opening pan across Chicken Island, which is 784 frames, or 32.67 seconds. It took 80 working days to shoot. Poultry in motion.
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