Chicken Little Review

Chicken Little

Disney is the world’s most famous animation studio, and has created some of history’s most beloved animated classics. But not everything the studio has made receives that same magic touch. In fact, the early 2000s saw Disney in a very notable decline with the quality of their animated features, as they released one forgettable flick after another (with Lilo & Stitch being the sole exception during this epidemic of mediocrity). However, even the majority of Disney’s most throwaway animated films still have some redeeming attributes, with very few of their animated output falling under the category of “downright terrible.” But that’s a pretty fitting way to describe Disney’s 2005 flick, Chicken Little, which few would argue is anything more than the worst of Disney’s animated features (with the possible exception of some of the straight-to-video sequels that tainted the favorites of many a 90s kid).

Boy, where do I even begin with this one? Chicken Little tells the story of, well, Chicken Little; a young chicken in a small town filled with talking animals. Think Zootopia, but without the great characters, intriguing story, top-notch animation, subtext, and anything else good.

Chicken Little has become the town fool, after he mistakenly thought the sky was falling, which sent the entire town into a panic, and humiliated Chicken Little’s father Buck in the process, thus straining the father-son relationship between them. Chicken Little then spends the next year trying to redeem his family name, and decides to do this by…playing baseball.

Why baseball, exactly? I’m not entirely sure. I’m guessing the filmmakers didn’t have enough to work with storywise, so they threw an excessive amount of the sport into the early parts of the movie to fill time.

Anyway, Chicken Little manages to succeed in his baseball endeavors (though the scene depicts his victory as more of sheer luck, as opposed to his abilities and determination saving the day, so there’s a mixed message in a kids’ movie right there). He then becomes something of a hero, and for the first time in ages, his father isn’t ashamed of him.

Chicken LittleThe movie may have been wise to end things right there, but it slogs on. As it turns out, the sky really is falling… Kind of/sort of… As it happens, alien spacecrafts are hovering above the town, and the bottom of their ships camouflage with the environment, which in this instance happens to be the sky. After a chunk of an alien spacecraft hits Chicken Little on the head, he and his friends Abby Mallard (AKA The “Ugly Duckling”), Runt of the Litter (a rotund pig with comically short limbs) and Fish-Out-of-Water (self-explanatory) go to investigate, and end up having to save the town from a potential alien invasion.

I’m not sure if it’s the setup of an entire town bullying a kid, or the fact that the movie uses sports as padding and ends up throwing aliens into the mix, but this might very well be the least “Disney” movie of any Disney movie. It’s probably a bit of all that, as well as how the movie shoehorns popular music and an obnoxious, sarcastic tone throughout the film (one must remember that Shrek had popularized the idea of cynicism in animation at the time – even if Shrek itself had some earnestness in its story – and apparently only Pixar was wise enough not to conform).

Most of the characters are either entirely forgettable or downright unlikable. Chicken Little and his friends are a cast of misfits, but you can’t help but feel the film overly portrays their negative aspects for the sake of comedy (I use that word loosely here) at the expense of fleshing them out and winning the audience over to them. Meanwhile, Buck is basically a jerk who doesn’t try to help his son out or understand him emotionally (though in the movie’s defense, it at least makes a point that he needs to shape up and clean up his act). And the rest of the townsfolk are pretty much defined by how much they bully Chicken Little. Not exactly the most winning cast Disney has produced.

To make things worse, the movie just isn’t pleasing to look at. This was Disney’s first CG animated film (a tidbit I’m sure the studio would like to forget), as Pixar is a separate studio and Disney’s earlier and similarly forgettable “Dinosaur” placed CG characters into live-action environments. Even with the knowledge of this being Disney’s first foray into an all-CG movie, it’s still disappointing to look at. The animation quality might be passable for a made-for-TV movie at the time, but this was a theatrically released film by Disney. 

The textures of the film’s environments, as well as the characters’ fur, feathers and scales just look so bland, and the colors are incredibly dull. Not to mention the character designs are both generic and unappealing. If you thought that maybe Disney, when making Chicken Little, simply thought making a movie with CG animation was enough to make it both good and a success, you may be on to something.

