Chicken Little – We’re finally back in the Disney game after a long delay caused by various issues. This was the first completely computer-animated Disney film (Dinosaur not receiving that title on a technicality), and I have to say it’s pretty zany. It’s based on the story about the chicken who thought the sky was falling, then gathered a bunch of other animals with rhyming names and got them to panic as well. Finally, they were all eaten by a fox. The movie takes the basic inspiration from this, but adds in aliens. You know, three of the Disney animated films released during the 20-aughts included aliens. I guess that was just their go-to wacky plot device during that decade. And wacky this movie certainly was, its zany, madcap style coming across as a bit unusual for Disney. It focuses on a widower trying to connect with his son, however, and THAT’S about as Disney as you can get. Chicken Little and his father Buck Cluck live in Oakey Oaks, a small town of anthropomorphic animals who have all the conveniences of modern times and are familiar with a lot of pop culture.
The inhabitants sing songs by Queen and the Spice Girls, and reference Star Wars. Granted, these weren’t exactly current pop culture in 2005, but we ARE talking a place where everyone in town cares about high school baseball. So when they mention, say, Barbra Streisand, is she an animal in this universe? We don’t know. There is a sequence near the beginning where the local movie theater is showing Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it’s an actual live-action scene from the film. The soundtrack consists mostly of popular songs from various times, some the original versions and others covers. Harry Shearer’s dog newscaster character was an obvious reference to Kent Brockman from The Simpsons, and the Mayor’s reliance on cue cards for pretty much everything reminded me of jokes they’ve done with Mr. Burns and Krusty. The Mayor, by the way, is voiced by Don Knotts, in his final film role.
Aside from Chicken Little and his dad, major characters include Chicken Little’s friends Abby Mallard the ugly (well, okay, maybe just somewhat awkward) duckling; Runt of the Litter, a huge pig with severe anxiety who is, unfortunately, the subject of a lot of fat jokes; and Fish Out of Water, a genius who wears a helmet full of water in order to breathe. The rhyming names from the original story come into play as well, as two of the most popular girls in school are Foxy Loxy and Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey is the mayor. The alien war machine designs are quite reminiscent of War of the Worlds, which Abby actually mentions by name at one point.
At first I found it odd that the aliens actually zap some of the animals with their ray guns, but it turns out they’re reversible, so there’s no harm done there. The misunderstanding that leads to the invasion is actually rather cleverly explained. I guess I liked it pretty well overall, but when something has a joke-a-minute style like this movie, it’s almost guaranteed that some of them are going to work and some aren’t.