‘Chicken Run’ fans rejoice after Zachary Levi replaces Mel Gibson for the sequel

mel gibson
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Actor/filmmaker Mel Gibson attends the 89th Annual Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 6, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Aardman fans rejoiced on Thursday when the stop-motion animation studio announced that a long-awaited sequel to the 2000 film Chicken Run will be heading to Netflix next year, in addition to a new Wallace & Gromit film in 2024. But it’s a bit of casting news for Chicken Run 2 — now officially titled Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget — that has fans particularly stoked.

In the original film, the voice of Rocky, the American circus rooster who crash-lands in the Tweedy’s chicken coop, was voiced by Mel Gibson. However, Gibson has become a persona non grata due to years of anti-Semitic and homophobic behavior. And although the 66-year-old actor mind-bogglingly continues to get work, the sequel is replacing him with Shazam! actor Zachary Levi.

It’s unclear if the decision has anything to do with the stigma of hiring Gibson — as the character of Ginger, who was originally voiced by English actress Julia Sawalha, has also been recast with Thandiwe Newton in the role.

But either way, people will take it. As the casting news began to swirl online, many fans took to Twitter to breathe a sigh of relief that Chicken Run 2 will be Gibsonless.

“I approve of this new era where Mel Gibson’s roles are recast with Tom Hardy or Zachary Levi,” tweeted film critic Stefan Ellison. “I also love that Netflix is going all-in on Aardman. More films from that studio in Bristol is always a good thing.”

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Podcaster Henry Gilbert lamented that while he was disappointed about Sawalha’s casting, Gibson “definitely needed to be replaced.”

Critic Rendy Jones expressed a similar sentiment.

Writer and director Brian Koch tweeted that he hoped Sawalha would be involved in some capacity, but likewise cosigned the recasting of Gibson.

According to Variety, the sequel will follow Ginger, who has set up a peaceful island sanctuary for the flock after escaping the Tweedy’s farm. “When she and Rocky 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.”