“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” (2023): a love letter to my childhood 

“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget”

3/5 ***

“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” (2023), directed by Sam Fell and produced by Aardman Animations, is a 23-year awaited sequel to the claymation cult classic “Chicken Run.” It’s unsurprising that in such a long hiatus, certain roles were recast either due to controversy surrounding their name, as in the case of Rocky ( originally Mel Gibson, now Zachary Levi), or even due to the original actor passing away, as is the case with Fowler (originally Benjamin Whitrow, now David Bradley). While Ginger (originally Julia Sawalha, now Thandiwe Newton) was also recast, they did use archival recordings of Sawalha for any flashback sequences. Regardless of these changes, the new voice actors do a fantastic job of portraying the original characters and, as a fan of the original myself, the only one I even noticed without research was Rocky’s character.  

This long-awaited sequel picks up neatly where the previous movie left off. Rocky, the now domestic, but previously “lone ranger” rooster, regales his and Ginger’s unborn egg with the story of how his wife bravely saved the chickens’ lives from the terrible Tweedy egg-farm-turned-chicken-slaughterhouse and led them all to freedom on their new island home. Ginger and Rocky agree that it’s time to leave that life of adventure behind and focus on what’s really important: their child.  

The audience is then gifted with a lovely montage of their child Molly (Bella Ramsey) growing up in this chicken utopia. We’re greeted with familiar faces as she runs around their island paradise, such as Bunty (Imelda Staunton), Mac (Lynn Ferguson), Babs (Jan Horrocks), Fowler, and everyone’s favorite ratty duo, Nick (originally Timothy Spall, now Romesh Ranganathan) and Fetcher (originally Phil Daniels, now Daniel Mays). As Molly grows up, it becomes rapidly abundant that she is not content with the confines of the island any more than Ginger was content with the confines of the chicken farm.  

This comes to a head one day when  they can see trucks from Fun-Land Farms on the mainland, adorned with smiling chickens, carrying the fowls within off to a new chicken farm. While Ginger calls a meeting of all of the chickens on the island, Rocky stays home with Molly to protect her from the knowledge of the outside world (and its love of fried chicken). 

In a surprising turn of events, Ginger has no desire to step foot off the island and instead formulates a plan to better protect their hidden oasis. Meanwhile, Rocky regales Molly with tales of his “lone ranger” days and only inspires her desire for freedom further.  

Shortly after, Molly escapes the island, desperate to truly prove to her parents that she is a brave, strong girl. Almost immediately, she befriends another young chicken named Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick-Davies) who is trying to find her way to Fun-Land Farms, where all the chickens in the advertisements look so happy. When they finally do arrive at Fun-Land Farms, it seems like a dream come true: a never-ending amusement park for chickens, with no chores and no rules. However, it becomes rapidly apparent that something is wrong—all of the chickens have collars that turn them into carefree and brainless chickens when they’re activated. While Frizzle is caught and collared, Molly escapes further into the farm. 

At the same time, Ginger, Rocky and a crew that includes all of our favorites we’d been reintroduced to follow the truck to the farm, where they discover things are far worse than they could ever have ever imagined. The “farm” turns out to be a high-tech, tightly-guarded poultry processing plant that is tailored to making chicken nuggets for fast food chains. To make matters even worse, they are once again confronted with their old nemesis, Melisha Tweedy (Miranda Richardson), alongside her new husband, Dr. Fry (Nick Mohommed), the scientist behind the collars.  

All in all, “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” in a really fun return to the claymation world of “Chicken Run.” It doesn’t surpass the original, but it’s rare that sequels ever do. What it does replicate from the original is the expressive and joyful animation that Aardman Animations continues to produce with their films. The characters have remained unblemished despite changes in the actors playing them and the near-complete destruction of the original props due to a warehouse fire back in 2005.  

It also brings me back to my childhood years, where I was absolutely fascinated with stop-motion as I watched “Chicken Run,” “Wallace and Gromit,” then “Flushed Away.” To me, it was pure magic, and “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” returned me to that simpler time when I would watch the behind-the-scenes credits over and over in amazement at the artistry and detail they put into each and every model and scene. The art of claymation has only improved over the years, and “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” is testament of that.