Ranking Disney: #51 – Chicken Little (2005)
We begin with #51, and Chicken Little. Picking the film I considered to be the weakest Disney film of all time was actually more difficult than picking the film I considered to be the best Disney film. The reason is because — what are your qualifications?
I struggled on this question for a while, and I flip-flopped between this film and the film that is going to be #50 on my list for the longest time. Ultimately, I decided that it’s worse to have a film that isn’t trying more than a film that just isn’t. So that’s why this is #51.
The 2000s were not a kind decade for Disney. They had some hits, but mostly, they had misses. A lot of this can be blamed on the rise of Pixar, which really messed with Disney’s style. They started to think, “Well maybe we should get into that computer animation game…”, and that really screwed them up, because… well, when you see which of their films are fully CG, you’ll understand.
Chicken Little is a mess. I’m not really sure what the idea with it was. It certainly wasn’t to tell the original story, since they dispense with that within the first sixty seconds. This film is just a jumbled mess of references to other films, gags pandering to children under the age of 5, and the biggest cardinal sin for Disney — using preexisting music. Everything about this film is just wrong. This is definitely the weakest thing Disney has put out.
The film begins with a narrator (Garry Marshall), Chicken Little’s father, saying:
“Where to begin? How about once upon a time? … How many times have you heard that to begin a story? Let’s do something else…” And then he opens it like The Lion King, and then does the book opening, the former being “too familiar” and then decides the book has been done too much.
We then go right to the day when Chicken Little told everyone the sky was falling. He stands atop a bell tower and the entire town panics down below. Naturally, it ends up partially destroyed. It becomes a big media thing, and he is treated as a crazy person. (It even becomes a movie, called “Crazy Little Chicken.”) And he can’t avoid it (the town is brutal), but can’t. Everything he does paints him as the “crazy chicken.”
Chicken Little’s plan is to do something great, which will make everyone forget “the whole sky falling thing.” He feels like all he needs is a chance to prove himself. He tries joining the baseball team, but ends up on the bench all season. But then he does manage to somehow get the winning hit in the championship. He becomes a hero and is happy to have finally put the past behind him, until something actually does fall from the sky again.
It’s an octagonal piece of what seems like a spaceship, which camouflages itself as whatever it is being held up against. He calls up his friends – Abby Mallard (the ugly duckling), Runt of the Litter (an insanely obese pig) and Fish out of Water (a fish with a diver’s helmet full of water). Fish out of Water manages to activate the disk, which calls a flying saucer that lands in the town. Two robotic alien creatures go off into the town, while Chicken Little, Abby and Runt all go onto the ship.
They stumble upon what appears to be a plan to destroy earth. The aliens return and they have to flee. They run to the bell tower to ring the bell again, but this time no one gives a shit. The think he’s fucking with them again.
One of the creatures from ship gets stuck in the town, and a bunch of spaceship show up to retrieve it. We find out that the creature is the child of the aliens, and the parents are only worried about it. Only now the town thinks it’s an invasion, and Chicken Little has to tell everyone that it’s just a rescue mission.
Chicken Little reconciles with his father, who had been ashamed of him since the first incident, and his father helps in their efforts to return the little creature back to the aliens. They run to the town square to put the creature on the mothership.
Chicken Little and his father are beamed aboard the ship, and the creature’s father wants to kill them, but the creature says it was all just a misunderstanding. The aliens return the town to normal, and say that the reason they were there in the first place was to pick acorns.
Then we cut to a year later, and Hollywood has again made a Chicken Little movie, and has butchered the story. Perhaps it’s fitting that Chicken Little’s father says, “The one thing (Hollywood) will never do is mess with a good story.”
Then what the fuck are we doing here?
This movie is a mess. There’s not an original bone in its body, and everything it does it just does wrong. I didn’t even bother to count the references (and blatant stealing from) other movies, just because after a certain point, I realized that this film’s idea of being clever is trading in dialogue from other films. They shoehorn in dialogue from other movies to make it sound interesting, when in fact it doesn’t make any sense and most of the time will go over the heads of the film’s target audience.
And then the music — “We Are the Champions?” The Spice Girls? What the fuck, Disney? The song choices here are so on-the-nose that it’s offensive to noses.
And the characters are so kiddie. There’s no character development here at all. They just exist to be walking punchlines. What the fuck is with that Steve Zahn pig? Seriously. Does he have Down’s Syndrome?
So, to put something close to a coherent summary on this — the reason I consider this to be the weakest Disney movie of all time is because there’s no plot to the film — it’s just a collected mess of conventions from other movies and things that they must think make money — alien movies, pop music, etc. The plot is completely artificially constructed, and unlike the great Disney films, which stick closely to their source material and enhance it with great visuals and great songs, this dispenses with the source material and seems much more interested in making a quick buck and going along with the CGI trend.
I don’t even want to say anything else. If you watch this film and don’t see it as the weakest thing Disney’s ever done, I’d question your opinions on everything else there is to have an opinion on.
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Official Disney Number: #46
Run Time: 81 minutes
Release Date: October 3, 2005 (Los Angeles Premiere)
November 4, 2005 (General release)
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $135.4 million domestic, $314.4 million worldwide
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- The only original song in the film is “One Slip,” by the Barenaked Ladies. All other songs are covers of other songs. (Which should tell you something.)
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- This is Disney’s first fully computer-animated film. (At this point, Pixar films were only distributed by Disney and not produced by them, and Dinosaur was only partially CG.)
- This is the second time Disney has adapted “The Sky is Falling,” doing it once before in 1943 as a propaganda film during World War II.
- Originally the story of Chicken Little and the acorn (the actual “the sky is falling!” part) was going to be done in hand-drawn animation. Then they said (and I’m guessing), “Let’s just make it all shitty,” and just did it CG.
- Only one minute of the film is actually taken from the Chicken Little story. (It shows.)
- This was Don Knotts’ last feature film. (Jesus…)
- Apparently Chicken Little was originally going to be a girl. (Good call. No girl would be as stupid and weak as that character is.)
- This film debuted at #1 at the box office, the first Disney film to do so since Tarzan. It tied with The Lion King as the largest opening for a Disney animated film (which is just shameful).
- A.O. Scott (I’m only posting this because I agree completely) called the film “a hectic, uninspired pastiche of catchphrases and clichés, with very little wit, inspiration or originality in the story.” Right on, A.O.
- The film references The Lion King directly (showing the opening at the beginning as a false opening to this film), shows an actual clip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, quotes from King Kong, uses the basic plot of E.T. when the alien gets left behind, and also steals shots from both Independence Day and War of the Worlds.
- And they also use Tic Tacs as product placement. In a bad movie, that shit’s unforgivable.
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Not a motif, but they have a personalized studio logo. I’m a fan of these, so I like to point them out when I can:
They start with the storybook opening:
It’s actually pretty offensive to the other Disney movies that use the storybook format. (Wait til you see which ones they are.)
One thing Disney does a lot with the animation is the negative colors. I don’t know what the actual name of it is, but it usually happens when there’s a flash of lightning or something. I love when they do that. And they sort of find a way to do it here, but it doesn’t look anywhere near as good in CG.
Other than that… I don’t really have too much else to mention about this one. It’s pretty bad. But there’s one sight gag I liked, which was a brief one — there’s a chameleon that acts as a crossing guard, and when it switches the light from red to green, it changes colors. That was nice.