The plot centres on a band of chickens who see a smooth-talking Rhode Island Red named Rocky as their only hope to escape from certain death when the owners of their farm decide to move from selling eggs to selling chicken pot pies.
The Tweedys are a middle-aged couple who run a struggling chicken farm in England. Mrs. Tweedy is the malicious brains of the pair, while Mr. Tweedy is more dim-witted. The chicken coop is run in the style of a World War II POW camp, with the chickens accountable for the number of eggs they lay daily. Their unofficial leader Ginger has attempted numerous escapes, but is routinely captured by Mr. Tweedy and his dogs. Ginger becomes increasingly desperate to find a plan of escape after another hen, which has not laid any eggs for several days, is slaughtered for the Tweedys’ dinner.
Seeing their income drop, Mrs. Tweedy finds an article in a magazine suggesting a new way to bring in more profits. Ginger attempts to rally the other chickens' spirits so they will speed up their efforts to escape. However, she soon concludes that their only viable plan is to go over the fence, something that has not been tried yet. As she stands outside that night, she sees a Rhode Island Red rooster named Rocky, who hurtles over the fence and crash-lands in the coop. After Ginger finds a piece of a circus poster suggesting Rocky is capable of flying, she agrees to hide him from his owners if he teaches them how to fly. Rocky reluctantly agrees, and begins by putting Ginger and the other chickens through a set of exercises that seem to have no purpose, while assuring them that they are making progress.
The chickens are surprised by a large piece of equipment being delivered to the farm, followed by Mrs. Tweedy's order to double their feed rations. Ginger concludes that they are being fattened up for slaughter. Discovering that Ginger's news has sent them into a depression, Rocky organises a party using a radio procured by Nick and Fetcher, a pair of rats who steal things for Ginger's attempts. Before Ginger can persuade him to give a flying demonstration, she is taken by Mr. Tweedy for a test of their new equipment - a machine for making chicken pot pies.
Rocky rescues Ginger from the machine, sabotaging it in the process so that they will have more time to work on their escape. Fowler, an older rooster who has been doubtful of Rocky's acts, now begins to respect him and gives Rocky his old Royal Air Force (RAF) badge in tribute. Rocky decides to flee the farm the next day, leaving behind Fowler's medal and the missing section of his poster, which shows that Rocky flies by being shot out of a cannon. Trying to rally the chickens, Fowler starts talking of his days in the RAF, which inspires Ginger to propose the construction of an airplane to fly all the chickens out at once. The chickens race against time to assemble their plane as Mr. Tweedy works to repair the pie machine. Meanwhile, Rocky sees a billboard for "Mrs. Tweedy's Chicken Pies" and begins to rethink his decision.
The chickens complete their plane just as Mr. Tweedy enters the coop to grab them. However, the chickens launch an open revolt by tying up and gagging him. As they are preparing to take off, Mr. Tweedy frees himself and knocks down the launch ramp. Ginger jumps down as Fowler turns the plane around, knocking Mr. Tweedy unconscious. Rocky returns to the farm in time to help Ginger set the ramp back in place and the pair climb aboard the plane by grabbing a string of lights hanging from the landing gear. Mrs. Tweedy also grabs hold and is dragged into the air, weighing the plane down. Ginger crawls down to try to cut the string. Mrs. Tweedy swipes at Ginger with an axe and seemingly beheads her, but Ginger had dodged it and allowed the axe to cut the string, dropping Mrs. Tweedy into the pie machine and plugging it up. As the machine explodes from the excess pressure, destroying the barn in the process, the chickens continue their flight to freedom, eventually establishing their own sanctuary far from the farm.
- Julia Sawalha as Ginger, who is determined to save her fellow chickens from their impending doom on the Tweedys' farm. She is usually the one that comes up with the ideas and is generally more intelligent than the other chickens.
- Mel Gibson as Rocky the Rhode Island Red (or Rhodes for short), a rooster who crash-lands into the farm after getting distracted by Ginger, spinning on a weathervane, and bouncing off some telephone wires.
- Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Tweedy, a cantankerous egg farmer who decides to convert her farm into a chicken pot pie factory solely for monetary reasons.
- Tony Haygarth as Mr. Tweedy, Mrs. Tweedy's henpecked husband.
- Benjamin Whitrow as Fowler, a feisty rooster who regularly prattles about his Royal Air Force experiences.
- Timothy Spall as Nick, a smart, portly rat who smuggles contraband into the compound.
- Phil Daniels as Fetcher, Nick's slim, slow-witted partner.
- Jane Horrocks as Babs, the fattest of the chickens with a dim-witted innocence and a love of knitting.
- Imelda Staunton as Bunty, the group cynic who is the most skeptical of Ginger's escape plans.
Chicken Run was Aardman Animations' first feature length production, which would be executive produced by Jake Eberts. Nick Park and Peter Lord, who run Aardman, directed the film, while Karey Kirkpatrick scripted the film with additional input from Mark Burton and John O'Farrell.
Chicken Run was first conceived in 1995 by Aardman co-founder Peter Lord and Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park. Pathe agreed to finance Chicken Run in 1996 putting their finances into Script Development and Model Design. DreamWorks officially came on board in 1997. DreamWorks beat out studios like Disney, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. and largely won due to the perseverance of DreamWorks co-chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg; as a company they were eager to make their presence felt in the animation market in an attempt to compete with Disney's dominance of the field. Katzneberg explained that he had "been chasing these guys for five or six years, ever since I first saw Creature Comforts."
In December 1997, it was revealed that David Sproxton would produce. DreamWorks secured their first animated feature with the film, and they handled distribution in all territories except Europe, which Pathé handled. The two studios co-financed the film. DreamWorks also retains rights to worldwide merchandising.
During the production of the film, 30 sets were used with 80 animators working along with 180 people working overall. Despite this, one minute of film was completed with each week of filming.
On opening weekend, the film grossed $17,506,162 for a $7,027 average from 2,491 theatres. Overall, the film placed second behind Me, Myself and Irene. In its second weekend, the film held well as it slipped only 25% to $13,192,897 for a $4,627 average from expanding to 2,851 theaters and finishing in fourth place. The film's widest release was 2,953 theaters, after grossing $106,834,564 domestically with an additional $118,000,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $224,834,564. Produced on a $45 million budget, the film was a huge box office hit. To date, it is the highest grossing stop motion animated movie.
Chicken Run was released on DVD and VHS on November 21, 2000.
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