I vividly remember being four years old when my grandmother showed me the first three "Wallace and Gromit" shorts for the first time. They were on these VHS tapes and even though I saw them on a pretty crummy TV, I absolutely fell in love with them. Not only were they so funny and wildly imaginative, but it introduced me to a new form of animation that I had never seen before. The Oscar-winning stop motion shorts created by Aardman were so inventive and funny that I just had to see more of their work and that eventually led me to my grandmother showing me Aardman's first animated movie "Chicken Run". I remember watching that film so many times as a kid on our VHS player and loving it every single time and since then it has really led me to appreciate the art form of animation so much. This is not only a great animated movie, I think it's one of the best-animated films ever made and easily one of my personal favorites.
On a chicken farm in England, a group of chickens led by Ginger (Julia Sawalha) have been trying unsuccessfully to escape the farm. Each time they come up with a new inventive plan to get outside the fence and each time they've been caught by the farmer Mr. Tweedy (Tony Haygarth). With the chicken attempts starting to get futile though as they've recently been losing members due to them stop laying eggs, Ginger prays for a miracle which ends up being an American rooster named Rocky (Mel Gibson). While he ends up damaging his wing, Ginger witnesses him flying over the fence and gets the idea that Rocky can teach the chickens to fly out of the farm. Little do the chickens know that their time to learn how to fly is limited as Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) who has gotten frustrated by the little profit brought on by the eggs has ordered a pie machine and is preparing to turn the chickens into chicken pies. And that's the setup for one of the greatest animated movies ever made.
The people at Aardman really took all the tricks they learned on the first three "Wallace and Gromit" shorts and really turned things up to eleven with this film. I remember reading that they had a hard time shopping this film around Hollywood because they wanted all the creative control they could get when making this film and I really am glad they went with that decision because it seriously benefited this film in the end. This is one of those few animated films that I have no problem calling perfect as every single element in this works exceptionally well. The story is easily the best part of the film with not only how funny it is, but also how smart. The film decides to take a spin on the famous World War II prison escape films, particularly the 1963 classic "The Great Escape", and does it exceptionally well. There's a lot of great themes in the film about imprisonment and thinking outside the box as well as doing what you think is right and it's serviced with very funny comedy as well both in literal terms and visual. Not only that, it's a film that really keeps you on the edge of your seat which leads to some of the most exciting scenes ever put in an animated film. My favorite is always the scene where Rocky saves Ginger from inside the pie machine where it takes parody of the adventure film we know like the "Indiana Jones" series and puts them to full potential with a scene that makes you laugh and keeps you thrilled till it's over. There are also many scenes where the film's atmosphere takes over and it leads to some very nice quiet and tender moments that really give the film a lot of levity. It's fantastic filmmaking. As far as the animation goes, it's easily some of the best stop motion I've ever seen. Every scene in this film is exceptionally detailed and filled with small visual details that really add to the film's atmosphere which has a cold and uncomfortable feel to it with the chicken farm paralleling the look of a Nazi prison camp and the chicken coops looking like the bunks of the soldiers who were captured. It really makes the audience feel a part of the world and the cold look really pays off when we get to the big finish and the atmosphere changes. Even the character designs are also fantastic with Nick Park's charming designs similar to the ones from "Wallace and Gromit" shining through on these loveable characters who are easily the heart and soul of the film. Ginger is one of the best-animated protagonists ever in my opinion. While she's very passionate about the others and sweet, she isn't afraid to take charge and does a lot of strong work herself. Her free independent spirit and strong personality really make me come back to this film a lot. The other chickens on the farm also have a lot going for them with Bunty (Imelda Staunton) having a sarcastic attitude and a strong punch, Bunty (Jane Horrocks) being somewhat dimwitted but still sweet and passionate while having a hobby for knitting, and Fowler (Benjamin Whitrow) being cranky and often reminiscing of his R.A.F. days. Rocky also has a lot going for him with his charming nature and, no pun intended, somewhat cocky attitude. The villains are also especially fun to watch with Mrs. Tweedy being absolutely crazy and fed up with her stupid husband's personality while trying to move the farm forward in a productive manner. It really just makes it so much fun.
And "Chicken Run" in a nutshell really is so much fun. The story is extremely inventive and really funny, the animation is fantastic and well crafted, and the characters are all distinctive and leave a memorable impression. This is easily one of the favorite animated films of all time and I really love it so much. I really just love how much this film inspired me and I really have to thank my grandmother for introducing me to this film and the wonderful work that the people at Aardman come up with. This is a film that is just simply fantastic.