It might have taken over 20 years to create a sequel to Chicken Run, but Aardman, the studio behind the 2000 stop-motion classic and its 2023 sequel, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, have revealed that there were other challenges they faced in bringing the new movie to life.
Notably, Dawn of the Nugget was released on Netflix on December 15th, after enjoying its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival in October. It follows Thandiwe Newton’s Ginger and Zachary Levi’s Rocky as they attempt to break their daughter, Molly – played by Bella Ramsey – out of Mrs. Tweedy’s chicken nugget factory after she finds herself there.
In an exclusive chat with Variety, some of those who worked on the film revealed the new challenges they had to face in bringing it to life. While things had changed in some ways, with CGI being used more extensively, stop-motion was still used as the primary way of bringing the characters and their world to life.
This meant that despite the chickens and other characters now being coated in sugar instead of the toxic silica powder coating and a VR headset being used to sculpt the sets, stop motion still required time and effort, as well as a series of other strange hiccups that occurred.
According to animator Tom Appshaw, who met with the publication on set, when recreating a van climbing up a hill frame by frame, it took him “a couple of days” to get three seconds worth of footage, despite the technology now on offer ostensibly making other aspects of production more manageable. Explaining how that endeavour was a challenge, Appshaw said: “It’s an absolute nightmare because the van weighs a ton”.
Elsewhere, in 2005, an electrical fault at an Aardman warehouse saw nearly the entirety of the company’s archive destroyed by fire. Only a few boxes with random props and models from Chicken Run survived. “There would be, like, a leg and maybe Rocky’s head and some blueprint drawings,” director Sam Fell explained. This meant the team had to mainly work from the Making of book from the 2000 hit.
Following this, halfway through production, the studio suffered several leaks, forcing the process to be temporarily halted. This wasn’t the only obstacle either, with Aardman’s longtime clay supplier closing its doors earlier in 2023, which led to reports that they would “run out of clay.”
At the time, Aardman refused to discuss the veracity of these claims but released a statement telling fans that “there is absolutely no need to worry. We have high levels of existing stocks of modeling clay to service current and future productions.”
It has been reported that some studios have sought to move out of stop-motion due to the shortage of clay, but Aardman are making it work. “Stop motion is magic in the way that CG isn’t; with CG you can do anything and yet you have nothing that you can touch,” Aarman co-founder Peter Lord explained. “Whereas with a puppet, just about everyone has some notion of what it feels like to have a little character in your hand and give it life.”