Dawn of the Nugget’ director on making a ‘Chicken Wakanda’

Dawn of the Nugget’ director on making a ‘Chicken Wakanda’

Following the immense success of the 2000 Chicken Run movie, Aardman Animations have reconnected us with Ginger (now voiced by Thandiwe Newton) and Rocky (now voiced by Zachary Levi) in the Netflix film Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget release date: Dec. 15 on Netflix
Director: Sam Fell
Cast: Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Bella Ramsey, Imelda Staunton, David Bradley, Lynn Ferguson, Daniel Mays, Josie Sedgwick-Davies, Romesh Ranganathan, Nick Mohammed
Runtime: 101 minutes

“I just know that with Pete [Lord] and Nick [Park] and Carla [Shelley], and all folks [at Aardman Animations], that they know what a good movie looks like and they won’t let anything out of the studio that’s not right up there, and I knew that they’d want to go the distance on this one,” Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget director, Simon Fell, told Yahoo Canada. “To have that support, it gave me confidence.”

“I’ve met many, many people since I started who say that it is a huge part of their childhood, … so I have felt a responsibility along the way. In a way, I felt the weight of the past, at times, weigh sort of heavily. So that’s been a big part of the mission for me, is to figure out how to kind of really preserve what everyone loves and to actually evolve it, and bring it into now, and make a new film that works on its own terms.”

(L to R): Rocky (Zachary Levi) and Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) are back, in CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET (Aardman/NETFLIX)(L to R): Rocky (Zachary Levi) and Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) are back, in CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET (Aardman/NETFLIX)

(L to R): Rocky (Zachary Levi) and Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) are back, in CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET (Aardman/NETFLIX)

What is ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’ about?

What’s great about Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is that it does strike that balance with having similar beats to the original Chicken Run movie, while still feeling like a fresh and compelling story of its own.

The movie picks up after the events of Chicken Run, following the grand escape from Tweedy’s farm (if you don’t remember what happened in the first film, don’t worry because Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget begins with a recap).

Ginger and Rocky are seemingly living a pleasant life with others on a chicken sanctuary, which is where their little girl Molly (voiced by Bella Ramsey), is hatched.

Watch Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

As Molly gets older, she wants to see more than the idyllic island she’s been raised on. When Molly sees chickens being taking away to “Fun-Land Farms,” she sneaks away with them to experience what she believes is a fun new experience.

“I’m just so lucky to catch Bella when I did,” Fell said.

“Bella can play comedy. Really smart, really intelligent. … We would do sessions and I would be happy after five or six takes, and Bella would go, ‘No, no, no, no, no, I’ve got a couple more.’ Great insight into the character, a wonderful energy.”

But something more threatening follows Molly’s journey, which means Ginger has to get into action for another rescue mission.

“I think what helped was to really imagine it as the next chapter of Ginger’s story, that really got us there,” Fell said. “So to really start where the last one left off, with them on the island, and so we were able to quite naturally evolve the story forward from there.”

“We find them in their paradise that they’ve created. Sort of a Chicken Wakanda, I call it, … their own self-sufficient world. I think the new storyline gave us … this notion of being up against the bigger, badder threat, industrial scale farming, a new kind of farming.”

(L-R) Bunty (Imelda Staunton), Mac (Lynn Ferguson), Rocky (Zachary Levi), Molly (Bella Ramsey), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton), Fowler (David Bradley), and Babs (Jane Horrocks) in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. (Netflix)(L-R) Bunty (Imelda Staunton), Mac (Lynn Ferguson), Rocky (Zachary Levi), Molly (Bella Ramsey), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton), Fowler (David Bradley), and Babs (Jane Horrocks) in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. (Netflix)

(L-R) Bunty (Imelda Staunton), Mac (Lynn Ferguson), Rocky (Zachary Levi), Molly (Bella Ramsey), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton), Fowler (David Bradley), and Babs (Jane Horrocks) in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. (Netflix)

Welcome to ‘Chicken Wakanda’

In terms of establishing what this chicken sanctuary, or “Chicken Wakanda,” as Fell describes it, would look like in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, the director said it was about getting into “a chicken’s mind” and “a chicken’s point of view.”

