Sunday, March 22, 2015


RELEASE DATE: Friday 4th November 2005

Oh dear oh dear oh dear... Chicken Little.

It's currently sitting at 36% on Rotten Tomatoes. That means only 36% of reviewers said they liked it. As a comparison, Home On The Range and Treasure Planet, the all-time biggest Disney flops, are sitting on 54% and 68% respectively.

Here's the kicker though... At the box office Chicken Little was a success, making about three times as much as Home On The Range. So for the first time in a very long while, Disney finally had some financial success with its animation department. So what gives?? Why does a film that most people consider pretty terrible do so well at the box office? I'm afraid I don't have the answer.
The original folk tale of Chicken Little (or "Chicken Licken," or "Henny Penny," depending on which version you're reading) tells the story of a little chick who has an acorn drop on his or her head and decides that the sky must be falling and the king must be notified straight away! On the journey to see the king, other characters join Chicken Little's mission, but they are all outsmarted by Foxy Loxy, who convinces them to come into his lair, whereby he eats them all.
Funnily enough, Disney had already done an adaptation of Chicken Little back in 1943, as World War II propaganda!

For the new version, which would be Disney's first "real" computer animated feature (Dinosaur was more of an experiment) it was decided to create an original story with elements of the folk tale. The first draft had Chicken Little as a girl character who went to a summer camp so that she could learn how not to overreact. Eventually it was decided that girl characters were not marketable enough so the title character became a boy. Disney was also desperate to appear "hip" and "relevant" like Dreamworks, who'd had huge success with its Shrek franchise. So instead of a summer camp, Chicken Little became a story about invading aliens... I know, right?

I kid you not, this film starts with the opening from The Lion King, then says "no." Then it goes for the traditional opening-the-storybook, then says "no." Great, 20 seconds into the movie and I already hate it. Such a tacky opening.

Once the movie ACTUALLY begins, we're introduced to Chicken Little, who has become a social outcast after he sent everybody in his town into a mad panic because he thought the sky fell on his head. His father, horribly embarrassed, tells everybody that it was just an acorn.

Poor Chicken Little just can't catch a break. Not only is his father ashamed of him, but he misses the bus to school and runs into disaster after disaster on his way there. After losing his pants, he finally makes it to gym class where they are playing dodgeball.

Chicken Little's only friends are Abby Mallard (who the school bully Foxy Loxy calls the ugly duckling) as well as the ironically named Runt-Of-The-Litter and the mute Fish-Out-Of-Water.

Desperately wanting to regain the respect of the townspeople and his own father, Chicken Little decides to join the baseball team. After training really hard, he manages to make a home run and suddenly becomes the town hero!

Finally, everything seems to be going his way. Even his relationship with his dad seems to be improving. (See the moral of the story, kids? If you succeed at sports, your parents will love you!) Everything changes though, when Chicken Little is once again struck on the head by a piece of the sky, which lands in his bedroom. What should he do? If he makes a big deal out of it, all of his newfound popularity will be for naught.

Abby Mallard and Runt-Of-The-Litter are singing along to Spice Girls karaoke when they get a phone call from Chicken Little to come around immediately. Fish-Out-Of-Water is most intrigued with this strange new device, and sees lots of fun opportunities. When he presses a secret button though, it flies him out the window!

The others chase him across town, and soon realise that the "piece of the sky" is actually a panel off an alien spacecraft! They sneak on board to rescue their friend, but Chicken Little accidentally disturbs something orange and fluffy...

The resident aliens chase the kids off their ship and through some corn fields, while a little alien baby follows them.

When they finally get back to town, Chicken Little races up the bell tower and once again raises the panic alarm. By the time everybody turns up, there is no sign of any alien activity and Chicken Little is made to look the fool all over again. When he begs his father to believe what he's saying and back him up, he is left disappointed once more.

