- “The end is near.”
Chicken Little is the 46th full-length film in the Disney Animated Canon. It premiered in Los Angeles, California on October 3, 2005, and was released in theaters nationwide on November 4, 2005. It was directed by Mark Dindal with screenplay by Steve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman, and Ron Anderson and story by Mark Kennedy and Dindal.
The film was animated in-house at Walt Disney Feature Animation's main headquarters in Burbank, California and released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 4, 2005, in Disney Digital 3-D (the first film to be released in this format) along with the standard 2-D version. It is Disney's first fully computer-animated film, as Pixar's films were distributed but not produced by Disney, and Dinosaur (2000) was a combination of live-action and computer animation. It is also Disney's second adaption of the fable of the same name, the first being a 1943 cartoon made during World War II.
The film is also the last Disney animated film made before John Lasseter was named chief creative officer of Disney Animation. Though it received mixed reviews upon release, the film was a box office success, grossing $314 million worldwide.
In the small town of Oakey Oaks, Chicken Little rings the school bell and warns everyone to run for their lives. This sends the whole town into a frenzied panic. Eventually, the Head of the Fire Department calms down enough to ask him what's going on, and he explains that a piece of the sky shaped like a stop sign had fallen on his head when he was sitting under the big oak tree in the town square; however, he is unable to find the piece. His father, Buck Cluck, assumes that this "piece of sky" was just an acorn that had fallen off the tree and had hit him on the head, making Chicken Little the laughingstock of the town.
A year later, Chicken Little has become infamous in the town for being crazy. His only friends are a brand of outcasts like himself: Abby Mallard (who has a crush on him), Runt of the Litter (who is extremely large), and Fish Out of Water (who wears a helmet full of tap water). Trying to help, Abby encourages Chicken Little to talk to his father, but he really only wants to make his dad proud of him. As a result, he joins his school's baseball team to recover his reputation and his father's pride but is made last until the ninth inning of the last game. Chicken Little is reluctantly called to bat by the coach (even though the coach is certain that he will lose the game for them). Chicken Little is able to hit the ball and make it past first, second, and third bases but is met at home plate by the outfielders. He tries sliding onto the home plate but is touched by the ball. While it's presumed he lost the game, the umpire brushes away the dust to reveal Chicken Little's foot barely touching home plate, thus declaring Chicken Little safe and the game won; Chicken Little is hailed as a hero for winning the pennant.
Later that night back at home, he is hit on the head by the same "piece of the sky" — only to find out that it is not a piece of the sky, but a device that blends into the background (which would thereby explain why Chicken Little was unable to find it last time). He calls his friends over to help figure out what it is.
When Fish pushes a button on the back of the hexagon, it flies into the sky, taking Fish with it. It turns out to be part of the camouflage of an invisible UFO. Chicken Little manages to ring the bell to warn everyone, but the aliens see the crowds coming and manage to escape, leaving an orange alien child behind. No one believes the alien invasion story and Chicken Little is ridiculed yet again... until the next day. He and his friends discover the orange alien, and a few minutes later, a whole fleet of alien ships descend on the town and start what appears to be an invasion. The invasion is actually a misunderstanding, as the two aliens are looking for their lost child and attack only out of concern. As the aliens rampage throughout Oakey Oaks, vaporizing everything in their path, Chicken Little realizes he must return the alien to his parents to save the planet. First, though, he must confront his father and regain his trust.
In the invasion, Buck, now regaining his pride and trust in his son, defends him from the aliens until they get vaporized. It is then discovered that the aliens weren't vaporizing people; the ray guns teleported them aboard the UFO. Afterward, the aliens return everything to normal (except Foxy Loxy, whose brain got scrambled, turning her into a Southern Belle, and as a result, Runt falls for her), and everyone is grateful for Chicken Little's efforts to save the town.
Cast in order of appearance
- Zach Braff as Chicken Little
- Garry Marshall as Buck Cluck
- Don Knotts as Turkey Lurkey
- Patrick Stewart as Mr. Woolensworth
- Amy Sedaris as Foxy Loxy
- Steve Zahn as Runt of the Litter
- Joan Cusack as Abby Mallard
- Wallace Shawn as Principal Fetchit
- Harry Shearer as the Dog Announcer
- Fred Willard as Melvin
- Catherine O'Hara as Tina
- Patrick Warburton as Alien Cop
- Adam West as Ace - Hollywood Chicken Little
- Mark Walton as Goosey Loosey
- Mark Dindal as Morkubine Porcupine and the Coach
- Dan Molina as Fish Out of Water
- Joe Whyte as the Umpire, Acorn Mascot, and Rodriguez
- Sean Elmore, Matthew Josten, and Evan Dunn as Kirby
- Kellie Hoover as Mama Runt
- Will Finn as Hollywood Fish
- Dara McGarry as Hollywood Abby
- Mark Kennedy as Hollywood Runt
When the project started in 2001, the story was about a female chicken suffering from paranoia who, as a result, caused several panic outbreaks in her hometown. In an attempt to reduce her anxiety, she went to a summer camp known as Camp Yes-You-Can where she met her friends who were the same as in the final product. Chicken Little and her friends then discovered that the sheep who ran the camp were wolves in disguise who were plotting to eat all of the students.