“Just from the first one, it was almost like the opposite of where they were, so they wouldn’t want to be in square huts, they wouldn’t want to be indoors, they wouldn’t want to be confined to their houses, which are very organically shaped and kind of woven, … and kind of made in a very organic way. They would want gardens and flowers and colour,” Fell explained.

“Then there’s the whole notion of how they live, so we talked a lot about how a chicken would live, and what vegetables they would grow and how they would harvest things. … There’s a potato mine, so they go underground and then bring the potatoes out, and wind power and water power. We wanted it to be pre-industrial, like the opposite of the factory that they end up having to go into, and very eco, and very in-tune with nature, because they are birds. We always remembered the bird brain.”

Watch Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

While Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is a story told in an animated medium, with chickens as the lead characters, there’s still a very real dedication to making this a true heist film.

“The key to the first film was a single line, ‘the great escape of chickens.’ The key to this … was, ‘this time, they’re breaking in,'” Fell said. “With that one line it kind of opens up a whole new genre and a whole type of movie.”

“What got me in quite quickly was the promise of an Aardman heist movie with chickens, so there’s a scale thing and all the funny props that they’re going to use, like cork screws and bottle openers. … Chickens are the most unlikely action heroes of all. Look at the shape of Babs, she’s the last kind of character you’d want in an action movie. It’s just the comic promise of all that. … I love it when Aardman take a genre and turn it on its head.”

(L to R) Rocky (Zachary Levi), Nick (Romesh Ranganathan), Fetcher (Daniel Mays) in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget coming to Netflix on 15th December. (Aardman/NETFLIX)
(L to R) Rocky (Zachary Levi), Nick (Romesh Ranganathan), Fetcher (Daniel Mays) in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget coming to Netflix on 15th December. (Aardman/NETFLIX)

(L to R) Rocky (Zachary Levi), Nick (Romesh Ranganathan), Fetcher (Daniel Mays) in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget coming to Netflix on 15th December. (Aardman/NETFLIX)

‘It’s an old technology, but still a very good technology’

When it comes to what makes stop-motion such an attractive medium to tell a story with, Fell stressed that it’s “timeless.”

“It’s over 100 years old, it’s pretty much the same as it’s always been,” he said. “It’s effectively handmade and there’s something simple about making something that looks great, lighting it beautifully, and recording it through a really lovely piece of glass that gives you this … astonishing image.”

“I like the notion of preserving this technology, not just out of nostalgia and sentiment, but actually because it’s practically a very good medium. It still works. It still delivers and really what’s enjoyable to make one of these is that you’re in a big toy shop, effectively. … You’re not at a screen, you’re standing around things together and sharing the problems together, and everybody can see their particular issue. … So there’s a lovely sense of community to it as well. … It’s an old technology, but still a very good technology.”

In recent years, there have been more conversations about the type of really in-depth, complex, impactful storytelling that can be told through animation, whether they’re fun or more serious narratives. Fell believes that every year the breadth of films being made with animation gets better.

“It astonishes me where animation can go now in the mainstream, it’s always been doing interesting things in the fringes,” Fell said. “The original Chicken Run, they already knew that animation wasn’t just for kids, it’s a cinematic medium and it can be watched across generations.”

“I think that’s becoming more and more apparent and … people from all generations are really open to watching an animated movie, and getting all kinds of things from them. But I think definitely, some of the new players have really helped. … I think with Netflix, … they have a global audience, and I think that opens things up. We’re not really all so reliant on that big American box office weekend as a measure of success. So I think it’s just getting better and better, and more and more amazing, to be honest.”

The Best TV Scores of 2023 Previous post The Best TV Scores of 2023
Iconic work of art in Saanich remembered fondly Next post Iconic work of art in Saanich remembered fondly