Harry & Moriarty Infiltrate Burger King and learn about Aardman's CHICKEN RUN!!!
Published at: Aug. 22, 1999, 10:19 p.m. CST by staff
H = Harry M = Moriarty
H - Sometimes in the quest for knowledge there
is a great task or series of tasks that must be
handled. While on my last trip to Los Angeles,
I bumped into a rather odd fellow at the Hotel
I was staying that recognized me as being that
Internet Movie Geek (TM). He told me that in
two days time he would be attending one of those
Product Tie-In Meetings where a movie studio
tries to sell a corporation on acquiring the
rights to produce.. Toys, Posters, Candy, etc..
based on their product. This particular Tie-In
meeting would be with DreamWorks SKG and
concerned next summer's CHICKEN RUN. The movie
from Nick Park (creator of those amazing WALLACE
& GROMIT shorts) and AARDMAN Animation.
M - I know that over here, WALLACE & GROMIT are
basically a cult animation success. In England,
though, they are everywhere, gigantic cultural
figures, with more merchandising than you can shake a
stick at. One of the things I love about the series
is just how particularly English the sense of humor
is. Park doesn't make films for any one audience, but
he definitely makes them with one single
H - I asked the man for the location and what
company he was with and he laughed at me.
"Harry, this is a Burger King meeting... Only
top Burger King people can come. Regional
Managers and their assistants." I told him that
how I get in is none of his concern, asked
nicely for the address and he gave it to me and
left. I had two days to somehow get on the
up and up and get in on this deal. This was
Nick Park's CHICKEN RUN... I had to see this
presentation which allegedly would screen the
first 15 minutes of the film. So I called up
Moriarty and laid the facts on the table.
M - I love animation, particularly stop-motion, and
the idea of seeing early footage from this particular
picture was exhilarating enough that I declared one
full day free of torture for the henchmen. They are
still smiling now from the respite.
Harry and I found a Burger King close to my house and
put into effect the plan I was formulating even as it
unfolded. We filled out applications and were hired
to work as simple burger flippers. We were into the
company, and we knew that we had less than 48 total
hours to rise to Regional Managers. We worked
quickly, ruthlessly, efficiently. I managed to cut
costs in my store by 45% while increasing sales by 29%
over the first four hours I was working. Harry
created a more efficient waste system than ever before
by sucking down leftovers. We used various rare
poisons and voodoo charms to undermine our
supervisors. Having started work at 10:20 in the
morning, we rose to Regional managers by 4:17 in the
afternoon, something we were told was a company
With that out of the way, and with our clothes fully
permeated with that particular Burger King smell, we
were told where the presentation was going to be.
Harry and I picked out our clothes for the things, got
a little sleep, then headed out. I was clad in a
paper crown, the kind they used to head out, and disco
threads like the '70s TV live-action mascot for Burger
King. I even had my hair and beard done in that whole
Barry Gibb thing. I was ready for some serious
H - Now the interesting thing about Moriarty's
above tale is how condensed it was. However, I
feel we need to clarify some of the details.
First up, the applications. While I filled
them out, Moriarty dropped visine into two of
the Burger King employee's drinks. Not many
know this, but Visine will cause a fierce bout
of diarrhea inside of twenty minutes... without
fail. So that's how we were able to begin
working so quickly. Meanwhile, I filled out
the forms to make it look like Moriarty and I
were brothers... albeit born 60 years apart,
but brothers indeed. I was Harry Yourhired
and he was Moriarty Yourhired. So when the
manager began reading out loud we were both
instantly hired. This is an amazing never fail
trick I learned from this Homeless man in a soup
line one day in the slums of New Orleans. I
really have to recommend that soup kitchen
in New Orleans.
Meanwhile, back at the Burger King... Moriarty
and I were learning about the magic of the flame
grill that we had to flip our meat upon. Now
it was amazing... Moriarty's burgers would flip
exactly 2 and 1/2 times before landing back on
the grill... everytime. How did you do that?
M - Harry... if I share all my burger-flipping,
restaurant managing secrets with our readers, then how
am I going to keep my competitive edge? You see, now
that I've realized just how evil running a fast food
place can be, I plan to retain the franchise rights
for my store. I've already staffed it with henchmen,
and I figure there's no better way to spread evil than
to continue to try and hawk WILD WILD WEST sunglasses.
I think you're just proud of the fact that you
personally drove over 200 people clinically insane at
the drive-through window by shouting, "That's what you
think!" after every item ordered. Besides, I think
everyone's more concerned with what happened after we
rolled into the manager's meeting. When the doors to
the conference room opened and you and I walked in,
there was one of those uncomfortable room-clearing
silences, almost like a party scene in a movie where
the record scratches and everyone turns to look. In
our case, though, we had the proper credentials, and
when the lights went down on what turned out to be
nearly 20 minutes of finished film, you and I had
H - Prime seats... heh... That's funny. But I
don't see you explaining how we got them
'prime' seats. You see folks, Moriarty here is
having a funny... One of those inside... only I
am going to laugh moments. You see. We had
the proper laminated credentials with the
glowy ultraviolet fingerprint on the back, but
still they insisted that my name wasn't Harry
Yourhired and then insisted that Moriarty was
wanted by the authorities. So, Moriarty stared
deep into the eyes of the lowly doorman and
said, "Pula Farrell Peters Di Bonaventura."
