Or, ‘The Film With a Serious Identity Crisis’
Originally Released: 2005
Chicken Little is a real head-scratcher. Disney’s first true foray into 3D animation doesn’t feel at all like a real Disney animated film. Rather, if all labels were removed, I would have said it was made by some other studio like Dreamworks or 20th Century Fox Animation. It is almost as if the Disney team saw the success of Shrek and Ice Age and decided that irreverence and weirdness was the only way they were going to make money. Of course, they could have instead looked towards the stuff Pixar was churning out during the same time period (Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles), but after viewing Chicken Little, it is clear that the film is devoid of Pixar-style inspiration.
Now, I wasn’t there at the time, so I obviously don’t know what the filmmakers were thinking during the production of Chicken Little. However, it is very apparent that there was no clear direction in what was intended for the final product. Chicken Little, as a film, suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Indeed, watching some of the special features that delve into the making of the film confirm this notion.
Point#1. There are about 3-4 wildly different film opening scenes. The opener they went with in the final product is, incredibly, a flat-out mockery of Disney’s past (a past which was much, much better than this movie, ironically). I guess it is supposed to be funny. I guess. The other openers weren’t much better. But anyway, good or bad, the point I’m trying to make is that the multitude of opening scenes shows that the filmmakers had no clue as to what kind of tone they wanted the film to have. Was this a comedy? Was it a fairy tale? Was it sentimental and serious? It depends on which beginning scene they would have chosen.
Point #2. Chicken Little was a girl for some time in production. If switching genders of the protagonist doesn’t scream ‘I don’t know what I want this movie to be,” what would?
Point#3. Chicken Little, at one point in production, had a mother. If she remained in the film to the end, this probably would have been a much different film. Apparently the filmmakers wanted an insensitive sports jock father with no counterbalance as one of the main antagonists for Chicken Little. But it goes to show that even fairly deep into production, the filmmakers still had no idea what they wanted to do with the plot, the personalities of the characters, and the theme.
There are more points to make, surely, but I think that should be sufficient. What we end up with is a film that seems to be missing its heart and soul. I’m not a professionally trained filmmaker, but I would suspect that when you make a movie or write a story, it would be beneficial to know some of these types of things from the get-go, or at least very early on.
Now, there are a few things I do enjoy about the movie. Some of the jokes are pretty funny (of course, most of them were in the trailer. Yes, it’s one of those movies). The “Hollywood-style” movie at the end of the Chicken Little is great (Why didn’t they just make the whole film like that? I would have been all over something that completely makes fun of Hollywood for the entirety of the film).
But that’s about it. On the flip side, beside having no heart, soul, or identity, there are a few other things worth pointing out that mar Chicken Little. The first is the animation. It’s just not that great. I know some slack should be given due to it being Disney’s first true attempt at the medium, but the characters are very stiff at times, and overly bouncy at others. It feels like it belongs on the slate of One Saturday Morning instead of Disney’s flagship animation studio output.
Another negative thing that I just have to point out is this: Chicken Little uses not one, not two, but THREE songs in my “Songs-that-should-forever-be-banned-from-all-future-films-because-they-are-so-overused-that-they-are-beyond-cliche” list. So in addition to having a lack of direction, you can throw in a lack of creativity and innovation. The music does nothing for this film.
Lastly, why is everybody so mean in this movie? Where are the likable characters? Runt is probably my favorite character in the movie, and that’s not saying much at all. I know we’re supposed to sympathize with Chicken Little because his life stinks, but in order for that to work, Chicken Little needs to be a little more interesting and likable. Maybe he is for some, but I didn’t feel anything with his plight. And I was even in the “unpopular” crowd growing up. That’s saying something about this main character.
Sadly, when it comes to Chicken Little, I have to place this film into my (amazingly small) group of legitimately bad Disney animated films. Save for a few good gags, there’s not much good going on with Disney’s 46th studio release.