Thursday, 24 November 2016

Chicken Run | Archetypes | Hero's Journey | Film Review | Year 2

Chicken Run movie poster
Chicken Run is Aardman Animations’s 2000 stop-motion feature length film. Its a popular film even to this day and is a great example of stop motion animation, which became the highest grossing stop motion film ever when it grossed over $224 million. 

Chicken Run can be analysed using the standard archetypes from the Hero’s Journey. Although some of the roles could be arguably missing, it is also a wonderful example of how some characters can reflect more than 1 role in film and in life. 

Ginger is our willing heroine throughout the film. Not only is she the protagonist and our main focus point to the story but she is the pivotal character of which we see a lot of her attempts and ideas for escaping the farm. She tries time and time again to escape, often sacrificing herself to punishment to save the others. Arguably a female lead is controversial let alone a female lead as a chicken but in this incident it works brilliantly for the story line. A lone female with strong characteristics is nice to see. Rather than have her cry for help we see her as a rebel within the opening to the film where we see her repeatedly thrown in ‘jail’.

The Herald is missing from this set of archetypes as there is an ongoing threat of death throughout the film. The ‘call to adventure’ was already there for Ginger, even before the film started but is reinforced when the Tweedy’s invest in a pie machine. Some may argue that this machine is the ‘abstract form’ of the herald but as the attempts to escape began a long time before its arrival, the herald has been made redundant in this film.

Ginger’s other half is a rooster named Rocky the Rhode Island Red or Mr Rocky Rhodes for short. Some would argue that Rocky is the trickster for this film as his role of teaching the chickens how to fly is based on a lie but his role may not be as clear cut as some may think. Rocky fits the roles of the mentor in the film due to his teaching skills. Not for being overly great but as he helps the others and guides them to work as a team which is ultimately needed to fly their creation out of the farm. Rocky isn't immediately the mentor but grows into his role. He does leave but the advert for ‘Mrs Tweedy’s Chicken Pies’ prompts his return and helps everyone escape.

Instead our tricksters our the travelling sales rats Nick and Fletcher. This pair also double up as the shapeshifter. Their mischievous nature and their constant quest for eggs in anyway possible is near perfect example of this role as ultimately we know that they are only interested in themselves and not in the survival of the chickens. Although they do get employed first by Ginger and then by Rocky, we do doubt their loyalty throughout most of the film and even more so at the end. Although they ‘escaped’ with the chickens, its not clear if they did so to better their own lives living in a ‘chicken sanctuary’ or if they are truly loyal to the cause.

Mr and Mrs Tweedy are two important archetypes as well. Mrs Tweedy is the Shadow while Mr Tweedy is the Threshold Guardian. Mr Tweedy makes a brilliant example of the Threshold guardian as his wife doesn't believe what he is saying but is often the one to catch the chickens in the act of escaping and thwarts their attempts many times, even before the film starts as we see on Ginger’s tally of days spent in isolation. For the chicken to leave they must outwit this dimwitted man time and time again before succeeding. Mrs Tweedy on the other hand is our ‘Shadow’. Her ultimate goal is to make large amounts of money out of the chickens. The audience is even lead to believe that in a darker scene, she beheads a plump chicken for dinner (presumably). Between this husband and wife, they foil the chickens plans many times before finally being defeated but not before we see Mrs Tweedy’s dark side surely when she tries to behead Ginger.

The allies of out heroine are Mac and Bunty. Mac the genius Scottish assistant and Bunty, the blunter more cynical character of the group. Both are detrimental to the plot and without them, several of the escape attempts would not have been possible. Mac is the brains behind the operation, proving the science and sometimes know how behind Gingers plans while Bunty is there to challenge and push better ideas and leadership out of the two. 

The story would not be complete without a father figure which in this case is Fowler. An ex-military rooster (although it is later revealed that he was only a mascot as chicken “weren't allowed to fly for the RAF”) He is the character that has the authority and power over all of the chickens.

Our mother figure of this film is a tricky one to define. Babs is a little dimwitted and has a very strong love for knitting but has a loving core and often looks out for Ginger when she can. Although not the strongest representation of an archetype in the film, without her we would not see those dainty pink scissors or have some great lines such as “I don't want to be a pie…I don't like gravy”. She’s also part of the comic relief to some of the dark scenes that we see. The child of the film is also Babs due to absentminded characteristics she shows. Her innocents provides her with a simplistic view of the world.

Ginger could also be seen as the maiden in the film but as her one pure intention is to help everyone escape and live a better life. She doesn't show the sexuality because she's a plastercine chicken and its family film but not many others could potentially fill this role. 

Overall, although some of the roles are a little hazy and some characters take one two roles, its a charming example of the Hero’s Journey. From start to end it is full of life and laughs making it a well loved film by families everywhere. 

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