Chicken Little is the forty-sixth full-length film in the Disney Animated Canon. It premiered in Los Angeles 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 (2010) 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 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 in an attempt 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). 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 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 Little safe and the game won; 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 which 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 story of the alien invasion, 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, 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. Afterwards, 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.
- Zach Braff as Ace "Chicken Little" Cluck
- Joan Cusack as Abby Mallard
- Dan Molina as Fish Out of Water
- Steve Zahn as Runt of the Litter
- Amy Sedaris as Foxy Loxy
- Mark Walton as Goosey Loosey
- Garry Marshall as Buck Cluck
- Don Knotts as Turkey Lurkey
- Sean Elmore, Matthew Michael Joston, and Evan Dunn as Kirby
- Fred Willard as Melvin
- Catherine O'Hara as Tina
- Mark Dindal as Morkubine Porcupine
- Patrick Stewart as Mr. Woolensworth
- Wallace Shawn as Principal Fetchit
- Patrick Warburton as Alien Police
- Adam West as Star-Ace Little
- Harry Shearer as the Dog Announcer
When the project started in 2001, the story was about a female chicken who went to summer camp to build confidence and thus decrease her tendency to overreact. The swan who would eventually become Abby was initially written as a male character. 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.
New software and hardware tools were introduced for the production of the film:
"Chicken Wire", a geometric wire frame 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 that allow the artists to draw digital sketches of the characters to rough out their movements, which is then transferred to the 3D 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 21, 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 studios. 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.
This reversed the slump that the company had been facing since 2001, 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 to negative reviews from critics. Critical response aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 36% 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 is still strongly despised by the Disney fanbase for its story being very mean spirited, unemotional and just plain awful in general. This film is often regarded as the worst 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).
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."
DisneyToon Studios originally planned to make a sequel to Chicken Little, tentatively titled Chicken Little 2: The Ugly Duckling Story. Soon after 2016, when John Lasseter became Walt Disney Animation Studios' new chief creative officer, he called all sequels and future sequels that DisneyToon had planned cancelled, along with a sequel to Meet the Robinsons and The Aristocats.
- 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.
- This is the last movie 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.
- The last animated feature in the Disney Canon to use the 1985 Walt Disney Pictures logo.
- Zach Braff and Joan Cusack both earlier appeared in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, respectively making a cameo appearance as himself and portraying Rachel Bitterman.
- With a showing of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, an environment of early technologies and retro songs, this movie is rumored to have been set in the 1990s.
- This is the first CGI movie that Disney made without Pixar.
- The sixth Disney Animation Canon film to not feature any humans, after Bambi, Robin Hood, The Great Mouse Detective, The Lion King and Dinosaur.
- The second Disney Animation Canon's computer animated film, after Dinosaur.
- This is the first Disney Animation Canon film to be in 3D, followed by Meet the Robinsons.
- This is the first Disney Animation Canon's computer animated film to be rated G by the MPAA, followed by Meet the Robinsons.
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