From the makers of Wallace And Gromit comes the self-styled Great Escape with poultry. As CHICKEN RUN sets to be hatched, the pressure in Aardman's Bristol studios is reaching boiling point.

Words: Robin Askew

'YOU KNOW, IF WE WERE IN LOS Angeles people would think those guys were just a couple of hippies.’ The man from USA Today is suffering from culture shock. We’re chatting away and exchanging unprintable film gossip in the canteen at Aardman's anonymous new warehouse studio on the outskirts of Bristol on a crisp February morning, having been given a tour of the building and exhausted our all-too-brief allotted 30 minutes with Nick Park and Peter Lord. The first fruit of a £157m, five-film deal with DreamWorks


SKG the studio formed by Steven Spielberg. former Disney animation supremo Jeffrey Katzenberg. and record mogul David Geffen Chicken Run has taken Bristol‘s cosiest Plasticine manipulators to a whole new level. The atmosphere at Aardman‘s city centre HQ has always been relaxed. in that familiar laid back Bristolian style that permeates everything from the city‘s music to its languid summer outdoor festivities.

But here you sense there’s an icy professionalism at work behind the scenes. High-ranking DreamWorks suits equipped with expensive laptops take conference calls discussing the number of languages the film will be dubbed into (23. apparently. if I eavesdropped correctly). while set visits have

the air of a well-oiled machine in action. liach Monday and Friday from November to March. groups of hacks from every territory in which the film is to be released have been taken on a precisely timed tour of the building. We see the model-making facilities. the painting rooms and the sets large and small. including a magnificent chicken pie machine that plays a crucial role in the film‘s gravy-soaked climax. Our attention is drawn to the devotion to detail. right down to the chicken footprint motif on farmer Mrs Tweedy‘s dress. as we attempt to assimilate a battery of production statistics: 180 staff. nearly three years in the making. (it) different paint colours. 47% of the world’s natural Plasticine