DreamWorks fries up Aardman’s ‘Chicken’

Production company secures first full-length toon feature from Oscar-winning animator.

After two years of courtship, DreamWorks has secured the first full-length animated feature from Oscar-winning Aardman Animations with the claymation project “Chicken Run.”

The deal is another animation-related victory for DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg in the studio’s bid to battle Disney’s domination of the animation market. Disney was one of several other studios — including 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. — eager to corral “Chicken Run.”

Pic will be co-financed and distributed with the Paris-based Pathe. DreamWorks will carry domestic and all international rights except Europe, which Pathe will handle. DreamWorks also retains rights to domestic and international merchandising. Budget figures were not released.

Oscared past

The project, which has already been shooting preliminary tests, is being helmed by Nick Park and Peter Lord, who also produce along with David Sproxton. The trio forms Aardman Animations, which won Oscars for such shorts as “Creature Comforts,” “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave.”

Chickening out

Story is about a group of chickens who make a desperate bid for freedom before they can be fried, filleted or fricasseed. Leading the flock is a British chicken named Ginger and an American rooster named Rocky.

DreamWorks has slated the project to come out in the spring or summer of the year 2000.

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