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Chicken Run

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Chicken Run
©1999 Dreamworks LLC

Chicken Run

Current Status:
In Season
84 minutes
Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha
Peter Lord, Nick Park
Karey Kirkpatrick
Animation, Comedy

We gave it an A-

Boy, Disney honcho Michael Eisner must be jealous of THIS one. Why? Because when Jeffrey Katzenberg was still at Disney in the early ’90s, he pushed to partner with England’s premier animation house, Aardman. They’re renowned for the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit shorts, and Disney was desperate to do with Aardman what it ended up doing with Pixar, the computer-‘toon studio that leapt from shorts to blockbusters with ”Toy Story.” Aardman balked. ”We were so small, we were afraid,” says ”Chicken” codirector Lord. ”We would’ve been completely absorbed [by Disney].”

But when Katzenberg defected to DreamWorks, says Park, ”it felt much less like a big corporation.” Three years after signing a production partnership, Aardman is flapping its wings to complete ”Chicken” in time to grab the mid-June release spot Disney usually stakes out (Disney found gold there last year with ”Tarzan”). Don’t expect Gibson to dominate the action. He’s a key player as Rocky, a Yankee rooster who swoops down on a Yorkshire farm, but it’s the resident hens who get the action when they revolt against the evil farmer’s wife (Richardson). Says Park: ”We quite consciously didn’t want the American to come in and be the hero.”