Chicken Little was one the last Disney films produced under the Michael Eisner era, and it almost personifies everything that went wrong during that era for the studio. It reeks of being little more than a cash-in, with the studio thinking that the technology was the secret behind Pixar and Dreamworks’ success, and yet it didn’t even bother to create state-of-the-art animation with said technology. It tried its damnedest to emulate the sarcastic animated features of the time, and even managed to stumble in doing that.

Chicken Little is simply an unenjoyable movie, and served as a crescendo to everything Disney was doing wrong at the time. Thankfully Disney has picked itself up (and then some) in the decade that has followed. But Disney’s slump during the early 2000s left an unfortunate mark on the Disney legacy, with Chicken Little being an easy candidate as the nadir of the studio’s long history.

 

2.5

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5 thoughts on “Chicken Little Review

  1. Red Metal

    The 2000s may have been an incredible decade for video games, but from what I’ve heard, it was a rather awful one for animation. The fact that Disney created what is arguably their worst work during this time seems to be proof of that. Judging by other reviews I’ve watched, the decade got off to a good start with the goodwill established by the nineties, but nearing the halfway point, for whatever reason, there was a significant drop in quality. Unlike the seventies, I’m not sure what caused this to happen, though I suspect it might have to do with wanting to capitalize on trends that were going on at the time, which if done enough can cause any medium to stagnate quickly.

    Anyway, I never saw this movie as a kid, though I did see a review of it a few years ago, and based off that, I’d say its less-than-stellar reputation precedes it as there is a severe shortage of likeable characters (among the other problems that you pointed out). It definitely seems like some rough precursor to Zootopia, but that’s being extremely generous. Funnily enough, both movies feature an R.E.M. song at one point. I can’t really see anyone enjoying Chicken Little – even in a nostalgic sense.

    If I may ask, which decade do you think was worse for animation? The seventies or the 2000s?

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    1. themancalledscott Post author

      If I had to pick which decade was worse for animation between the seventies and 2000s, I would probably have to go with the seventies, as the 2000s at least had Pixar popping out great movies, as well as some great foreign features. The seventies was a slump for Disney, and there wasn’t too much else notable out there. There were some adult-oriented animated features, but I think it’s telling that so few of them are remembered.

      I think one reason why the 2000s were a rough time for animation was that people kept trying to “reinvent” animated storytelling, but their methods of doing so were poorly thought-out. Shrek was good, but had a largely negative affect on the films it inspired, as they seemed to think sarcasm, pop-culture gags and CG would automatically make for a good movie (they apparently didn’t realize that Shrek also had a story and characters to go with it).

      Chicken Little really is a mess of a movie. I honestly don’t know what Disney could have been thinking when they made it. You won’t even hear people who were kids at the time speak fondly of it.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Red Metal

        Yeah, I think I probably would have answered the same. The 2000s at least had foreign films and its strong start to pick up the slack; the seventies really had nothing practical going for it until the very end of the decade.

        It’s happened across all mediums, but if it’s one thing I’ve noticed over the years, it’s that many creators still haven’t grasped that correlation does not imply causation. Shrek was good because it was reasonably well-written, and a good deconstruction of fairytale tropes. The fact that it included sarcasm, pop-culture gags and CG had nothing to do with the quality of the final product; the fact that they were presented well did. It’s like how critics assume that just because a work is dark, that makes it good, but the existence of District 9 puts an immediate end to that theory, doesn’t it? I find it interesting how a legitimately good work can have a negative influence on the medium; I’d almost say the video game equivalent of Shrek would have to be Call of Duty 4. Despite pioneering the modern military shooter, it remains the subgenre’s definitive experience as the series would steadily lose all semblance of self-awareness and innovation as the years went on.

        I think that’s how you can tell when a movie is completely dead – when no one wants to admit they saw it as a kid.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Justacommenter

    Even as a kid I thought the trailers for this looked terrible. I only went to watch it because a friend invited me, and yeah…I wasn’t pleasantly surprised.

    Liked by 1 person

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