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Weekend Movies Taste Like Chicken

In addition to the expected juggernaut of Me, Myself & Irene, Jim Carrey's latest film, Chicken Run hits theaters this weekend. It tells the story of coop full of chickens plotting their big escape, with the help of a flying rooster.

The film, which is designed to appeal to children and adults, comes from the award-winning British animation duo Peter Lord and Nick Park, who have given an innovative look to clay animation for more than 15 years.

Clay animation is a painstaking process; it took four years to complete Chicken Run.

"We have a camera, and it takes one frame at a time," explains Lord. "Basically, you move the puppet a bit, and then you get out of the way, and you take one of those frames...and then you come back, move the puppet again, get out of the way, come back, get out, and so on, and so on."

Park says their goal was to make 90 seconds of usable film each week, and that was with all the animators working with all engines firing.

"The exciting thing is not just to make the puppet move, but to make it live or appear to live, and that's what we specialize in doing," explains Lord. "That's what we love doing."

And they've been doing it for more than 15 years. Their series of Wallace and Gromit short films have won two Academy Awards and lots of attention.

"It opened a lot of doors," says Park. "It's great if you can put an Oscar on the table when you are having a meeting."

Lord: "It doesn't hurt, does it?"

Park: "It doesn't hurt, gets you free drinks as well."

Not to mention offers from every studio in Hollywood. They chose to work with Jeffrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks, who gave them the freedom they desired.

Explains Park, "Whatever we laugh at, goes into the movie, and if we don't find it funny, it doesn't go in."

The job of making them laugh also fell to Mel Gibson, who lent his voice to Rocky, the film's lead rooster.

Recalls Lord, "We were afraid we'd get all this kind of primadonna thing, star thing. Not a bit of it, just one of the boys. He's really hard-working, and really funny."

Gibson may be funny, but chickens?

"They are high on the list of the most ridiculous animals you can find," says Lord. "It's because they look silly. They are really famous for being cowardly. They are the exact opposite of being heroic."

Next up: Lord and Park will produce a clay animated version of The Tortoise and the Hare, told in a mock documentary style.

They allso will be taking a little time off before starting to work on a feature-length Wallace and Gromit film.

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