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"Chicken Little": Disney Finds Life After Pixar

by on November 6, 2005

Chicken Little, Disney’s first solo attempt at a CG-animated movie since 2000’s botched Dinosaur, proves that they are ready for a post-Pixar world. The humiliating days when Disney had to outsource the magic are over.

This new film doesn’t just contradict all those who predicted its spectacular failure. Disney has captured the personality of a Pixar film and the comedy of a Dreamworks flick in a slim little package.

If you know the original tale, then you’ll have a basic understanding of the movie’s plot. The title character is quite a small chicken (voiced by Zach Braff of NBC’s Scrubs and the movie Garden State) who causes a lot of trouble when he persuades the town of Oakey Oaks to believe the sky is falling. Turns out it was just an acorn that hit his head. Or was it?

What follows is an hilarious and touching romp through Chicken Little’s world as he attempts to deal with the aftermath of his mistake. The media hound him, a movie is made about him and his father just wants to put the whole thing behind them both. At 77 minutes, this is a short film, but that helps keep the pacing tight. The story has only a few lulls.

At Chicken Little’s side are his friends Abby Mallard, a.k.a. Ugly Duckling (voiced by Joan Cusack); the ironically-named Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn), and the Fish Out of Water (Dan Molina). He’s antagonized by Foxy Loxy (Amy Sedaris), the popular town hero who loves to show up Chicken Little at every possible opportunity. Also appearing in the movie are Patrick Stewart, Don Knotts, Patrick Warburton, Fred Willard, Harry Shearer and TV’s Adam West in roles that pay big comedic dividends.

Going to see this film reminded me that these animated films really are made for children. Pixar has managed to pull adults and kids in nearly equal numbers, but Chicken Little‘s audience looked to be roughly 90% children accompanied by parents. Still, though there are tons of laughs for the kids, there are also plenty of in-jokes for the adults in the audience. The kids’ gags, even though you can see them coming a mile away, can elicit a giggle or two as well.

A good way to measure the quality of a kids’ movie is the frequency of potty breaks. From what I could tell, Chicken Little was a shutout, with the kids pinned to their seats. Though there weren’t any screamers at my screening, the film does have frightening parts and I’m sure some younger children were spooked.

Chicken Little should silence the naysayers: Disney is still capable of producing a delightful animated film, no matter the number of dimensions. And with Pixar still without a distributor, there are probably some sweaty theater seats in Emeryville this weekend.

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