It was the sequel film fans didn’t realise they needed, but when Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget came out before Christmas – 23 years after the original – it topped Netflix’s most-watched charts for weeks.
Speaking to Sky News, director Sam Fell admits: “You send it out into the world and it’s like a kid really, you hope everyone is going to treat it nicely.”
Not only has the film taken flight with viewers of all ages around the world, but the animation is also in the running for a BAFTA later this month.
It has been a vindication for Fell, who made headlines even before a frame of the film had been shot after he decided to recast the voices of Rocky and Ginger – replacing Mel Gibson and Julia Sawalha with Zachary Levi and Thandiwe Newton.
He admits he was “surprised” by the reaction. “I didn’t expect any feathers to be ruffled. But I suppose, looking back on it, you’re going to have to break a few eggs to make a new omelette,” he said.
Fell explained that the cast refresh had “more to do with the time gap – not age in particular – but just who’s around now”.
Describing his approach to the film as more a “reboot” than a sequel, he added: “You have to be brave and just move forward with the way you think it should be…
“At the time it seemed like a perfectly natural thing to try, Britain’s changed, the world’s changed, let’s shift the texture and sound of the movie for now.”
The filmmaker said it had been particularly satisfying to gauge audience reactions to new characters such as Rocky and Ginger’s daughter Molly, who is voiced by Bella Ramsey.
“Bella’s sound is just so unique… we caught Bella just at the right time,” he said.
Rise Of The Vegan Pancake
Fell said he was “just very lucky” to cast Ramsey after she starred in Game Of Thrones – but before she had gone on to work on award-winning zombie drama The Last Of Us.
“When you work with an actor of that age a lot changes in a few years and that’s how long we took to make the movie.”
Given that it took over two decades to bring the claymation sequel to screens, Fell teased we can expect a third movie in: “2055… The Rise Of The Vegan Pancake!”
“I can’t promise anything,” he said while laughing. “It is a slow game… but, you know, it hopefully won’t be a quarter of a century to the next one.
“There are ideas of movies, maybe a spin-off thing because there were some new characters that are interesting, like Molly…There’s certainly many stories you can tell with these characters.”
Think like a chicken
While Fell admits winning the BAFTA would be “the icing on the cake”, he said making the film was life-changing in one fundamental way.
“I’ve not eaten a nugget [since]…I stopped eating meat after I did some [background] research…. I just start to care about chickens a great deal.
“I hope it’s made some people think like a chicken and see the world a bit more from a chicken’s point of view.”
But Fell realises that might be a long shot, especially given how he wasn’t even able to persuade Aardman’s caterers to reconsider their menu during their shoot.
“The canteen served chicken every Wednesday, as much as I protested about it, and the crew enjoyed eating it!”
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is available to watch now on Netflix.