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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Chicken Run sets US flapping
Chicken Run
Chicken Run: The Great Escape with feathers
Cinema box offices across the US are gearing up for an extra busy weekend with the much-anticipated opening of Chicken Run - the first feature-length movie from the makers of Wallace and Gromit.

Nick Park and Peter Lord are the brains and talent behind the award-winning British clay animation company Aardman.

After the huge global success of their three Wallace and Gromit shorts, Chicken Run has already won a string of rave reviews in the week leading up to its US release.
Nick Park
Oscar-winning Park with his famous Wallace and Gromit creations

At the Hollywood première this week, Lord and Park were given the full red-carpet treatment, with the paparazzi amassed around them and flash bulbs popping.

Based on the 1963 Steve McQueen movie The Great Escape, Chicken Run tells of the desperate attempts of a group of hens to escape from the cruel regime of Tweedy's egg farm.

Hollywood actor Mel Gibson and British actresses Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks and Miranda Richardson are among those voicing the movie.

But, as with the Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave, it is Lord and Park's imaginative and humorous plasticine creations who are the real stars of the film.

'Spectacular'

In the run-up to this weekend, The New York Post hailed Chicken Run as "a triumph" and "the wittiest and best voiced animation film to come along in years".

Tweedys
The cold-hearted Tweedys think of nothing but profit

USA Today described it as "a classic for the ages", adding: "Chicken Run boasts the most delicious collection of desperately funny Brits since The Full Monty."

Rolling Stone called it "spectacular", while Good Morning America, US Weekly and The Today Show saw it as the funniest film so far this year.

Chicken Run marks the first product of a five-film collaboration between Bristol-based Aardman and Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks studio.

The painstaking work on the project took four years to complete. During this time, DreamWorks stayed away from the Aardman warehouses to let Park and Lord get on with making the kind of film they wanted.

Accent

Freedom to experiment was the main reason, Park and Lord had not attempted to make a full-length film before.

After Wallace and Gromit, and their series of Creature Comforts spots, the duo had been offered countless books and screenplays to adapt.

Wallace and Gromit:
Wallace and Gromit: The northern accent proved a problem at first

But they couldn't find the right project that would be distinctly theirs - until they were approached by Spielberg's company.

DreamWorks simply said it wanted to make a prison-of-war escape movie with chickens. Spielberg himself owns hundreds of chickens and is a big fan of the McQueen classic.

Ultimately, say Park and Lord, it was the sheer simplicity of the idea that gave it its appeal.

The only drawback to Chicken Run - as far as US audiences are concerned - is one also encountered by Wallace and Gromit: suggestions that people will not understand the chickens' northern English accents.

Some Hollywood producers say the film should be given an American voiceover.

However, Aardman has resisted, instead simply agreeing to provide audiences with printed translations for words such as "codswallop", if required.

Chicken Run opens in the UK on 30 June.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Willis in Los Angeles
"The film has already achieved cult status"
See also:

07 May 00 | Entertainment
Angry Kid nets viewers
30 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Preston's plasticine man
09 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Wallace and Gromit's Hollywood date
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