STUDIO: Walt Disney Video
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 81 Minutes
Deleted scenes with 3 alternate openings
Hatching Chicken Little: A ‘making of’ featurette
‘Where’s Fish?’ interactive game
The Cheetah Girls music video
Barenaked Ladies music video
Karaoke sing along

The Pitch

We don’t need no steenkin’ Peexar to do a Cheecken fleeck…

The Humans

What humans?

Chicken Little: "Mufasa, the sky is falling! The sky is falling!"
Mufasa (10 seconds later): "Burp."

The Nutshell

In the anthropomorphization-from-hell town of Oakey Oaks, Chicken Little (Zach Braff) is a scrawny little egghead (more on that later) bird who runs with the unpopular crew in high school and has trouble connecting with his father, Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall), who was the complete opposite of Chicken Little at the same age: large, popular, and a baseball hero. Chicken Little’s friends include Runt Of The Litter (Steve Zahn), an overly-porkish porker; Fish Out Of Water (Dan Molina), a vivacious and land-based goldfish who sports a helmet full of the clear wet stuff; and Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack), an ugly duckling. Although he’s not the most popular kid in school, Chicken little is brave and inventive, if a little too impetuous. One day he has an encounter that convinces him that the sky is literally falling. He rings the alert bell in the town square, which ends up causing mass confusion and damage. When it looks like his claim turns out to be all for nothing, he has to spend the next year trying to live the event down and trying to reconnect with his father, who is more distant than ever.

Without a doubt, Disney has the KFC / NAMBLA market cornered on this one.

The chance to redeem himself occurs when Chicken Little joins the baseball team, which makes his father proud. Although he doesn’t get to play all season, Chicken Little finally gets the opportunity to be a hero in the title game. And through the wildest play in baseball history, he does become exactly that – a hero. Chicken Little has finally put the past behind him and things finally seem good – until he sees the sky fall again, this time right on his head. The piece of sky turns out to be a hexagonal hull plate of an alien space ship that has camouflage abilities. When Chicken Little and his pals investigate it, they find the ship it belongs to. Upon boarding the ship, they unwittingly set in motion a series events with an alien child from the ship that leads to a full-scale alien invasion. It’s then up to Chicken Little, his father and his friends to set things right before the Earth is destroyed.

Alas, it was much too late when Buck realized that he was whipping up a batch of the new chicken-flavored Jiffy Pop…

The Lowdown

This is the cutest film I think I’ve ever seen. Damn it’s cute. I mean, Goddamn, it is cuuuuuuute…. (Ahem) Seeing as how this was the first 3-D computer animation film made by Disney in the post-Pixar era, it looks like they were loaded for bear (or in this case chicken) in terms of proving that they didn’t need Pixar to get a good 3-D animated feature made. In many cases, they succeeded. The writing on this film is sharp, and there’s a lot going on at any one time. There’re plenty of Zucker-style sight gags, especially with Fish, and the story is loaded with pop culture references. The characters are all uniquely funny and there are plenty of laughs to be had here. I see absolutely no way that anybody who’s younger than Batman and Robin isn’t going to fall completely in love with this flick and wear the disc out by the number of times they play it. The action and humor comes a mile a minute, and there’s plenty of softer moments, especially between Chicken Little and his dad. I think Disney has succeeded in proving (albeit briefly, since they recently reabsorbed Pixar) that they can still turn out a quality animated feature in-house. It’s also a fitting last run for Don Knotts as Mayor Turkey Lurkey. Chicken Little is a charming, well-written, well-acted, gem of a family film.

No one had the heart to tell the cast that a crossover with the Independence Day aliens couldn’t possibly end well…

BUT…I wonder how on earth Disney gets away with the character design for Chicken Little himself. Did anybody else notice that he seems to be a direct – and I mean DIRECT – rip-off of Looney Tunes’ Egghead, Jr.? You know, the ridiculously brainy little chick that ole Foggy has to entertain in order to get in tight with his mother, just so he can marry her and move out of his run down old shack and move into her cozy one so he won’t freeze his tail feathers off during the winter? You know, the one who can write down an equation and instantly figure out where Foghorn is hiding when they’re playing hide and seek? You know, the one who can fold a paper plane so that it soars like a jet, and shoots down Foggy’s simple little folded paper toy with machine guns? You know, that Egghead, Jr.? Or is it just me?

"We’d just like to take a moment to reassert the fact that that whole Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes publicity bullshit wasn’t our idea. Thank you."

Setting that one little note aside, however, this is a well-told family film. It’s the first Disney theatrical cartoon I’ve seen in several years (although I didn’t see it theatrically of course, ‘cause I’m, you know, grown) and it’s nice to see that the Mouse House can stand on it’s own two feet without…uh…Pixar (nevermind).

The Package

One thing that Disney does do very well is put together excellent discs of their products, and this one is no exception. First of all, the transfer of this flick is flawless, I mean utterly flawless. The animation is about as good as you’re ever going to see and the Dolby Digital is superb. The many pop songs, like Gloria Gaynor’s “I will Survive,” C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make you Sweat,” REM’s “It’s The End of The World As We Know It” and several others pump through the speakers nicely. The cover art is of course a clever play on Men In Black II and is, well, cute. As far as extras, this disc is likewise loaded, including deleted scenes with 3 alternate openings, and also introductions from the filmmakers.

Upon closer inspection of pre-1998 Barry Bonds footage, there appears to be some validitiy to those BALCO rumors…

There’s also Hatching Chicken Little, a making–of featuring five separate little featurettes totaling about 18 minutes. This is fun for kids and grown ups will be able to sit through it as producer Randy Fullmer and director Mark Dindal take you through all of the various stages from origins to final product. The Where’s Fish? interactive game is your typical interactive trivia / memory game where you answer questions from the movie and seek Fish hidden in several menus. There’s a music video from another Disney pre-fab teeny-bob trio called The Cheetah Girls (I hear that name and I immediately think of strippers) who sing “Shake Your Tail Feather”. There’s also a Barenaked Ladies music video for their song, “One Little Slip,” with a karaoke version and sing-along version to boot. So there’s plenty of material here to keep the kiddies occupied for a good long while, which is what these discs are designed to do anyway.

It was then, upon seeing footage of Foghorn Leghorn and another brainy young chick that will remain nameless, did Chicken Little come to realize the terrible truth.

8.3 out of 10