When David Stainton became Disney's new president of Walt Disney Feature Animation in early 2003, he decided the story needed a different approach and told the director the script had to be revised, and during the next three months it was rewritten into a tale of a male chicken trying to save his town from space aliens.
Originally, Chicken Little was going to be female. Holly Hunter provided the voice of the character for several months until the production team decided to make the character a male. Out of all the forty actors that auditioned for the role, Zach Braff got the part. In which director Mark Dindal described his voice "pitched his voice slightly to sound like a junior high school kid. Right there, that was really unique — and then he had such great energy". Michael J. Fox, Matthew Broderick, and David Spade were also considered for the role.
Later in April 2002, Sean Hayes was originally intended to voice the character the Ugly Duckling, until the character was later written into a female, now renamed as Abby Mallard. Several actresses including Jamie Donnelly, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jodie Foster, Geena Davis, Helen Hunt, and Madonna were all considered for the role, the role was later given to Joan Cusack, due for her natural comedy in films.
In December 2003, it was announced that Steve Zahn, Amy Sedaris, Don Knotts, Katie Finneran, and Garry Marshall have joined the cast. Finneran who was originally going to voice Goosey Loosey, was later dropped from the cast later on during production and was replaced by Disney storyboard artist Mark Walton.
New software and hardware tools were introduced for the production of the film:
"Chicken Wire", a geometric wireframe model of the characters that the animators can stretch and squeeze as they please. "Shelf Control", which makes it possible to see the whole model on the screen while having a direct access to any chosen area of the character. New electronic tablet screens allow the artists to draw digital sketches of the characters to rough out their movements, which are then transferred to the 3-D characters. At the time of the release of Chicken Little, the co-production deal between Disney and Pixar Animation Studios was set to expire with the release of Cars in 2006. The end result of the contentious negotiations between Disney and Pixar was viewed to depend heavily on how Chicken Little performed at the box office. If successful, the film would have given Disney leverage in its negotiations for a new contract to distribute Pixar's films. A failure would have allowed Pixar to argue that Disney could not produce CGI films without aid from Pixar. Discussions to renew the deal in 2005 were held off until both sides could access Chicken Little's performance at the box office.
It is not known how the two sides regarded Chicken Little's modest success. While it underperformed compared to Pixar's product, it was more successful than Disney's recent output and was much more profitable for the company, since they did not need to share the revenue. Regardless, both sides decided that they were better off with each other than separate. However, instead of negotiating a new contract, on January 24, 2006, Disney announced their intent to purchase Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion. The purchase was completed on May 5, 2006.
In its opening weekend, Chicken Little debuted at #1, the first Disney animated film to do so since Dinosaur (2000), taking $40 million and tying with The Lion King (1994) as the largest opener for a Disney animated film. It also managed to claim #1 again in its second week of release, earning $31.7 million, beating Sony's sci-fi family film, Zathura. The film grossed $135,386,665 in North America, and $179,046,172 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $314,432,837. Making it the second Highest-Grossing animated film of 2005 (right Behind DreamWorks' Madagascar).
This reversed the slump that the company had been facing since 2000, during which time it released several flops, most notably Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Treasure Planet (2002), and Home on the Range (2004). However, these films received better critical reception.
Chicken Little received mixed reviews from critics. Critical response aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 37% of critics gave positive reviews based on 159 reviews with an average score of 5.5/10. The critical consensus states "In its first non-Pixar CGI venture, Disney expends more effort in the technical presentation than in crafting an original storyline." Another review aggregator, Metacritic gave the film an average score of 48 based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Although the movie has received some praise for its animation and character designs, it has been strongly despised by the Disney fanbase for its story being very mean spirited, unemotional, and/or just plain bad or mediocre in general. As a result, this film is often regarded as the lowest film in the Disney Animated Canon (along with Home on the Range and The Black Cauldron). The film has also been criticized for trying to compete with DreamWorks Animation (Disney's rival company at the time). Many also claim that the original storyline that was scrapped by Disney executives was better than the final product.
