Chicken run is a comedic parody of The Great Escape. The producers, Aardman Animations, have used a variety of presentational techniques to construct a contrast between the main characters, Ginger and Mrs Tweedy. Through this they can then create another relationship between the audience and the main characters, which is to feel for the good ones and be almost frightened by the evil ones. Working with the aim of trying to satisfy the target audience, young children, the producers have performed the masterpiece of generating these relationships simply but effectively.
As soon as the first scene opens, the audience are able to see that the set is not lit at all, initiating to us that evil is surrounding or enclosed into the setting. Even though it is dark, the first chicken we meet is brightly lit from the front ,showing her whole body, which creates the effect that she is good. This chicken, Ginger, who the audience later finds is highly influential on the other chickens, is our protagonist. Ginger is always lit from the front and the audience very rarely, if at any moment, view her in shadows or lit from behind. She is often filmed from a mid shot at a high angle or at eye level.
This is to portray that she is small but, because she is lit from the front, we can still see that she is dominant and good. Eye level is often used to illustrate that we are equal to the chickens or that we understand them. She is often looking up to people, especially Mrs Tweedy, but we know that she is her own chicken helping others. The audience are frequently at eye level with the chickens, who are always looking up at Mrs Tweedy from a Mid or Long shot which exhibits that she is the dominant one of the chicken farm. At the first shot we see of her she is lit from behind to create a shadow effect .
This formulates the impression to the audience that she is a very dark and evil character. The main reason that she is lit from behind, in the doorway, is because she is blocking out the harsh, bright light that is behind her. This also demonstrates her dominance at first glance. Mrs Tweedy is always filmed from a low angle, mainly because we are at chickens eye level looking at her. This angle is portraying again that she is very tall and superior over the chickens. She is frequently filmed when she is looking directly at the camera. This shows the evilness in her face and the angriness in her eyes.
It also lets the audience see a close up of her menacing facial features. The facial features, body language and characterisation tell the audience a lot about the characters. For example, when we are at an extreme close up on Mrs Tweedys face, we can see all the evil features. The audience can see that her eyebrows are always turned down, creating the impression she is never endingly frowning. The frowning constructs an angry characterisation almost immediately. Her actual eyes look very dark and never fully open, her eyelids are always half shut, with a blue shade of make-up on them.
Blue is known to be a cold colour, also creating the impression that she is cold and dark. The only time Mrs Tweedy ever smiles is when she finds that she can make a lot of money out of killing the chickens. The evilness reaps through here as the audience sees that she has no thought or heart for anyone else but herself. Even when she does smile, there is a touch of evil to it as well. Mrs Tweedy moves from one place to another in a very orderly and constant slow pace. It is almost a slow march, with her stomping her foot on each step to sound dominant and big.
Marching creates the impression that she is an officer, parodying The Great Escape again. She is very tall and rigid when moving and when she is stationary. This adds to the perception that she is an officer. She also has clenched fists that gives the audience an indication that she is evil. She is very masculine, because officers in the war were mainly male. Mrs Tweedy uses no hand gestures because they are either on her hips or behind her back. Gestures such as this, makes her look very formal. On the other hand, Ginger’s expression is not an angry one, but more of a determined expression.
This shows that she has the will to escape and help the other chickens. Her mouth is never turned down in a sad way, meaning that she is very happy and good. She moves about in a very quick pace, like she wants to get on with something and the sound of her feet is a tiny patter. She is not big but we can see from other aspects that she is good. Ginger is very patient with the other chickens, but sometimes she can become a bit frustrated when the chickens cannot do something, but this signifies that she wants the chickens to escape with her.
Most times she has already escaped by herself, but if the others are caught or stuck, she will go back and help them. The sound effects and the music in this film are so important to the script that you only really notice some of them when you are listening for them. The main theme for the film is, in itself, another form of parody of The Great Escape. This theme is then interpreted to reflect on the character we are looking at or focusing on. The only real Non-Diagetic sound used in this film is the music. This is because the target audience, young children, find it hard to determine the difference between Diagetic and Non-Diagetic sounds.
They have deliberately tried to use all sound effects inside the actual scene so that younger children understand it more. When Ginger is cheery, which is usually most of the time we see her, the music is a very happy and gentle in interpretation . The instruments used are mostly strings and has a medium-fast tempo. This type of tempo shows that she is always ready to go and willing to get on with an escape plan. When she is describing ‘paradise’ to the other chickens, the music is subtle and has birds tweeting in the background, which portrays that it is beautiful and that’s what she wants her and the chickens to achieve.
When the main character focus changes, to Mrs Tweedy, the audience can immediately realise because the music changes from calm to a very rigid, harsher music. It is played in a very low pitch with a double bass to give the effect that she is dangerous or evil. It is played in minor, which is not a very happy jolly tone in music; it is low and evil. When Mrs Tweedy is about to kill Edwina, the music is religious piece called Ave Maria. This is ironic because she is not a religious person. If a camera comes up on Mrs Tweedy, the music is always a sharp piece showing she is aware and not to be messed with.
Aardman Animations have used the setting of the farm and the character’s costumes effectively to show good and evil. Mrs Tweedie’s whole farm is very dark. There are nearly always dark clouds over the farm reflecting the mood. Her house shows what kind of person she is. She has antique pictures on the walls and her furniture is a very dull colour. The only real bit of light we see in her house is the unnatural light, the lamps. The colour of her furniture is very dull and dark which shows she is cold minded. As well as her house being dull, her barn is very much similar.
Although there is no furniture in there, we can still see it is old fashioned because it is dark and feels very damp. The chart on the wall near the beginning of the film automatically throws negative effect on the farm because she is exploiting the chickens to make money. The first shot we see is a frame of barbed wire which also automatically casts a shadow over the setting. However, there is one place that does look “good” in the farm. The chicken coops really turn the picture around when you are inside it. The image turns to a really bright golden colour, which feels extremely warm. The coops are enclosed so it looks very cosy.
This shows that they all work as a team and with Ginger’s characteristics the audience can see that it is a good place. Ginger’s costume is simple. She is a chicken and not surprisingly chickens do not wear leather jackets, suits or casual clothes. Ginger has a small neck cloth which I believe is for good luck and wears a green knitted hat on her head, which symbolises a beret, again showing that it is a parody of The Great Escape and that she is a prisoner trying to get out. The audience are able to see the whole of Ginger symbolising that she is very upfront and big, even though she is a chicken.
The costume that Mrs Tweedie wears is very different to that of Gingers. Firstly she is a human so she has to wear some form of clothes. But it is the type of costume and the way she is wearing it that make the audience tell she is evil. Mrs Tweedie wears a very stiff, upright dress, portraying that she wears a uniform and is evil. The colour of her clothes is very much the same as her furniture; dull and dark. Her hair is tied back into a tight bun and wears big black boots that were worn by Nazi Leaders, signifying she is not good.
Also, her sleeves are rolled up as if she is about to work or take some evil action. Using these presentational devices, Aardman Animations have effectively shown the good and the evil in the two main characters. They have done this using every aspect they can. They have used the camera angles superbly as well as the lighting on the characters. My personal opinion is that they have created a wonderful masterpiece of presenting good and evil in tiny plasticine figures. This film was a brilliant success for the producers.