The man swallowed his own tongue, apparently
Moriarty learned this at an evil genius seminar
where a Dr Lecter told him how Miggs swallowed
his own tongue.
We still had a problem though.. There was
limited seating, as in...all the seats were
already taken so I went out to the Burger King
Semi that Moriarty and I now own and hauled in
twenty cases of Prime Ground Chuck in cardboard
boxes and formed two 'Prime Seats' as a new
front row. The only weird part about the seats
was that as the program went on, the boxes bled
oozing a hema-flow of bovine liquid behind us.
And that is when the show got started. But
I'll let Moriarty start off...
M - We were warned that the scenes made up the first
15-20 minutes of the film, but that they weren't quite
edited together. We'd see them in sequence, but
there'd be Academy leader before each of the
different scenes. I'd have sat through the Emergency
Broadcast System test over and over if it meant seeing
what Aardman's been up to, so this really didn't seem
to be a big deal to me.
The titles for the film were still rough pencil
drawings, storyboards more or less, but the opening
sequence to the film was a stunner once it kicked in.
Set at night, it's the first attempt of Ginger (voiced
by the lovely Julia Salwalha) to escape from Tweedy's
Farm. When we've heard in the past that this film is
a nod to THE GREAT ESCAPE, I wasn't sure what that
meant or to what extent the homage would be taken.
The start of this film makes it clear right up
front... Nick Park must LOVE that movie. As Ginger's
tunneling plans go horribly awry and she is chased by
two huge guard dogs, the other chickens all scatter,
leaving her to take the brunt of the punishment. Like
Steve McQueen, Ginger is thrown in the cooler. We see
a montage of these escape attempts, each one more
complicated than the one before, all of them ending in
failure. There's a lot of the trademark Aardman
ingenuity in this series of scenes. It's funny, but
it's never absurd.
H - Well, I'm sorry my dear Professor but the
entire project is absurd in the most gloriously
absurd fashion I've ever seen in an absurdist
creation. THESE ARE CHICKENS!!! C-H-I-C-K-E-N-S.
And they are doing BRAVE things like trying to
escape. Now there was a period of my life
where every morning for 5 years I had to wake up
and mosey on down to the chicken pen and gather
the eggs. Not once in all those days did a
Chicken even attempt to escape. Not once did
they begin a tunneling attempt. As a matter of
fact, the chickens were soooo stupid we put my
baby sister, age 5 at the time, in charge of the
chickens... and if a chicken can't out think my
sister.... Well then it's a dumb bird indeed.
M - You know, of course, that she knows where you
sleep, don’t you, Harry?
H - Yeah, but she doesn’t know where the keys are! The main thing that
struck me right off
about this was the gritty realistic feel of the
compound. The barbwire looked menacing. The
shadows were stark, and there was a decided lack
of color, save for the chickens themselves. It
looked depressing and bleak. Like a
concentration camp. The other part was the
Cinematic nature of the footage. You could tell
that a ton of thought went into every shot.
This was crafted in the extreme sense of the
word. It's an aspect of Aardman animation that
I have come to welcome with open arms. Youcould
feel the slow burn of the absurdist plot. There
are chickens.... they think. They want to be
free chickens. It's beautiful. And then there
is the Chicken house guard.
M - Don't get me wrong. I know there are very few
farms out there with active Resistance movements, but
within the world that Nick Park has created, there's
nothing overtly silly about what they're trying to do.
Like you, I was struck by just how grim the setting
of the film is. I love the guy who is in charge of
the chickens. Miranda Richardson is the woman who
owns of Tweedy Farms, and the guy working under her to
watch the chickens is starting to have suspicions. I
love the moment where he tells her that something's up
with the chickens. "I think they're organizing." If
it weren't so funny, it might be spooky.
H - Absolutely. There's that point... and then
he follows up with, "I believe the chickens are
planning something." to which Miranda chides
him for being silly. The character reminds me
in a strange perverted way of Muldoon's lines
about the raptors in JURASSIC PARK... But subtle
in merely the tone in which he speaks... As if
he doesn't want the chickens to hear his outloud
M - Still, the film's plot seems to kick into high
about ten minutes in, after we've seen just how
determined Ginger is and how hopeless the odds are.
That's when we're introduced to Rocky, the Flying
H - It's strange, I didn't really get a feeling
for Mel's character much at all this far in...
Of course we don't know much about him from the
footage we've seen. All we know is that Rocky,
the Flying Rooster is an escape chicken from a
touring Circus. Now.... I don't know about you
Moriarty, but to me... The idea of a circus that
is SOOOOOO LAME as to herald and have posters
created advertising A FLYING ROOSTER! Well....
