When I was a kid, I had regular obsessions with different movies. Yes, I’m aware, I was a weird little thing even back then. Anyway, it got me thinking about a new series, where I look at some of the films that filled my childhood. There were certainly lots of Disney films in there, don’t get me wrong, but amongst that, there were quite a few outside that category. I’m talking Chicken Run, The Swan Princess and Thumbelina, among others. So, today, I’m launching my new series of Films From My Childhood – where I’m going to delve into each movie and the memories I have around them, along with looking at my favourite scenes. Today, I thought I’d kick things off with one of my favourites – Chicken Run.
IMDB Synopsis: When a cockerel apparently flies into a chicken farm, the chickens see him as an opportunity to escape their evil owners.
Cast: Mel Gibson, Julia Sawhala, Miranda Richardson, Tony Haygarth, Timothy Spall, Phil Daniels, Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton
Year of Release: 2000
Production Company: Aardman Animations, DreamWorks, Pathé
Director: Peter Lord and Nick Park
Run Time: 84 minutes
Chicken Run was Aardman’s first ever feature length film and ended up grossing over $224 million, earning it the title of the highest grossing stop-motion animated movie in history. Of course it paved the way for future Aardman movies such as Flushed Away and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and it’s since been confirmed that Chicken Run 2 is in the works. I for one, can’t bloody wait. But let’s start from the beginning. Chicken Run tells the story of a group of chickens, led by Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawhala), who are desperate to escape the egg farm they live on, run by Mr and Mrs Tweedy. However, after the arrival of Rocky the rooster (voiced by Mel Gibson), the chickens decide to take the escape plan up a notch.
There was a time, pre-2000, where I was terrified of Aardman’s most popular creation – Wallace and Gromit (don’t ask – I’m fine now). Which is why it was surprising when I turned to my Mum after an earlier trip to the cinema and told her I wanted to go and see “that film with the chickens.” Even though the claymation chickens had those trademark eyes and teeth that are instantly recognisable as the work of Aardman Animations, it didn’t bother me. Even so though, if you sat me down to watch Wallce & Gromit’s A Close Shave, I would be fucking terrified. Happy ending though, I can now watch all of the Wallace and Gromit films without any trauma. I was a weird child if you haven’t quite got that already.
Anyway, I remember my Mum taking me to see Chicken Run at the cinema when I was 8 years old and I was obsessed from the very first scene. Cue subsequent months of me spending my pocket money on the merch and reading the novelization of the book multiple times because it was the next best thing to going to the cinema again. I remember, for a while, my most prized possession being a Chicken Run Filofax. Because what eight year old doesn’t need a Filofax?! I don’t even have a bloody Filofax now.
My obsession with the film went on for longer than any obsession should (although to this day, my longest running obsession is still Normal People), so much so that as a special treat, my Mum’s partner took me to see it at the cinema one last time before they stopped showing it. When you’re a child, six months is a long-ass time to wait for a film to come out on whatever medium that allows you to watch it repeatedly, so it’s no surprise that when I unwrapped the VHS that Christmas, I lost my shit.
Where do we start? Chicken Run has so many quotable scenes and funny moments, so it was quite difficult to narrow it down to the best ones. To avoid keeping you here for too long, I’ve put together my top five moments:
The Dancing Scene
This is the scene that I remember enjoying the most as a kid, and even now, it’s probably my number one scene from the whole film. As a treat, Rocky gets Nick and Fetcher the rats to hook them up with a radio so the chickens can let off some steam. What follows is an insanely joyus sequence where the chickens bust some moves to Flip, Flop and Fly. It’s just this brilliantly uplifting scene, and whenever I hear the song this is literally all I can think of. From Bunty and Fowler dancing together to Nick and Fetcher getting a bit emotional, it’s just the perfect scene that brings the whole ensemble of characters together.
The Pie Machine
Following the arrival of their new pie machine, Mrs Tweedy tells her husband to bring her a chicken so she can show him how it works. Mr Tweedy goes straight for Ginger, convinced that she’s the ringleader behind all of the chickens’ plans to escape. What follows is a highly entertaining sequence where Rocky heads into the pie machine in a bid to rescue her. I bloody love a sequence like this in a film, and this scene just has it all. It’s exciting, it’s got suspense, and it’s got plenty of humour thrown in too – my personal favourite being when Rocky falls into basically all of the pies and gets covered in gravy.
Of course one of the main storylines of the film is that Rocky agrees to teach the chickens how to fly so that they can escape Tweedy’s Farm. The overall sequence where he uses different techniques to teach them is just genius – it’s funny AF, and I love how pretty much all of the chickens are into it, aside from Ginger, who is of course done with his shit from the get-go. Combine it with the commentary from Nick and Fetcher, who sit lounging and eating biscuits the entire time, and the entire sequence is comedy gold. However, you can’t beat this particular exchange:
Fetcher: They’re gonna kill themselves!….Wanna watch?
Nick: Yeah, alright.
Nick & Fetcher
While it’s not exactly a whole scene, I feel that the rats need a mention. While the entire lineup of Chicken Run characters is brilliant, Nick and Fetcher are two of my favourites. Their utter stupidity in believing that Rocky is going to lay them an egg, alongside their regular piss-takes of the chickens just adds even more comic relief to the film, and pretty much every scene they’re in is brilliantly funny.
The Chickens Attack
The final sequence of the film where the chickens take matters into their own hands and build themselves a crate to fly out of the farm is what we were all hoping for, and again, it has it all. It’s entertaining, it’s exciting, and you’ve even got the little romance moment between Ginger and Rocky. However, my favourite part has to be when Mr Tweedy finally discovers the chickens in the midst of their escape plan, and they decide to attack him. In the midst of being mauled by them, he screams out “Mrs Tweedy! The chickens are revolting!” and she just doesn’t give a single shit. Instead, she’s occupied with her paperwork and just replies “Finally something we agree on.” It’s comedy gold. Of course that final sequence as a whole is brilliant, but I remember finding this part particularly funny.
Out of all the Chicken Run characters, I feel we have to give a mention to Babs. To be honest, every single character in the film is loveable in their own way. Bunty doesn’t take any shit, Ginger is determined, and Rocky is arrogant but weirdly charming. Then, as I mentioned earlier, Nick and Fetcher are the ideal comic duo. However, for me, Babs has to be my favourite. I love Babs so much, and she has some of the best lines in the film, including “Me life flashed before me eyes….it was really boring” and arguably, the most iconic line of all “I don’t want to be a pie! I don’t like gravy.”
Chicken Run is one of those films that instantly takes me back to my childhood. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, and even over 20 years on, it still holds up. I ended up getting drunk and watching it last year during lockdown one evening while Liam was gaming, and even as an adult, it’s still every bit as funny as when I was a kid. It was confirmed recently that Chicken Run 2 is currently in development after being picked up by Netflix, and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited. Will it be any good? No one knows. All we do know though, is that the first film is going to be a tough act to follow.
What did you think of Chicken Run? Are there any childhood movies you’d like me to talk about? Let me know in the comments!