STARRING THE VOICES OF MEL GIBSON, JULIA SAWALHA, MIRANDA RICHARDSON, IMELDA STAUNTON, JANE HORROCKS, TIMOTHY SPALL DIRECTED BY PETER LORD AND NICK PARK
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Gibson as a clay-animated, cock-of-the-walk rooster.
Boy, Disney honcho Michael Eisner must be jealous of this one. Why? Because when Jeffrey Katzenberg was still at Disney in the early ’90s, he pushed to partner with England’s premier animation house, Aardman. They’re renowned for the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit shorts, and Disney was desperate to do with Aardman what it ended up doing with Pixar, the computer-‘toon studio that leapt from shorts to blockbusters with Toy Story. Aardman balked. ”We were so small, we were afraid,” says Chicken co-director Lord. ”We would’ve been completely absorbed [by Disney].” But when Katzenberg defected to DreamWorks, says Park, ”it felt much less like a big corporation.” Three years after signing a production partnership, Aardman is flapping its wings to complete Chicken in time to grab the mid-June release spot Disney usually stakes out (Disney found gold there last year with Tarzan). Don’t expect Gibson to dominate the action. He’s a key player as Rocky, a Yankee rooster who swoops down on a Yorkshire farm, but it’s the resident hens who get the action when they revolt against the evil farmer’s wife (Richardson). Says Park: ”We quite consciously didn’t want the American to come in and be the hero.” (June 23)