Original Release: October 3, 2005
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Directed By: Mark Dindal
Notable Actors: Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Don Knotts, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn, Dan Molina, Amy Sedaris, Patrick Stewart, Catherine O’Hara and Adam West
If you know a bit about the Disney canon, you’ll know that the next film on our list is one typically considered and called one of the worst. People are extremely hard on Chicken Little. It was the first Disney animated film to be entirely 3D and it had the unbearable task of trying to match the greatness of Pixar’s run of stellar films. I’m not going to tell you that Chicken Little is a masterpiece. It’s not. I’m not going to tell you it’s Pixar quality. It’s not. I am going to tell you, though, that Chicken Little has one saving grace. There is one reason that this movie deserves for you to see it and for you to hate it less. More than 90% of the other films we’ve watched in this series, Chicken Little succeeds in being downright hilarious.
Mark Dindal originally planned for the Chicken Little to be a girl. The story centered around a glass half empty female chicken who went to summer camp and had to stop her councilor from doing something evil to her hometown. Sounds cute enough. When pitched to Michael Eisner, he suggested to change the main character to a boy as a boy was more likely to get picked on at summer camp. When David Stainton took over as president of Walt Disney Animation, he asked that the entire story be re-worked as he didn’t care for the current approach. After two and a half years, the story would finally get to the version that we see today.
In order to create the CGI story. Disney put 50% of their 2D animators through 18 months of training in order to learn the new programming. They wanted to capture the round nature of earlier Disney films, make it seem familiar even though it was something completely new. Several of the artists had also worked on Dinosaur, and used this experience to create rich backgrounds for the film. Zach Braff’s face was used as a reference for Chicken Little in order to give him the dorky charm they were searching for.
The story of Chicken Little is pretty out there. It goes from a boy who disappoints his dad to a story about baseball to a story about aliens very quickly. It’s easy to see how some people would consider this as a film that jumps the shark. The story certainly jumps all over the place but this is luckily held together by a pretty central theme of a father and son trying to find a way to connect with each other. I think many young boys could definitely relate to Chicken Little’s plight. He’s a kid who wants so badly to do the right thing but so often comes up short. He’s also a bit of an outcast and we see him constantly trying to navigate this world where no one will give him the time of day.
Chicken Little himself is really one of the finer points of this film. He’s absolutely adorable and as a character he is very easy to root for. He’s got this great big heart and it’s fun to see him try to make pants out of a newspaper or sing “I am the Champion” in his room alone. All of his facial expressions are great and I laughed out loud every time he tried to avoid something by saying “Who are we talking about again?” He’s one of the better male leads and I had a great time getting to know him.
His friends are pretty fun too. Abby Mallard makes a great female lead and I loved watching her have so much confidence in herself and in her friend. Her and Chicken Little finding first love was also a lot of fun to watch. Fish Out of Water is another high point of this film as he is constantly fun to watch and despite being a silent character really pulls the attention every time he is on screen. Runt is the only weak member of the team. He often edged on the side of too whiny for me to care about but I’m sure there’s an audience for a character like this. That audience just wasn’t me.
As I mentioned, Chicken Little is all about the laughs. Despite this being a worse story than Home on the Range, I was always engaged and giggling at the silly jokes or Fish Out of Water. Turkey Lurkey made me burst out laughing at one point when his cue cards read “Weep Uncontrollably.” The humor is just so solid throughout and is often more witty than a film like this probably deserves. The jokes come fast and furious and I really liked that the best laughs were not slapstick, but came from sharp dialogue.
Chicken Little did pretty well at the box office but was railed on by critics who thought it was awful. Is this the Disney movie that makes other Disney movies look like a waste of time? No. Is this the CGI film that we’d been waiting for from Disney? No. BUT, as just a film for the whole family, it’s hilarious. It proves that some witty writing really can salvage a mess of a story. Sure, you can turn this film on in the middle and be completely baffled by how aliens got involved, but it doesn’t matter, because the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and thus it gets the chance to just have fun. I laughed out loud here more than I have in a while at these films and in my book, that is always a good sign.
Next Up: Meet the Robinsons
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NOTE: Obviously all the photos are courtesy of Disney Entertainment and I would never in a million years claim them as my own. That being said, all are actually taken with my phone during our viewing in order to capture the moment in a slightly different way than originally intended.
ALSO: My Fiancee has a blog too and he is talking about all the classics we are currently watching, which involves more than just Disney. Head overHERE and check it out!