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    Dawn of the Nugget’ Composer on Returning to the Flock – The Music news


    Aardman’s flock of clay chickens is back. And so is their composer. 

    23 years after Chicken Run became a stop-motion smash hit, Ginger, Rocky, Babs, Mac and the rest of the coop are returning for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, landing on Netflix on Dec 15. If the music sounds similar, it’s because Harry Gregson-Williams, who composed the original score alongside John Powell, has also returned. 

    In the more-than-two decades since the first film, the L.A.-based Brit — who has worked closely with Hans Zimmer for much of his career — has scored dozens of major titles for filmmakers including Ridley Scott, Joel Schumacher, Ben Affleck and Antoine Fuqua. Alongside movies such as Shrek 1, 2 and 3, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Kingdom of Heaven, The Chronicles of Narnia, Prometheus, The Martian, The Meg and House of Gucci, the music man has also ventured back to Aardman for the likes of Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas. 

    But Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget sees him return to what he describes as a “quintessentially English” film, reuniting him not just with Aardman but Sam Fell (who co-directed Flushed Away). Speaking while taking a break from recording the score at London’s AIR Studios (where he says “at least half” orchestra also worked on the first film), Gregson-Williams discusses deploying ukuleles, kazoos and balalaikas into the melodic mix, and taking themes from the first film to hopefully give fans a “warm and fuzzy feeling.”

    How much fun is it to be back in the wonderful world of not just Aardman but Chicken Run?

    Oh, it’s brilliant. And I think we’ve got a really great story here. It’s got all the elements and characteristics of any Aardman film, with a lot of humor and a lot of heart. But at its core it’s really a movie about a family being incredibly happy together, then being separated and then finding their way back together. In scoring a movie like this, you very quickly forget that you’re talking about clay chickens. They’re members of a team or family. 

    It’s been 23 years since the first film was released, so probably 25 years since you were working on it. Did you ever think a sequel would come?

    No, not at all. It didn’t occur to me. I often thought how fun it would be. But I was just really delighted when I was contacted and asked to to do the music for the for the sequel. Because I’d love these characters. And had such fun. It’s such a great basis for music. Film music is part of the storytelling devise, and this is full of emotional beats, which I always love scoring.

    It’s been some time — were you able to find your old notes to use? 

    John Powell and I did the first movie together and Sam Fell and I decided early on that we absolutely would take some of the thematic material that and John and I wrote and develop it – take some of the strong themes from the first movie and develop them, but also create some new thematic material for the new characters. So I hope you’ll get a warm and fuzzy feeling when you hear a couple of the melodies that we laid out in the first movie. And I haven’t been shy in using some of the slightly crazy orchestration that we used in the first. I’ve recorded a choir who were asked to bring along kazoos. There are a couple of people in the choir who actually sang on the first. 

    And the first had a very kind of Great Escape feel to it. Are there any films or genres referenced in Dawn of the Nugget?

    The word heist pretty much sums it up. And with that ones thinking of waka waka guitar, those kind of scores for movies, high-octane live-action movies that don’t usually concern clay chickens at all. But I think that’s part of the joke. I’ve done a few sessions with a big saxophone group. I’ve also used ukuleles. Mrs. Tweedy has her own theme, which I’ve expanded from the first, but her instrumentation is quite similar. But for reasons that you’ll have to psychoanalyses myself and John Powell about, her lead instrument is a balalaika. 

    So how did that very first collaboration with Aardman in 2000 come about?

    I was working in Hans Zimmer’s studio at the time. And another young lad had turned up — John Powell. And about a year and a half previously we had done a movie for DreamWorks called Antz. I think that probably was going to be scored by Hans, and he’d either become unavailable or it wasn’t for him. And I think he felt that if he couldn’t do it, probably two other people would have to fill his rather big shoes! So he asked us and I don’t think we messed it up too badly. And I think that’s how we came to be asked to do the second animation that DreamWorks Animation ever did, which was Chicken Run. We were both thrilled to do it, both having come from the U.K. originally and both having great admiration for Aardman. 

    And was it Chicken Run that led to you working on the Shrek movies?

    It was. Following Antz and then Chicken Run came the first Shrek movie, which is where I met the director Andrew Adamson. But these movies all have one thing in common, which is DreamsWorks and Jeffrey Katzenberg. And from that I did a decade of Shreks. But also Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas, which were both Aardman. So it’s been my great fortune to still be asked to work for Aardman, although I can’t really get a look in on a Wallace & Gromit. 

    I was going to ask. Nick Park is obviously working on a new one. So any chance of you having a stab at that?

    No. They’ve got their own guy. And I’d be pretty disappointed if I were him and I suddenly popped up. But no, it’s been an absolutely pleasure to be working on something as quintessentially English as this project. 



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