Julia Sawalha, one of the stars of the 2000 Aardman Animation classic “Chicken Run,” said Thursday she was not asked to return to the recently announced sequel because producers thought her voice now sounds “too old.”
In a statement shared Thursday, Sawalha said that an actress normally would be allowed to do a voice test to prove they can still match the pitch and tone of the original character, but she said she was informed by producers without being given that chance.
In response, she recorded her own voice demonstration and shared it with producers and posted it to Vimeo, in which she mimics the lines of her character Ginger from the original “Chicken Run.” You can listen to Sawalha’s demo here.
“I went to great lengths to prove to the production that my voice is nigh on the same as it was in the original film. If they will be using some of the original cast members… let’s be frank, I feel unfairly dismissed,” Sawalha said. “To say that I am devastated and furious would be an understatement. I feel totally powerless. Something in all of this doesn’t quite ring true. I trust my instincts and they are waving red flags.”
Representatives for Aardman and Netflix, which will distribute the new film, did not immediately reply to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Sawalha said she did then receive a “very kind and thoughtfully written response” from one of the creatives on the film explaining that though he agreed her voice did not sound older, some of the other voice cast did, and they would still be proceeding to re-cast the voice of Ginger in “Chicken Run 2.”
She added that she also learned that the character of the “Lone Free Ranger” from the original film would not return, and that Mel Gibson’s role of Rocky would also be recast because his voice also sounded too old. TheWrap previously confirmed that Gibson’s role would be recast in the sequel, though no reason was given. (The actor has also come under fire since the original film for a series of racist and anti-Semitic comments.)
“I am sad that I have lost the chance to learn from Nick Park and Peter Lord, from whom I learnt so much. The three of us, together, created Ginger,” Sawalha said. “Today I responded by wishing the production the best of luck and the greatest success with the sequel.”
Other voice actors who starred in the original film included the original “Chicken Run” from 2000 also included Phil Daniels, Imelda Staunton and Timothy Spall.
The “Chicken Run” sequel will pick up the story of the chickens who pulled off an escape from Tweedy’s farm in the original film where Ginger (voiced in the original by Sawalha) has finally found her dream – a peaceful island sanctuary for the whole flock, far from the dangers of the human world. When she and Rocky (originally Gibson) hatch a little girl called Molly, Ginger’s happy ending seems complete. But back on the mainland the whole of chicken-kind faces a new and terrible threat. For Ginger and her team, even if it means putting their own hard-won freedom at risk — this time, they’re breaking in!
Sam Fell (“Flushed Away,” “ParaNorman”) will direct the new film from a script by Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’ Farrell and Rachel Tunnard; Nick Park, creator of Aardman hits like “Wallace and Gromit” and “Shaun the Sheep,” will have a consulting role in the film. Steve Pegram and Leyla Hobart will produce, while Peter Lord, Carla Shelley and Karey Kirkpatrick will return as executive producers.
The 2000 “Chicken Run” grossed nearly $225 million at the worldwide box office and remains the top-grossing stop-motion animated hit of all time.
Read Sawalha’s full message here.