Chicken Run (1999) is a British clay-mation animated feature Film produced by Aardman Animations in partnership with American studio DreamWorks and released in 1999. The film was directed by Peter Lord & Nick Park and features the voices of Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton, Miranda Richardson and Mel Gibson ('I know, I know').
Chicken Run received positive reviews on release and was a huge box office success. It was Aardman's first feature-length movie and eventually led to further features including Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit.
Set in the 1950s, Mr. and Mrs Tweedy own a heavily guarded Chicken-based farm in Yorkshire. Mrs. Tweedy is the 'boss', whereas Mr. Tweedy is the watchman who suspects the chickens are plotting something, which is dismissed as insane by his wife. Their business involves accounting the chickens for the amount of Eggs each lays daily. Among the chickens residing in the farm are Ginger, Babs, Bunty, Mac and Fowler. Ginger is sick of the cruel treatment she and her friends are receiving from the Tweedys and attempts numerous escapes, each of which fail and lead to her being thrown in the coal dumpster by Mr. Tweedy.
One morning, after Ginger is escorted back in her run for the last time, a roll call takes place. The Tweedys analyse the egg amounts and find that Edwina, one of the hens, has not laid any eggs for several days, leading her to be slaughtered. This is too much for Ginger, so she and Mac plan a device which provides a more logical form of escape; to go over the fence. Bunty, knowing how many times they tried and failed to escape, is pessimistic about this and suggests that they give up, upsetting Ginger.
That night however, while she despairs, Ginger encounters an American Rhode Island Red rooster named Rocky gliding over the farm. He collides into a weather vane and crash-lands into the farm, injuring one of his wings. Ginger notices a circus poster suggesting Rocky to be a flying bird. She believes this and persuades Rocky to teach the chickens how to fly. Rocky, who is on the run from a circus he came from, is at first reluctant, but eventually agrees.
Rocky puts the chickens through training, but the exercise classes prove to be futile and neither chicken succeeds in even lifting themselves off the ground. Rocky provides optimism and assumes they are making progress, but Ginger is not stupid enough to believe him.
One moment, the chickens encounter large pieces of equipment being delivered to the farm. The next moment, Ginger discovers that the farmers have doubled the food production for the chickens and narrows down to the fact that the machines have something to do with the chickens getting fattened up for food products. As she explores, Ginger is taken by Mr. Tweedy and used as a test object for a new pie making machine. Rocky saves Ginger, by sabotaging the machine which means that they will have more time to work on their escape while the farmers concentrate on fixing the machine.
Fowler, who has despised Rocky at first, congratulates him for rescuing Ginger and rewards Rocky with his old RAF medal. Ginger spends a brief romantic evening with Rocky. The next morning however, while Ginger instructs the chickens to warm up ready for the escape, she finds Rocky has fled, leaving behind the medal and a teared piece of the poster which reveals that Rocky was actually fired from a cannon and cannot really fly. Ginger gives up and Fowler rabbits on about his days working with the RAF. This inspires Ginger to construct a plane out of their huts, therefore flying all the chickens out at once. With the help of two rats, Nick and Fetcher, the chickens begin construction, while the Tweedys work on fixing their pie machine. Meanwhile, Rocky passes a billboard representing Mrs. Tweedy's home-made chicken pies, inspiring him to rethink his decision.
The construction of the plane is completed just in time as Mr. Tweedy is about to collect the chickens for the pie machine. However the chickens revolt against him, tying him up and gagging him. Just as the chickens prepare for take off, Mr. Tweedy frees himself and knocks down the launch ramp, causing difficulty for the chickens. Ginger jumps down and grabs the ramp, but is distracted by Mrs. Tweedy, who attacks her with an axe. Just then, Rocky appears on the scene and knocks Mrs. Tweedy out with his mini-cycle. He helps Ginger with the ramp and the plane finally takes off. Rocky and Ginger manage to climb aboard using a set of Christmas lights tangled in one of the gears. However Mrs. Tweedy has also grabbed hold and is dragged in the air, weighing the plane down. This leads to a final showdown between her and Ginger, who attempts to break the wires. Luckily as Mrs. Tweedy 'beheads' Ginger with the axe, Ginger reveals to have dodged the axe and that Mrs. Tweedy cut the wire. Ginger lets go of the part of wire Mrs. Tweedy is holding and the woman drops through a window of the farm plugging the pie machine. The machine is destroyed. Mr. Tweedy reasons with his wife that the chickens 'was organised', just before a wall from part of the barn crushes her.
The chickens celebrate with Rocky and Ginger confessing their love for each other. They start a new life in their own sanctuary far away from a farm. The film ends with Nick and Fetcher humorously discussing plans to begin their own chicken farm.
George Orwell's Animal Farm portrayed a group of farm animals who revolt against and murder the farmer. Then they dispute over who takes the leadership, leading to further out of control fights. George Orwell's products often attack both communism and capitalism. Chicken Run follows some of the footsteps (the chickens revolt against the farmers). However, they work together and avoid holding authority over one another. Hence, Chicken Run is a more democratic version of Animal Farm.
One could argue that Chicken Run is a film which stands for democracy for farm animals. The reason is due to the harsh treaty the farmers provide to the chickens. The chickens are forced to lay eggs daily and when one fails to do so, one is killed. This is similar to a group of slaves attempting to build a nuclear weapon; one slave getting an arm cut off in one of the machines, therefore struggling to continue construction and leading him to be sentenced to the guillotine by the government.
The villains are the farmers. In fact, they are also capitalists. When their income fails due to minuscule profits made through eggs, Mrs. Tweedy hatches a plan to make more money by making chicken pies, which means further hurt to the chickens. In one scene, Mr. Tweedy asks which chickens to put in the pies, Mrs. Tweedy replies "all of them".
Chickens in reality have long been know to be 'stupid' creatures. Babs is among the hens to follow the stereotype and often guesses that each chicken who leaves the farm and/or returns to the farm is spending a vacation. However, most of the characters involved in the various actions are female. Ginger is portrayed as the logical and unselfish leader. Mac is portrayed as the intelligent scientist. Rocky, one of the male characters, often makes dim-witted jokes to the hens; Ginger is often bemused by them. Rocky is more unaware of the dangerous situations compared to Ginger. Meanwhile, Mr. Tweedy is less 'brainy' compared to Mrs. Tweedy who is portrayed as the 'boss'. One could state that Chicken Run supports feminism.
Chicken Run is mainly a parody to the 1963 World War 2 movie The Great Escape. The setting of the farm references one of the German POW camps used to imprison the prisoners during the war. The chickens are portrayed as the prisoners while the farmers reference the Nazis, a far-right-wing group.
Many viewers who support animal rights are likely to enjoy this movie and feel that it proves a point. Viewers feel that the chickens are treated like dirt, even facing slaughter due to facing a condition which cannot be helped; hence Edwina's execution due to losing the ability to lay eggs.