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Up until 2005's Valiant, Disney had left all computer generated features to Pixar, from Toy Story to Finding Nemo. It was after the release of The Incredibles that their rocky relationship finally forced Pixar to part ways with the House of Mouse. Not wanting to admit defeat, Disney chose to go solo with their own CG features. After the lacklustre Valiant, Disney lined up Chicken Little to see if they could successfully replicate Pixar's success. They most definitely cannot. I apologize in advance for referencing Pixar so heavily in this review, but I feel their absence is important to bear in mind when approaching the film.

Chicken Little

Feature


Disney's Chicken Little is a story derived from the pages of Aesop's fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Both title characters are similar in that they cause trouble by claiming to have seen something they really haven't. The difference is that the boy is a flat-out liar and Chicken Little merely misjudges the situation, but the results are the same: neither can be trusted again. Rather than seeing a wolf, Chicken Little is hit on the head by an acorn and concludes that the sky is falling, not ever seeing the acorn. He warns the town in a most alarming manner, causing havoc among its inhabitants. This is where Chicken Little leaves the pages of Aesop behind and tries to become something more original.

Having been made the focus of extreme ridicule, Chicken Little is forced to live life as quietly as possible by his shamed father, Mr. Little. It isn't that Mr. Little is a bad father; he just wants to spare his son and himself any more humiliation from the townspeople. Since that one day, it seems as if bad luck has followed Chicken Little everywhere he goes, infecting everything he does. He longs for his father to be proud of him and their relationship restored to normal terms. Just as Chicken Little begins achieve this, he risks his newfound credibility when he and his friends discover that aliens are invading the quit town of Oakey Oaks! Does Chicken Little keep his mouth shut and continue to bask in the glow of his good luck or warn the town of the danger they're about to be faced with? More importantly, will they even believe him?

Chicken Little is by no means a bad film, it's a very entertaining and cute picture. But when you're born into a family that includes the likes of Toy Story, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, and A Bug's Life, cute isn't enough. You've got to have it all: music, story, voice talent, top-quality animation and, at the centre, a good heart that will likewise capture the heart's of audiences, both young and old. Chicken Little sadly falls short of this high standard.

Chicken Little
The voice talent includes Zach Braff, Gary Marshall, Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, Amy Sedaris, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack, Fred Williard, Catherine O' Hara and a cameo by Adam West. I don't think I need to tell you just how stellar of an ensemble Disney has put together here. Braff shines as the titular character while other highlights included the late Don Knotts (his last film) as Mayor Turkey Lurkey, Patrick Stewart as Mr. Woolensworth and Steve Zahn as Runt.

The animation quality is satisfying although glaringly different from what we're used to with Disney's CG features. Chicken Little is attempting something new here in that the world it's creating doesn't resemble ours in the least (unlike several Pixar films). No, the world of Chicken Little is very cartoon-ish (think Looney Tunes in 3-D), which is not a bad thing at all—it's just different. I feel it's best comparable to Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. Ultimately, I'm satisfied here as it's not the best CG animation, but it's far from the worst.

Having complimented the film in a couple areas, it's time to talk about one of the downfalls: length. At eighty one minutes, it feels short-changed. We haven't seen a Disney CG film this short since 1995's Toy Story, not counting 2005's Pixar-less Valiant which suffers from the same problem, only more so. Chicken Little drags it's feet so much that by the time we finally establish a conflict, it's immediately time to resolve it. Most of Pixar's films have been at least twelve minutes longer which could've added an entire act to the film. When I walked away, my first reaction was "They must have cut this story down in some phase of production.” That is not a positive reaction to have towards any film.

Chicken Little
I don't think I'll be spoiling anything by telling you that in the ending, Hollywood makes a movie about Chicken Little's heroic actions and premieres it in Oakey Oaks. Afterwards, everyone stands up and cheers on Chicken Little, which in actuality is so much more conceited than it might seem here. The scene wreaks of self-promotion, almost trying to convince the viewer that the story they just watched unfold is one worth telling. I highly doubt anyone had the same reaction to Chicken Little itself.

In conclusion, Chicken Little is a mixed bag. It's chock full of funny pop culture references and charming performances but neither are enough to make this film a complete success. Without a solid story, this movie fails to be anything more than cute and consequently fails to hold a candle to anything Pixar has put out with the mouse. You did okay with this one Disney, but thank your lucky stars that you merged with Pixar.

Video


Chicken Little is given to us in anamorphic 1:78:1 widescreen. If I could sum up the film's video in one word, it would be soft. Absolutely everything is soft from lighting, to colour, to edge detail. I would consider the over-softness a video flaw, but I think it's may be attributed to the source material. The softness in the world of Chicken Little is well evidenced from the screen captures throughout this article. I saw no grain in the picture, which is what we've come to expect from Disney DVDs. Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed the vivid colours throughout, from the daylight pastels to the night time cool blues and purples.

Audio


Chicken Little is given a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and it deserves it. The film has a few particularly well-engineered scenes where surround sound is employed to completely immerse the viewer in the action. Scenes that spring to mind include the baseball game, any scene with the aliens chasing our heroes, and any scene where someone uses the 'Big Voice'. I could definitely tell that Disney showed this film love in the audio department.

Chicken Little

Extras


Chicken Little is given a descent offering of special features, but once one is spoiled by Disney's Platinum DVD series, one tends to expect it every time. The feature that attracted me first was the inclusion of five deleted scenes, three of which were alternate openings. The alternate openings are funny, one heavily parodying previous Disney films, but the production was already too heavy on spoofing. They're all introduced by the director and the producer who give adequate reasons why these scenes were cut.

Here's where the features begin to appeal to the kiddies, beginning with music videos. We get to see the Cheetah Girls butchering poor ole Ray Charles’ ‘Shake Your Tail Feather’ along with three versions of Barenaked Ladies' ‘One Little Slip’, including a regular version, sing-a-long version, and karaoke version. Rounding the kiddy features is a trivia game called ‘Where's Fish?’ It didn't entertain me, but I'm sure kids will spend a few minutes playing it and move on.

Next up is an eighteen minute 'documentary' (using the term loosely, here) about the making of the film. It doesn't dive too deeply into any one facet of filmmaking but rather touches lightly on five areas. Not as insultingly dumb as a promotional featurette but not the most thorough piece we could've been given. Lastly we have a slew of trailers for upcoming Disney productions.

The menus for the disc are animated and fun to watch play out as characters come and go. The cover art parodies Men in Black II, which disappoints me. For a film that borrows so heavily from pop culture, could they not have produced an original poster? On top of that, the poster design they chose to parody wasn't even that slick to begin with.

Chicken Little

Overall


I can state my feelings for Chicken Little up with these simple words: cute and entertaining, but nothing more. Would I watch it again? Sure, it was a fun flick, but it was partially hurt by the standards to which it was measured, set by the films that came before it. This disc houses the film nicely, and the extras seem appropriate. A Platinum Series DVD would've been overkill as this film is far from a classic, so overall I am satisfied with the DVD presentation.


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