What a lame circus? I mean... that's right up
there with a circus with "REALLY LONG NECKED
GIRAFFES!!!!" Wow! And not only that... But
this flying rooster is sooooo important to the
Circus that the Circus Manager sets off to look
for the flying rooster. Gosh... do you think
the circus might go belly up if they don't get
back their flying Rooster?
I'm not making fun of the movie. I love it.
It's the absurd REALITY that Nick Park and the
guys and gals at Aardman have created for us for
years now. But this time we get to be further
immersed into their skewed perception of the
world. As I sat there and watched these
characters interact on screen I was stunned.
This goofy speechless smile plastered across my
face as though Nick was moving my mouth frame
for frame in time with the movie to a higher
upward arc. While the funny stuff was coming
pretty often and quickly with no duds at all...
I was struck by how quickly I was completely
involved into the plotline.
M - I liked the initial interaction between Rocky and
Ginger. I like that he's not a noble-minded hero
bird, and that he essentially has to be blackmailed
into offering even the slightest bit of help to his
fellow chickens. I like the fact that the first word
we hear him bellow across that barnyard is "FREEDOM!"
This is one of those films that is going to play
better and richer the older you are. Kids are going
to love the look and feel of it, but they won't get
any of the more subtle adult work. Adults, on the
other hand, are going to marvel at how deep the film
is, and just how much detail has been layered in.
I recognized many of the voices in the film. As I
said, Ginger is given life by Julia Salwalha, who I
always found to be the human anchor of ABSOLUTELY
FABULOUS as Saffron. She's joined here by Jane
Horrocks, whose vocal chords should be declared a
national treasure after her sterling work in last
year's deeply flawed LITTLE VOICE.
Mainly, though, I was struck by the fact that Aardman
doesn't seem to have traded one bit of their identity
for the backing of a major Hollywood studio. Yes,
they're working with DreamWorks. I've heard that
Jeffrey Katzenberg treats these guys like movie stars
when he visits them, though. He believes in letting
them do their work the way they're used to doing it,
and the result is going to be a deeply individual
studio offering. This is how DreamWorks stands to
benefit most... by giving artists room to create
H - Well, I don't know about this blowing of
smoke up Katzenberg's trousers, but it does seem
like he has the right trousers for this gig.
There was not an iota of Americanism in this
work. It felt completely AARDMAN. As for the
voices...Who cares who provides who with who's
voice. To me... them bloody chickens were
talking. Ginger sounded like Ginger and Rocky
sounded like Rocky the Flying Rooster. To
bloody hell with the reality of things. This is
a perfectly created universe where things are...
strange. Be it a weird old cranky grandfather
rooster that hates the bloody Yanks....
Wonderful. Or the plethora of horny chickens
that want to shag the fowl feathered Rocky.
This all works. The main thing I was struck
with from the overall presentation was that
DreamWorks isn't going to pull a Warners and
release a classic film with all the sound and
fury of a tree falling in a forest with nobody
around to hear it. They seem to really believe
in this film, and their enthusiasm was
contagious. I know if I were a Burger King
regional manager, I'd sign onto this faster than
a two minute egg.
M - I haven't blown smoke up Katzenberg's trousers
since that Disney intern gig in the late '80s, Harry,
so bite your tongue. I guess I'm responding to the
fact that this seems to be an individual effort, but
still seems to be getting the full support of the
studio. After the heartbreak of IRON GIANT, this is a
I'm going to close out my report on this advanced
presentation of the film by saying that all we saw was
20 minutes, but we can already discuss subtext and
cinematic approach and stylistic decisions. This is
rich work, and it bodes well for the final result
we'll see onscreen next summer. I'm not even sure I
want to know anymore until another opportunity to see
footage on the big screen, where it belongs, presents
itself. I guarantee this will appeal to all you
animation nuts out there as much as it did to us, and
I'm predicting this as one of the summer's biggest
hits. "Feathers will fly," indeed.
Anyway... I've got to go get the henchmen started on
tomorrow morning's croissanwich-and-broken-glass combo
breakfasts. Until then...
H- Well just leave it to an evil genius to bite my head off. He’s just jealous cause
I made more hamburgers than he did. Well, It’s been left to me to wrap this up. Like
John Lasseter with TOY STORY, like Henry Selick with THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE
CHRISTMAS and Brad Bird with THE IRON GIANT we are set for the emergence of
another genius in the realm of theatrical feature animation. When June 23rd, 2000 comes
I know exactly were my ass will be. It’ll be planted on my fourth row center seat. This
movie is going to be incredible. Also.... If Dreamworks SKG was smart they’d sign
Aardman and crew up just as Disney has done with PIXAR. And they’d do it before
CHICKEN RUN was released because... frankly... afterwards... People will be falling over
each other attempting to do their next film.
Their work is painstakingly slow and arduous, but the ends definitely justify the
means. You simply can not get a movie to look like this in any other fashion. It’s magic
at 24 frames per second. So stock them animators with as much cheese and wine and
sweaters as they require... but keep them animating. The world needs more joys like the
work I’ve seen here in CHICKEN RUN.
Lastly... I leave you with this box of eggs. Allegedly I will be getting more eggs,
one a month over the course of the next 11 months..... It is worth the wait.