The next day an entire fleet of spaceships descends, vaporizing everyone they see. Meanwhile Chicken Little has been followed home by the orange baby alien, and soon realises that it needs to get back to its parents.

As the rampage continues across the town, Chicken Little and his father have a heart-to-heart chat in the cinema and finally reconcile.

Chicken Little shows his dad the alien, and they plan to return it to the spaceship together. Before he goes, Chicken Little plants a big kiss on Abby Mallard.

After all that mushy stuff, it's time for a big chase across town, before time runs out! When they finally reach the spaceship they are brought onboard (where they find everybody else who had been vaporized) and the entire misunderstanding is straightened out with the baby alien's parents.

Now that they have their baby back, they can return to whatever planet they came from.

Some time later, the whole town has shown up for the premiere of the new Chicken Little film that's been made, celebrating the little guy's triumphant alien adventure. (There may have been a little creative licence taken here...)

IRVYNE: Oh boy, where to begin... I'm sure that very young children would like the animal characters and the bright colours. But from an adult perspective, the story is very basic, very undercooked and very mean-spirited. Characters in this movie are really emotionally cruel to poor Chicken Little, his own father most of all. It's a bit disturbing, actually.
None of the characters are interesting or memorable, with the sole exception being Fish-Out-Of-Water, who manages to get a few laughs out of his jolly little personality.
The fact that they shoehorned aliens into the Chicken Little story just goes to show how desperately Disney wanted to appear more modern and funky. This is Disney trying to be Dreamworks, and it pretty much falls completely flat. The comedy is terrible (although again, perhaps very small children might find it funny) and it lacks a Disney heart. The only real emotional arc here is that the little kid is picked on, bullied and betrayed by his own friends and family, and in the end they love him again because he becomes a hero. Not much of a story there.

Yes, Disney had finally made the jump into 3D animation, but that doesn't automatically make it look good. In fact, I'd say this is quite an ugly film. The character models are very unattractive (I understand that was the point with Abby Mallard, but not the whole town...) and everything about it just seems kind of "budget." If this was released today in this style it would go direct-to-video.
There are a couple of nice little touches in the background, but on-the-whole I'd rather watch almost any other Disney movie than this for general eye-candy.

This is a very odd one to discuss indeed! First of all, the score - written by John Debney, who had previously done the score to The Emperor's New Groove - is quite good, making use of many Hollywood cliches, from the eerie alien invasion music to the baseball standard sound.
The songs - for there are songs, though not really sung by the characters - are mostly new recordings of old pop songs. From "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" to "Shake A Tail Feather" and the Spice Girls' "Wannabe," it's a very odd collection of popular music throughout the years, though not sung by the original artists. There's nothing WRONG with these songs, and the C.D. on its own is quite listenable, but they don't really add much to the movie, except to make it feel more relevant and Dreamworks-y.

Is Chicken Little worth watching, 10 years after its original cinema release? Nope. While it is still better than a lot of the other tripe that passes for childrens' entertainment, it's not a good Disney movie. In moving to the third dimension, it seems that Disney forgot what made them great in the first place. Following the disappointing trajectory of Brother Bear and Home On The Range, I can remember thinking at the time that the time of quality Disney movies was definitely over, and I may never see another classic again. Thankfully, I was wrong...
PASCAL: I'm shocked that a Disney movie could make me feel so horrible! This film just doesn't have a nice feel to it. Everyone is so mean to the poor little chicken!

IRVYNE: I have to admit, even though at the start of the year I said this was the worst Disney movie ever made, after watching it again... I don't think it's as bad as Dinosaur. It does have a couple of laughs... a couple.

ANNA: After all of the carry-on about Chicken Little throughout this year, I was actually pleasantly surprised. It's not that bad. I actually laughed.

PASCAL: It has a few quirks that are a bit funny, I'll give it that.

MALEFICENT: There are a lot of quick little visual gags.

