The chickens may have hatched a plan to escape the farm in the film Chicken Run, but for one developer this meant a free range on developing the film's official Web site, writes Martin Couzins.
For Jay Sachania, working as lead designer and programmer on chickenrun.co.uk this meant producing a Web site that was fun and reflected the feel of the film.
"The main theme of the site was fun. The site tries to get across the unique British flavour of the film. As well as giving clips/trailers of the movie, we added a section called the 'slide show' depicting 1950s England. Users can get a feel for the film by interacting with the slides and pop-up characters," says Sachania.
The site also allows users to send postcards, download screen savers and play a game where you can throw eggs at one of the film's characters Mrs Tweedy. And in the "cast" section visitors to the site can learn more about the characters. The chickens and the baddies talk about their roles in the film as actors would talk to journalists.
Sachania says he didn't have to look to other Web sites for ideas because the film generated so many. "When working with a film like this you are spoilt for materials to populate the site. We also had very strong ideas of how we wanted the site to look and function so we didn't need any additional inspiration besides the film."
The result so far (from 15 May to 16 July) has been 13,920,663 hits and 153,562 unique visitors. Not bad considering Sachania first started thinking about the site in March. "Initially, we delivered a virtual Easter egg hunt in April with a microsite. The full site went live in June," he says.
The site was built and designed using a Mac G3 Powerbook/500 and a G4/400. The language used was mySQL. The Apache Web server runs Solaris. Sachania deployed a range of skills in building the site. On the design side he used Adobe Imageready, Photoshop and Illustrator, and for programming he used Macromedia Flash 4, Director 7 and BBEdit.
Looking back, he says the worst aspect of working on the site was burning the midnight oil. "And, as with all sites," he adds, "try and avoid the stress when nearing the end of a project."
So what's next? "First chickens and now cows; I am working on a site for Boddingtons." And one last paltry attempt at humour. Sachania says the best aspect of working on chickenrun.co.uk was "working with cute chicks".
This was first published in July 2000