resources exhausted. (I made that last one tip.) And everywhere there are chickens. Short ones. tall ones. fat ones. slim ones. Major character chickens of various sizes. and background birds for the crowd scenes. Interestingly. they all have teeth.

If Nick Park and Peter Lord are feeling the pressure. they're doing a pretty good job of concealing it. But let‘s not beat about the bush here: the magnificently

scruffy directorial duo also look absolutely knackered.

Part of the problem has been

that the film has been slipping slowly but inexorably behind

"V . . schedule. And with a 30 June opening date carved in stone. that means more late nights and

simultaneous shooting on up to 30 sets. ‘It’s like rolling something with a rolling pin.’ says Pete. doing the rolling pin a“; motion with his hands. Spend any time 'i with animators and you soon find

working out a way of recreating it frame by frame. 'As you roll it. it all gets really fat at one end. So you have twenty minutes to shoot and you take three quarters of the time and you actually find that you‘ve shot twelve minutes and there's still eight minutes squeezed into heref He points forlornly at the thin end of his imaginary dough. ‘Nick and I are the despair of everybody that‘s trying to organise us. because every day we go downstairs to the studio floor to look at the shot. And they say. “right. this shot's going to be two seconds long". And we say. "no. no. no. no. no: that won‘t do. It must be five seconds long". That‘s why we‘ve been pushed.‘ Katzenberg has put in regular appearances. flying into Bristol Airport in his private jet to oversee the frantic pruning of scenes that will ensure the film meets its deadline and clocks in at a sprightly 77 minutes. ‘Even though he‘s on the other side of the Atlantic and very

him than I have of my girlfriend.‘ says Nick.

‘We're certainly aware of the scale of the thing.‘ adds Pete. ‘But mainly from the point of view of the logistics of the shoot rather than the global implications. which 1 don't think about very much.’

Chicken Run began with a classic one-line pitch: The Great Escape with chickens. ‘It was just a funny idea that grabbed us.‘ chuckles Nick. still amused at the beautiful simplicity of the concept despite being immersed in the wretched fowl for the best part of two years. ‘As soon as we said it to anyone. “how about an escape movie with chickens?" they laughed. Because chickens are ridiculous.‘

‘And so unheroic as well.' adds Pete excitedly. "l‘hat’s the other good thing.

that they act everything out. as if

hands-off. in recent weeks I’ve seen more of


They‘re completely the other end of the spectrum from heroic. That made it particularly effective. I think. And they’re goofy animals. aren‘t they? Some animals are cute and some are fierce and some are humorous. Chickens are just goofy-looking creatures. When you think of an escape movie. you assume there‘ll be a tough boss. one that‘s really good at making things. the brain of the outfit. and the big strong one. It's funny: your mind immediately jumps to the same thing with chickens. You imagine. oh boy. Steve McQueen. Donald Pleasence and Richard Attenborough. All as Chickens.’

Alas. there was just one problem. as they were to discover during the two-year research and development period. ‘We‘d chosen the worst possible animal in existence to animate.’ admits Nick. ‘They have large fat bodies covered in feathers and two thin legs. And in this kind of animation you really want something that’s got stability and is quite thin and light and doesn‘t fly much . . .

Although Mel Gibson. who heads the suitably starry voice cast as Rocky the rooster. hasn‘t actually visited the set. he became firm friends with the Aardman crew when Peter Lord's Wat's Pig was nominated for an Oscar. ‘We got this invite. as you do in Hollywood. for lunch with Mel‘s cigar club.” recalls Nick. ‘We had lunch with him and it was just a get-together. with no other

‘As soon as we said it to anyone, "how about an escape movie with chickens?" they laughed.’ Nick Park

motivation. His kids are big fans of Wallace And Gmmi! and he says he watches the films with them. He‘s very amiable. You can ask him to do anything.’

As co-founder of Aardman all those years ago when the ‘studio' was a single room and no one was backing Plasticine futures. there must be a sense of vindication for Pete as he oversees the teeming hordes toiling away on Clzieken le. ‘Yes. We feel very good about that. Because it was so clearly not a good career option when we started. It was a disastrous career option. actually. No one else was doing it and there was no market for it. But we just stuck with it and now the whole world has come to see it our way. Which is very satisfying.‘ He tries page >

not to look too smug.

25 flay—8 Jo" 2300 THE lIST 11

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