Aardman founder Peter Lord and director Sam Fell took to the stage at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival on Wednesday to present first footage for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.
The reveal was part of a special Netflix presentation of its upcoming animation productions including Leo, starring Adam Sandler as a 75-year-old lizard; martial arts drama Blue-Eyed Samurai as well as animated comedy series Exploding Kittens.
Launching December 15, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget will arrive 23 years after the cult original Chicken Run.
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The Aardman team unveiled footage of the utopian island chicken haven – described by Fell as a sort of “Chicken Wakanda – created by heroine Ginger after she led the breakout from the Tweedy farm in late 1940s Britain.
Its now the early 60s and Ginger is the mother with Rocky of rebellious teenager Molly.
Ginger in the meantime has buried her rebel side, devoting herself instead to keeping the peace in her island idyll.
The arrival of the fortress-like Happy Land factory farm on the other side of the water will force Ginger to embrace her adventurous side once again.
“She’s a reluctant hero. She’s a bit like Ripley in Alien. She is traumatized by what she has lived through. She doesn’t want to go back,” said producer Layla Herbert, who joined Lord and Fell on stage.
Lord recalled how he and Aardman co-founder Nick Park had flown to Hollywood to pitch the original film.
‘We had dinner with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg and we were eating chicken. The Hollywood pitch was The Great Escape with chickens,” he said.
“The material was quite dark but the philosophy was to take the material seriously, film it seriously and fill it with great jokes,” he added.
Lord said that he and Park had floated various ideas for a sequel over the years but eventually tied down the idea for the sequel after brainstorming with Karey Kirkpatrick, the writer of the original film.
“We came up with the idea that if in the original they were breaking out, this time they would be breaking in,” said Lord.
Fell admitted he had felt daunted by the prospect of following in the footsteps of Park and Lord but had been drawn to the project by the characters.
“They’re so vivid that everyone knows them 23 years later,” he said. “The other thing is the execution. It is taking a brilliant line between dark and dramatic and light and funny.”
He talked through the development of the sinister Happy Land factory farming facility backdrop.
“We’ve moved it into the 60s and an era of industrial farming. We imagined this factory farm will be making nuggets, not just any old nuggets, the world’s first nugget. You can imagine that the recipe for the first nugget would be a highly guarded secret. It would be top security,” he explained.
“We took that and kept pushing it and exaggerated this factory farm so it had a Bond villain’s layout with ridiculous security. It gave us kind of a genre to work in. We got into this notion of it being a Bond movie with chickens.”
Other guests on the stage on Wednesday included Blue-Eyed Samurai executive producer Erwin Stoff (I Am Legend, The Matrix) and supervising director and producer Jane Wu.
Set in Edo-period Japan, it follows a mixed-race master of the sword who lives a life in disguise while seeking revenge against the white man who raped her mother, subjecting them both to a life of shame.
Co-creators Michael Green and Amber Noizumi had been inspired to make the series after having their own mixed race child, or “Blue-Eyed Samurai”, said Wu. Revealing that his wife his Korean, Stoff said the project had chimed with him for similar reasons.
Wu, who has worked in the art departments of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Mulan and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, talked the audience through the impressive fight scenes created from live action martial art sequences.
Leo directors Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel and David Wachtenheim also took to the stage to show an extract of the film, which was preceded by a video address from lead actor and writer/producer Adam Sandler.
“It’s been a long journey for us, from making cartoons for grownups on Saturday Night Live to directing an animated musical about a class pet, but we’re thrilled to be here in Annecy to share it,” said Smigel. “Of course it’s silly and funny but it’s also about honest emotions and situations that every kid (and parent) experiences in elementary school. We hope people of all ages will relate to it.”
The Annecy presentation follows in the wake of a high profile 12 months for Netflix on the animation front, topped by the Oscar and Bafta wins for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and the Primetime Emmys for Arcane; and Love, Death + Robot.
Further upcoming Netflix animation works include Orion and the Dark, an animated film from iconic screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, which was announced at Annecy for 2024, and Troy Quane and Nick Bruno’s Nimona, adapted from ND Stevenson’s graphic novel, which is screening in Annecy ahead of a June 30 launch.
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