Throwback Thursday: How was ‘Chicken Run’ for kids?
I’m pretty sure everyone as a child had that one movie that you found unsettling even though it was rated PG… a movie that even as an adult you kind of wonder how the premise was considered “child friendly.”
Well for me, among others I’ll admit, is the clay-mation film “Chicken Run.” If it weren’t for Google I probably would be convinced that it was just a fever dream I had when I was five.
“Chicken Run” came out 20 years ago in 2000 and was made by “Wallace and Gromit” creator Nick Wallace. I feel I should say Happy 20th Anniversary but…. just no.
When you watch it you can clearly see that the clay-mation style really mirrors that well known classic.
However, the escapades of Wallace and his dog Gromit did not creep me out as much as “Chicken Run.” Of course I didn’t have their movie on VHS as a kid. (Why did you do that to me mother and father?)
Anyway, the story is about a group of chickens that are attempting to escape their coops and fences in England and become free range chickens (too bad for them that would become a huge deal years later).
The ladies, with Ginger (Julia Sawalha) as their mastermind, try and fail multiple times to avoid grumpy Mr. Tweedy (Tony Haygarth) and get to wide open spaces.
The opening scene shows Ginger getting thrown into a coal bin on more than one occasion after being caught outside the fence by Mr. Tweedy. I have to give it to these chickens, too. They’ve got dedication and come up with some interesting plans. From just digging under the fence in the dead of night to dressing up as the cruel Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) and walking through the gate on stilts and each others’ shoulders.
At first the chickens, mostly hens except for older rooster Fowler (Benjamin Whitrow), are tasked with laying eggs each day. Now here’s where things are a little darker than I feel is necessary for a kids’ movie.
Each week the hens must line up in rows so Mrs. Tweedy — rubber gloves in hand — can review how many eggs they’re laying. If they don’t have enough, they get the axe. And by “get the axe” I mean Mrs. Tweedy legit cuts their heads off and eats them for dinner.
They don’t show the blood or anything but they do show the evil woman (seriously, I had nightmares about her) take the chicken into the barn, grab the axe and then tell tale sounds of metal cutting into a wooden table.
Distraught by the recent death of one of her friends, Ginger gathers the other hens in the dead of night, her need to escape reinvigorated.
That night, after arguing with the others about the importance of getting away, an omen falls into the coop.
The omen specifically is American chicken Rocky (Mel Gibson) who rockets over into the fence and lands rather ungracefully in the yard.
The girls hide Rocky and Ginger enlists him to teach them how to fly.
I won’t tell anymore than that in the off chance you’ll be interested in watching the movie. Suffice to say it was unnerving.
There’s one scene at the end when the chickens are attempting another daring escape and Mrs. Tweedy tries to stop them. Even sitting at my desk I can picture her maniacal face (maybe I imagined it but I swear you can see the malicious intent in that devil woman’s eyes).
I’m not saying that the movie is bad. The story is interesting and I enjoy the colorful cast of characters (not Mrs. Tweedy) but I will forever wonder how it was considered a children’s movie.
Chicken Run can be viewed on Hulu with a subscription and rented from YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and Amazon Prime for $3.99.
Laura Jameson is a staff reporter for The Express.