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CHICKEN RUN. Peter Lord and Nick Park, dir., story, among the producers. UK: Aardman Animations, Allied Filmmakers, DreamWorks SKG (prod.) / DreamWorks, Pathe, Tobis Filmkunst (dist.), 2000. Karey Kirkpatrick, script. Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson, featured voices.

Claymation beast-fable version of THE GREAT ESCAPE plus STALAG 17, with allusions to other films, and with chickens replacing the Allied POWs. Significant here for two machines. One is a demonic, high-tech, electrical, mostly metal devouring Moloch of a machine into which live chickens enter and from which chicken pot-pies exit (cf. and contrast METROPOLIS and the death stars in the Star Wars sagas). The other significant machine is the "crate" of an aircraft in which the chickens escape: mostly wood, with only some metal, powered by chickens and flown by an old RAF vet (well, mascot) over the wire. Writing for herself, the female lead, Ginger, says "As hens, our role on the farm was that of egg-producing machinery. We were not thought of as creatures with thoughts and feelings, we were simply profit-generating robots" (Chicken Pies for the Soul [New York: Puffin, 2000]: 45-46 {sic on comma: British usage}). Final scene is in a garden world for an esoteric allusion: the "crate" and chicken power bring Mad Max back to the "Green Gorge," as Gibson's rooster gets to settle down to domesticity in a greenworld strongly conrasting the chicken farm prison camp; see MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. On the IAFA ListServ for 7 July 2000, Don Palumbo points out in CR a pattern of "allusions to Mel Gibson's corpus," making the Beyond Thunderdome reference more plausible. Cf. and contrast the tramp in the machine in Modern Times, the superimposition of the chicken-processing machine upon Sawalha's Ginger and Gibson's Yank rooster (Rocky), and ultimately upon the villain. The film may suggest that the transcendence of flight is valorized only so far as it leads to the immanence of the Garden and family life—which gets funny in a film about chickens, two roosters, and a couple of rats who steal tools but don't use them. CAUTION: It is possible to see the pie machine as less an allusion to 'METROPOLIS and more a literalization of the metaphor in the phrase "the machinery of death" in high-tech Nazi extermination operations; viewers making that connection could find CR painful.

(RDE, MikeC, 06-08/07/00)