CHICKEN RUN is about chickens trying to escape. It is very funny and exciting. Each chicken has a great sense of humor and is weird. Mel Gibson is the voice of Rocky, a lazy liar who is sort of like Austin Powers, and Julia Sawalha (from Absolutely Fabulous) is Ginger, a determined and nice chicken. Other characters are two mice who are annoying and slick. There is one chicken who is really good at math, and makes all the calculations. There is another chicken who loves to knit; if you look at her, she'll definitely be knitting.

It all starts when Rocky comes blasting over the fence and everybody thinks he can fly. The chickens ask him to teach them to fly, but they don't make any progress. They keep trying to fly until they figure out that something fishy is going on--Mrs. Tweedy (the farmer's wife) has a machine that lets the chickens go in, but pies come out. "I don't want to be a pie!" says the mathematical chicken. The chickens do whatever they can to resist becoming pies.

After seeing the movie, we sat down with Nick Park and Peter Lord, the creators of Chicken Run (and Wallace & Gromit). They were both very funny and nice. We settled in, and had a discussion.

Sam: Did you do any of the claymaking stuff, or did... or, was that other people?

Peter: You mean the models themselves? The actual puppets?

Sam: Yeah. Did you do any of them?

Nick: What we did was, we helped to make them work, right at the start.

Sam: Did you draw them?

Peter: We drew them a bit, and then we modeled them in clay like this, but when we modeled them, they couldn't move. So then, once we made them in clay, a whole group of other people took them away and did the really technical model-making, because although you can't really see it here, this puppet here [an actual model from the film, Ginger, sits on the coffee table] has dozens of different technical processes inside. In fact, she's got a steel skeleton, and lots of different technical parts, which Nick and I don't do.

Sam: You made how they looked, but then other people pretty much made the puppets?

Nick: Yeah, we designed them.

Maggie: Why did you decide to kill a chicken in the movie?

Nick: We had to make it so that those chickens really wanted to get out of that place. So we thought, what better reason than if the farmers are going to kill them just for not laying eggs? Otherwise, if it was just a nice place where nothing bad ever happens, they'd probably just want to stay there, 'cause they have nice comfortable bunk beds.

Sam: When you were younger, did you make anything else besides the Wallace & Gromit [movies]?

Peter: I started making models when I was, like, 16 or something, and you [Nick] started when you were younger, like 12. And we both started just as a hobby; we started animating clay figures because it was fun. It's great fun to do. People often tell you that animation is really slow--if you read the book about Chicken Run, it just says, "Oh, it took thousands of people two years..." and it sounds terrible, but it's fun. When you just sit down with clay, in your bedroom, you can animate really fast, and it's really great, because you're making something come to life, which is the most exciting thing in the world.

Maggie: So then you kinda started making other things?

Peter: Yeah, the first one I made was this character called Morph. He turned into a blob of clay, and turned back into a man.

Sam: Did you make a little movie about him?

Nick: Yes, he was on TV. Peter was a bit older than me, and when I was about 12, I was doing clay animation for a hobby, and I used to see this character Morph on TV every week; I never imagined that I'd meet his maker. He was sort of my hero... every kid in the U.K. knows Morph and loves Morph, so it was really amazing to finally meet Peter.

Maggie: How long did it take you to make Chicken Run?

Nick: To actually film, it took 18 months. But Peter and I had the idea over four and a half years ago.

Maggie: To make Chicken Run?

Nick: Yeah, but just the writing of it, and you know... we do the whole story like a cartoon strip, like a comic, [with] storyboards, and that took us about a year to do. And then it took about a year before that just to write it.

Sam: Was it hard to be patient?

Peter: Yes!

Nick: Yes it was.

Sam: You were probably really excited when it was over.

Peter: Oh, you bet. Yes, 'cause if you do anything properly, you know, with storyboards and everything, you want it to be finished so you can see the whole effect and stand back and look at it. And we've had to wait four and a half years to see what it is we've been working on--which is a long, long time.

Maggie: Why did you decide to make the movie with chickens, instead of dogs or something?

Nick: Well, chickens are such funny animals, really. Everybody laughs when you say "chicken." We wanted to make it real nervy, full of action, sort of romantic, [with] drama....

Maggie: You put dogs in it, though.

Nick: Yeah, we did actually. There's dogs in it. But we thought it would be really funny if people liked [the film] because it's, you know, action and romance. But then they [would think] to themselves, "Wait a minute, this is chickens! We're watching chickens! We're being entertained by chickens!"

Maggie: And chickens are so stupid.

Peter: That's true, yeah. That's right, and we thought it was really unfair that everybody thinks chickens are so stupid and cowardly, and so we said, "No, that's not true; chickens are heroes too."

Sam: To make the chickens, or Wallace & Gromits, did you know anyone named Wallace or Gromit, or did you know the main chicken woman?

Nick: Ginger?

Sam: Yeah. Ginger.

Nick: With Wallace and Gromit, they're just imagined. But they're very similar to my parents.

Sam: They seemed kinda real.

Nick: Yeah. My dad has similar eyes. They're not touching, literally, and he hasn't got a mouth quite that wide either, but he's a lot like him [Wallace]. He's in the shed making things all the time.

Peter: And Julia [Sawalha] is quite like Ginger?

Nick: That's right.

Sam: Who's Julia?

Peter: There's a TV comedy show in England called Absolutely Fabulous, and one of the stars is Julia Sawalha, who plays a girl named Sapphy, and she's great, 'cause she's the only sane one in a world of lunatics. And she's got a great voice, so we decided to use her as Ginger in the film.

Nick: But we do know someone actually named Ginger as well. Though she's nothing like the chicken at all.

Maggie: Does she have a green hat? [Ginger wears a green knit cap in the film.]

Peter: Does she have a green hat... no.

Nick: I thought it would be great if a girl was the hero, because in all these other movies, in the past, it's all about a guy who comes in and saves everybody, that kind of thing.

Sam: Like Rocky? [Rocky--voiced by Mel Gibson-- is an American rooster who lands in the barnyard and, for a time, seems to be the ticket to freedom.]

Peter: Well, actually, at the crucial point, Rocky just takes off, doesn't he? I mean, he comes in and everyone thinks he's going to be the hero, because he's noisy, and you know....

Maggie: And he's kind of obnoxious.

Peter: Yes, he kind of is.

Maggie: Why did you decide to make a children's movie instead of, like, a grownup's movie?

Peter: We didn't.

Nick: No, that's right.

Peter: We decided to make a grownup's movie.

Maggie: [Chicken Run] is a grownup's movie?

Peter: Sure!

Maggie: But, it's actually... children would like it.

Sam: Yeah, I think kids would like it sometimes more than grownups.

Nick: That's true.

Peter: Yes, I'm kind of joking, actually. But the truth is, we thought, "What would we want to see in a movie?" And the answer is, of course, chickens! Straight chickens! So we tried to make a story we thought was funny, because we are just people, and we reckon that people like good stories, funny jokes, action, adventure--whatever that happens to be.

Nick: We wanted a movie that parents would take their kids to, but secretly, it was the parents who really wanted to see the film. The kids are just an excuse.

Sam: Did you do any of the voices? Like of the mice?

Peter: No, we didn't.

Maggie: Are you going to go on a vacation with all the money you made?

Nick and Peter: Yes! Absolutely!

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