IRVYNE: Just oddball stuff, like the animated characters watching Indiana Jones at the cinema. I actually chuckled at that gag. For each one of those moments though, there's a thousand other comedy elements that just don't work.

WENDY: A couple of funny moments don't make it a good movie though. The story is really badly put together. Within the first five minutes of the movie you can pretty much tell where the entire plot is going. And the whole thing is just way too self-aware.

IRVYNE: It doesn't feel at all like Disney. It feels like a cheap Dreamworks film.

PASCAL: It really does.

ANNA: The story should have stopped before the stupid movie-within-a-movie bit at the end.

WENDY: Oh yes. Agreed.

PASCAL: So much of the running time is just eye-rolling.

IRVYNE: It feels to me like the creators were just trying to fill in time, like they didn't have enough story for a whole movie so they just had to pad it out with pointless scenes like that. The scene where they're being chased by the aliens through the corn fields seems to go on forever!

PASCAL: It probably would have worked much better as a 30 minute short.

IRVYNE: And it's a film full of horrible characters, the dad in particular.

MALEFICENT: I'm glad there's a resolve though. He realises he's been a bad father.

WENDY: I'd be happy if they could just make a Fish-Out-Of-Water movie.

IRVYNE: Yeah, Fish-Out-Of-Water is the best character. He's like Kenny McCormick. He can't speak and he's just happy all the time.

PASCAL: I love how easily entertained he is!

ANNA: It's funny when he gets the alien ship panel and he gives himself duck feet.

MALEFICENT: And he gives a bubbly little giggle at how smart he is. Haha.

IRVYNE: I think we all agree that the voice for the Chicken Little character is just wrong.

PASCAL: Oh yes, it's too old!

ANNA: The little chicken needs to have a little voice!

WENDY: The original story was a nice cute little tale, but they put all this sci-fi alien stuff into it. So unnecesarry.

ANNA: I do like the little fluffy squishy thing.

PASCAL: Kirby the troll-alien!

WENDY: I'm not sure why, but the look of the film seems "off" to me.

IRVYNE: Yeah, I have to keep reminding myself that this is Disney's first attempt at C.G. (Dinosaur notwithstanding) because the quality of the visuals isn't great. It's nice and colourful for the kids, but the character designs are all so ugly.

MALEFICENT: You say it's bad quality, but if you compare it to something like Hoodwinked, you'd realise it's not that bad.

IRVYNE: Oh, absolutely! It's not THAT bad, but when you consider that Chicken Little was released a month before The Incredibles and a year after Finding Nemo, you can see a huge difference in the visual quality there. I don't think Disney would release this film today, looking like it does.

WENDY: I can remember seeing it in 3D at the cinema, and it looked a lot better in my memory than it does now. It has aged.

IRVYNE: But you could also look at the original Toy Story and say that it's incredibly basic and stiff. Skills and artistry have to be developed over the course of years.

MALEFICENT: One thing that I do love in Chicken Little is that every animal's house is suited to them, like the chickens living in a coop and driving an egg-car. Even the bedspread has a chicken-wire design. It's all very clever.

IRVYNE: So if zero is the worst of the worst, and 100 is the best of the best, what score would you give Chicken Little?

PASCAL: A one.

ANNA: I'd give it a two.

MALEFICENT: Twenty. It's not that bad.

IRVYNE: I have to somewhat agree, it's not unwatchable. And I know that I hated it on principle, simply because it was the poster child for Disney abandoning its heart and its history. But apart from all that, it's still not a very good movie. Hopefully it will be forgotten with the passing of time.

1 comment:

  1. This movie ruined the future of Disney animation forever, all thanks to the careless thinking from the studio that "2D animation is dead!". And no, Disney is not any better today cause CGI is STILL ruining them. In fact, I'd say movies like Tangled and Frozen have made things even worse.

    And it's so obvious to me that the influence of DreamWorks is what turned Disney away from 2D animation in the first place. It clearly shows in this movie.