Richard Roeper of the then-Ebert & Roeper gave the film a "Thumbs Down" rating saying "I don't care whether the film is 2-D, 3-D, CGI, or hand-drawn, it all goes back to the story." A.O. Scott of the New York Times stated the film is "a hectic, uninspired pastiche of catchphrases and clichés, with very little wit, inspiration or originality to bring its frantically moving images to genuine life." However, Ty Burr of the Boston Globe gave the film a positive review saying the film was "shiny and peppy, with some solid laughs and dandy vocal performances". Angel Cohn of TV Guide gave the film 3 stars alluding the film that would "delight younger children with its bright colors and constant chaos, while adults are likely to be charmed by the witty banter, subtle one-liners and a sweet father-son relationship."
Because of the mixed and negative reception the film got, Mark Dindal didn’t like how it became only to see the film as an old shame and the rejection of the original plot still haunts him to this day, as he puts it:
"I think, Oh that version ...Then I’m reconnected with what I’m thinking at the time. And you’re thinking how that version would have turned out. If we had stuck with that instead of this. If we had pushed Eisner and said, It has to be a girl,’ it could have been killed... With this, I wish I could see an alternate reality, what that would have been like."
Disneytoon Studios originally planned to make a sequel to Chicken Little, tentatively titled Chicken Little 2: Mission to Mars. The film was originally going to be directed by Klay Hall, the plot would again involve the main character Chicken Little in the middle of a love triangle between his childhood sweetheart, Abby Mallard, and a new character, Raffaela, a French sheep. Being at a great disadvantage, Abby would go to great lengths to give herself a makeover to win him back. Soon after 2006, when John Lasseter became Walt Disney Animation Studios' new chief creative officer, he called all sequels and future sequels that Disneytoon had planned, along with a sequel to Meet the Robinsons and The Aristocats. The video game Chicken Little: Ace in Action, served as a direct sequel to the film.
- According to the book Chicken Little: The Essential Guide, there was going to be a sequel, Chicken Little 2: Mission to Mars, but that never came to fruition, similar to Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money, so the video game Chicken Little: Ace in Action serves as an actual sequel to this film.
- Chicken Little was originally scheduled to be released on July 1, 2005, but on December 7, 2004, its release date was pushed back to November 4, 2005, the release date originally slated for Disney/Pixar's Cars.
- This is the last film that the animation studio released under the name Walt Disney Feature Animation. Starting with Meet the Robinsons, further canon entities would be produced by the renamed Walt Disney Animation Studios.
- This is the last animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon to use the 1985 Walt Disney Pictures logo.
- This is the first full CGI movie that Disney made without Pixar.
- There are 250,000 feathers on Chicken Little.
- The last Disney animated feature film to be released on VHS despite being only as a Disney Movie Club exclusive instead of a widely issued one.
- The last Disney film to have a pan and scan for its US home release. Although it only appeared on its Disney Movie Club VHS release.
- The technical team built a digital tool called "Chicken Wire", which is a geometric wire-frame model of the characters that the animators could squash, stretch, and smear. They wanted to get a 2-D animation style in 3-D animation.
- Dedicated to the memory of Joe Grant (1908-2005).
- This was one of Don Knotts' last roles before his death. The other was Air Buddies (2006).
- Chicken Little was one of the first nominees for "Favorite Animated Movie" from the Kids' Choice Awards in 2006, but lost to DreamWorks' Madagascar.
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- "Chicken Little", Entertainment Weekly (March 17, 2006). Retrieved on July 9, 2015. "This Chicken Little feature wasn’t Disney’s first stab at animating the enduring fable of animal alarmism. In 1943, the studio released a short,..."
- Hischak, Thomas S. (2011-09-15). Disney Voice Actors: A Biographical Dictionary (in en). McFarland. ISBN 9780786486946.
- Gray, Brandon (November 7, 2005). "Welcome to the Cluck: Chicken Little, Jarhead Top Weekend". Retrieved on October 22, 2009.
- Gray, Brandon (November 14, 2005). "Zathura, Derailed, 50 Cent Below Chicken Little in Pecking Order". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on October 22, 2009.
- "Home on the Range Movie Reviews, Pictures". IGN Entertainment. Retrieved on July 19, 2010.
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- "Chicken Little Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on July 19, 2010.
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- Disneytoon Studios and The Sequels That Never Were, with Tod Carter - Animated Views
- Disneytoon Studios and The Sequels That Never Were, with Tod Carter. Animated Views (October 20, 2008). Archived from the original on June 22, 2010. Retrieved on March 12, 2017.
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