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DreamWorks presents
Chicken Run (2000)

Ginger: So, laying eggs all your life and then getting stuffed and roasted, that's good enough for you, is it?
Babs: It's a living.

- Ginger (Julia Sawalha) and Babs (Jane Horrocks)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: November 19, 2000

Stars: Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha
Other Stars: Miranda Richardson, Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson, Tony Haygarth, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, Benjamin Whitrow
Director: Peter Lord and Nick Park

MPAA Rating: G for all ages
Run Time: 01h:24m:17s
Release Date: November 21, 2000
UPC: 667068645323
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+A-B B

DVD Review

In a time where Disney reins king of the animation world, every once in awhile there is a challenger. In 1999 it was Warner's The Iron Giant, and in 1998 Dreamworks released a double threat with the brilliant combination of Antz and The Prince Of Egypt. While Disney has gone downhill lately with their animated films that do not bear the words "Toy" or "Story" in the title, it seems as though Dreamworks is next in line to steal the crown. With an unconventional catalog of animated titles including a biblical blockbuster (Egypt), and an old-fashioned road film (The Road To Eldorado), the house that Spielberg built is quickly becoming a force in the animation industry.

When the announcement was made that the 2000 Academy Awards® would be the first to present an award for the best animated film, it was assumed to have been a weak category. With such disappointing animated features released to that point, there wasn't a clear frontrunner for some time. Both Titan A.E. and Dinosaur were considered failures, not only in terms of box office but in critical response as well. So it was with the Peter Lord and Nick Park creation Chicken Run that the weight of the buzz shifted. It was well deserved. Chicken Run is the best kind of animated movie, a film that is as funny to kids as it is to adults. When the award for best animated feature is handed out in March, it will be a shame if it doesn't go to Chicken Run.

A group of farm chickens is constantly attempting to escape the dim-witted Mr. Tweedy (Haygarth) with the help of the fearless and inventive Ginger (Sawahla). Their lives are routine: they produce eggs, which are collected by Tweedy and his wife (Richardson), but when they run out of eggs, they become candidates for dinner. Refusing to confine herself to such an existence, Ginger begins hatching (pun intended) escape plans. But, after many attempts, it proves to be a nearly impossible task, until Rocky the Flying Rooster (Gibson) falls into the farm after fleeing from the circus. In exchange for the hens hiding him, he agrees to teach them fly, thus providing their freedom. But, like any good plan, there are some setbacks.

The reason Chicken Run works so well is due largely to the fact that the claymation isn't as eye-popping as most animated films tend to be these days. With less attention paid to the visuals the film relies more on its screenplay and voice acting. Films like the dismal Dinosaur take the opposite approach. You get hit over the head with amazing and life-like visuals so that you are simply carried along for the ride regardless of the poor screenwriting or tailor-made pop hits. Toy Story was able to buck this trend and offer both great visuals and writing, and so does Chicken Run. As I said earlier, the animation isn't jaw-dropping, but there are a few moments that the film looks life-like.

To say that Chicken Run is only for children is to judge the film falsely. When I saw it in June of this year, I noticed more adults laughing at the humor than the children in attendance. With heavy influence from World War II films such as The Great Escape and Stalag 17 and references to <b>Braveheart and Star Wars included, Chicken Run induces many laughs.

From a production standpoint, Chicken Run is a wonder to behold. The painstaking efforts that Park and Lord went through to make this film are nothing short of incredible. You never get a sense of how truly talented these men are until you view the Featurette on this disc.

The only immediately recognizable voice used in the film is that of Rocky, provided by Mel Gibson. Gibson, and the rest of the voice cast, filled with mainly British actors, including Jane Horrocks, and Miranda Richardson, do very well.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: I will admit that it is hard to find an image transfer for an animated film recently that is not reference quality. But with the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer of Chicken Run I can honestly say that this is among the best transfers I have ever seen. There are no moments where the print becomes anything less than jaw-droppingly good. Detail and sharpness are both perfect, as is the use of color in many of the daylight scenes. The black levels are done well with no grain at all, and there were no instances of shimmering or pixelation. This is one of the best transfers I have ever seen and another great effort by Dreamworks.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: With what is becoming a tradition for Dreamworks, Chicken Run is presented with both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS ES soundtracks. While neither track is especially active, they each get the job done. The first half of the film is primarily dialogue and music driven , with the surrounds kicking in when the pie factory makes it appearance. There isn't a very noticeable difference between the Dolby Digital 5.1 and the DTS EX versions aside from a bit more clarity and definition in the DTS mix. The EX and ES feature provides a bit more music in between the back surrounds and does a good job at enveloping the viewer. While not a showy mix, these tracks each offer clean and well-defined sound.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Shrek
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Directors Nick Park and Peter Lord
Packaging: other
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Hidden easter eggs
  2. Panic Button
Extras Review: After both The Prince of Egypt and Antz were released as loaded special editions in 1999 it was evident that Dreamworks took great pride in their animated DVDs. Chicken Run isn't as loaded with extras as either of those films, but what is here is worth a look. The first extra is a commentary track with directors Peter Lord, and Nick Park. It is an interesting for the most part, especially when the two describe the animation process. Their thoughts on the story and film are a bit uninteresting, but this track is still worth a listen.

Two promotional documentaries are also offered and while each is very interesting, neither really goes as in depth as I would have liked. Poultry In Motion: The Making of Chicken Run is the longer of the two docs—clocking in at just over 20 minutes—shows everything from the animation process to interviews with the cast and crew. The Hatching of Chicken Run covers much of the same territory as the previous documentary did, but it is still worth a look. A read-along offers up a condensed version of the film in a format intended for children. It is a nice touch, but the film itself is much better.

Two theatrical trailers and one hilarious TV spot round out the disc. The first of the two trailers is a basic two-minute preview, but trailer two is a send up of Mission: Impossible and is very, very funny. Even better is the TV spot spoofing fellow Dreamworks stable mate Gladiator. A preview of the upcoming Shrek is also offered.

Hidden facts about the film, production notes, DVD-ROM features, and cast and crew bios are also available.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Chicken Run is a film that you just can't go wrong with. The video quality is excellent, and the extra features, while not plentiful, still get the job done. This, along with the Toy Story films, is the best way to see animation on DVD. Recommended for kids and adults.

 


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