So while the partnership of Disney and Pixar works its way to a close, Disney is starting to offer its own brand of CG animation films, with its first offering to the Gods of Popular Entertainment being the new Chicken Little.
Now, everyone (well, almost everyone) knows the story of how Chicken Little tells the world that the sky is falling, and no one believes him, or sometimes her, and then the sky really falls, everyone suffers, except Chicken Little. Or something along those lines.
Modernize it, add in the odd pop culture reference here and there, and you've got Disney's newest animation Chicken Little.
Our story begins with Chicken Little (voiced delightfully by Scrubs' Zach Braff) ringing the town bell and causing mayhem and panic in the streets, as he cries out the sky is falling. Turns out it's a false alarm, and a year later, Chicken Little and his father Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall, more known as a director, but excellent here) are still trying to move past the embarrassment, and things are starting to go their way, when suddenly, the sky actually does fall on Chicken Little's head, and he's got to convince the town he's telling the truth, before aliens invade and destroy the town.
The animation is superb, with individual feathers making our Chicken look fluffy and real, but still keeping a rather cartoony feel. The anthropomorphism seems a little forced, with the most odd feeling townspeople being the large goldfish driving around in giant fishbowls, but it does draw the laughs. Especially with one of the main sidekicks being Fish Out of Water (yes, that's his name), a high school goldfish with a diving helmet attached to his head filled with water. Fish has no sense of danger, and provides some absolutely hysterical moments when his lack of fear shows itself.
The rest of the characters are just as lovable, with the intelligent Abby Mallard being the perfect brains of the bunch, and Runt of the Litter sharing a star with Fish for slapstick jokes. There's also a cute, fluffy alien tag-a-long that is absolutely adorable in its goofiness, taking the role of "cute, extraordinarily marketable side character." It is adorable though, and a pleasure to watch, if only for design.
The scenery and environmental design for Chicken Little feels like Disney went rummaging through the vault, plucking out the older styles that they liked and putting them to good use. The cars are the best example, puffing and stuttering their way along, looking like they'd been plucked from a 1960's Mickey Mouse short.
One thing for parents to be cautioned about, Chicken
Little's bad guys are not what you'd call cuddly. The
form of the aliens we're initially introduced to is awfully
similar to the creatures from War of the Worlds,
and will scare your little ones as much as the Tripods make
Mommy and Daddy nervous. I was a little surprised at how
menacing they look, so I wouldn't recommend this for kids
under 5 or 6.
The Tripods (and the attached War of the Worlds
jokes) aren't the only pop culture tidbits thrown in. We
get random references to a variety of things, including
the upcoming King Kong film, Hollywood bashing, and even
a few pokes at Disney itself, with it's massive quantity
of direct to video selections. While amusing, they don't
fit well, and it just makes the storyline feel that much
The overall story is a bit lacking, with less than fresh writing, and just an overall 'blah' feeling. We've got our unavoidable family message, but nothing new, and definitely nothing outstanding. The pacing feels very off, with some things going by mind numbingly slowly, while others seem to whiz by our heads. Director Mark Dindal spends too much time on side plots, so we end up feeling like we've already gotten our emotional roller coaster ride over with by the time the real plot starts up again.
Overall, Chicken Little is a good visual entry into the CG animation catalogue, but story-wise, it's makes a dull thud into the back of the books. Amusing enough, but you can wait for the Disney video.