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    Dawn of the Nugget’ – The Music news

    Aardman’s celebrated, box office-smashing, stop-motion animated chickens are finally being allowed back into the wild. 

    Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, the sequel to 2000’s Chicken Run, is due to hatch on Netflix globally on Dec. 15, having had its world premiere at the London Film Festival back in October. 

    The feature, a six-year labour of love for director Sam Fell which was shot in the same studio built to house the original (Aardman’s first ever feature film), brings back Ginger, Rocky, Babs and the whole flock of feathered friends, but this time for an adventure in which they want to break into Mrs. Tweedy’s latest evil chicken factory, rather than break out. 

    Earlier this year, The Music news spent some time on the Dawn of the Nugget set, picking up some interesting, er, nuggets of information about how the film was made.

    One Set Took Two Years to Build

    The most impressive location in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, is arguably Chicken Village, the fowl-friendly island utopia where Ginger and her flock now reside after fleeing Mrs Tweedy in the first film and a land director Sam Fell describes as like a “Chicken Wakanda.” This single set itself took two man-years to build and the 30-second opening shot showing the feathery residents doing their thing among the 22 houses arguably the most complicated in the company’s history — 4-5 weeks of prep time and then 18 weeks on the single shoot itself. 

    Technological Advancements Saved Time… And Fingers

    Among the main problems on the first film, claims Aardman vet and animation supervisor Ian Whitlock, was that due to the use of plasticine, “fingers were constantly dropping off.” Thankfully, digits were spared on sequel thanks to the use of silicon. Elsewhere, the production was able to integrate CGI and stop-frame live during the shoot. Whereas the first would have the chickens on wires for action shots (director Sam Fell says if you look closely you can actually sometimes see it), in Dawn of the Nugget they were able to put them on gizmos and paint it out digitally. 

    Because of COVID – No Licking!

    By the time production on Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget kicked off, the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, something that added a few interesting hurdles to the mix. Alongside the standard rules about distance and being masked up on set, because the puppets had been handmade, they were forced into quarantine before they could be used, sometimes for up to 10 days. The animators were also required to not lick the puppets they were working with, apparently a common tactic to touch them up during shoots. In all the pandemic pushed production back by about six months. 

    A Making of Book Saved the Day

    When a fire swept through a warehouse Aardman had been using in 2005 — the very same week its feature animation The Curse of the Were-Rabbit hit the top of the U.S. box office — it tragically destroyed much of the company’s models and sets, including many from the first Chicken Run. Thankfully, the head of animation was, according to Fell, a “hoarder” and several boxes of models were found in his attic, while Nick Park still had a “bible” filled with his original sketches from 1998. But the key resource the Dawn of the Nugget team used as a reference when developing the film was actually a “Making of” book from the first film. “We ended up looking at a lot of the photos in that,” says Fell.

    Bella Ramsey Recorded Her Lines While Shooting The Last of Us

    While most of the chicken characters in Dawn of the Nugget are returnees from the first, the major new addition is Molly, the freedom-loving daughter of Ginger and Rocky. Bella Ramsey was chosen to voice the young chicken, with Fell saying she was “clearly the right choice” for the role. Ramsey was actually cast as Molly before she sprung to far greater recognition thanks to her star turn as Ellie in The Last of Us. As it happens, she recorded Molly while shooting the hit series in Canada. “She brings all the nuance and pathos and humor that she brought to The Last of Us,” says Fell. “But with less swearing.”

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