Chicken Little
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (18th April 2006).
The Film

Last year it was announced that Pixar would be leaving the Disney family, their final film in their contract is "Cars" to be released this year. Pixar have been responsible for a massive amount of revenue coming into the house of the mouse's bank accounts. Their successful mix of heart felt stories with top pf the line CGI animation is second to none, their films continually out grossed traditional hand drawn animation films as well as Disney family films over the years. Traditional animation is now going the way of the dinosaur with Disney closing down their studio and setting up their own 3-D animation department. This new venture is responsible for this film "Chicken Little” as well as the recently released "Valiant" (2005) and the currently in release "The Wild" (2006), "Valiant” didn’t fare to well at the box office and "Chicken Little" only did slightly better but never quite reaching the Pixar ability to virtually print money. It was announced at the beginning of this year that Disney had bought Pixar shelling out $7.4 billion for stock making Steve Jobs the official king of the world. Now that they have secured one of the most creative studios, their current catalogue but also possible continued success in any future venture, so long as Pixar do what they do without too much intervention from Mickey and his high priced executives and lawyers.
Anyway, onto this film, which is not a Pixar project. "Chicken Little" tells the story of said chicken voiced by "Scrubs" star Zach Braff, a scared out of his wits that the sky is going to fall chick. This chicken is known for causing widespread panic across the town of Oakey Oaks, his father is constantly embarrassed by the little guy and the townspeople no longer believe him anymore about the sky falling. When one day, the sky truly falls, in the form of a hovering thingy (that's the best way I can describe it) that can change it's surface to reflect whatever is placed behind it. His friends, Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack), Fish out of water (Dan Molina) and Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn) discover that aliens have landed, after a chase sequence among some corn fields the aliens take off just when Little is about to prove to the towns folk that the sky actually did fall and aliens are among them...only problem is the aliens have left their child behind, Kirby (who appears to be voiced by three actors Sean Elmore, Evan Dunn and Matthew Michael Josten), the alien parents Melvin (Fred Willard) and Tina (Catherine O'Hara) decide they must invade Earth with a full alien armada in order to find their son. They all eventually realize it's one big misunderstanding and everything rights itself, also throughout this adventure Little plays baseball in an effort to gain his father's respect and admiration...which he does...isn't that great?
In true Disney form this film is filled with cute little talking animals and quirky over the top scenarios that never really happen in real life, but that you can almost always get away with in animation. After all this stuff's for kids and at the end of the day any child would be entertained by this film. Which, is why I have the hard job in reviewing it and I am most definitely not a child, anymore. However I still enjoy a good lighthearted animated film once in a while and "Chicken Little" is just that, light, unfortunately it's a little too light.
The film runs its course setting up the town and its characters, however it appears as though the filmmakers didn't seem to think that an alien invasion was enough of a cool gimmick to sweep kids into and decided to throw in some family drama. You know the kind, solo parent caring for a crazy kid, that crazy kid is seen as a joke throughout the community and his own father is embarrassed by him. That crazy kid decides to join the baseball team to prove to his dad that he's worth a damn and what do you know he actually makes good by it and scores the winning run! Yay crazy kid and Dad live happily ever after. Disney in usualy style know exactly how to sugar coat a story, but do kids really care about family dramas?, it's as if they needed some kind of domestic element in order for children to relate to these characters...making these characters real enough, with an array of emotion and human traits is enough to warrant that. Leave the single parent dramas to the soap operas and let's focus on the cool aliens.
To finish my rant I'll also mention the film's brief time span, you have just enough to time to meet the characters, get presented with a dilemma and as soon as that rears itself the day is saved. I felt that a lot of elements of the story were rushed and not enough time was allocated to it. So essentially this is perfect for kids with ADHD. Other than these issues I found the film to be enjoyable, the characters were all funny in their own unique way, especially Runt, however the 'fat' pig jokes got a bit much at times. The aliens were the coolest part of this film bar none, the filmmakers spent the time to get the design and characterizations right with them you wonder why the same attention to detail wasn't utilized for the story?
Casting in any film is imperative, perhaps even more so in animated film because the voice in a way defines the character and humanizes them, in this case Disney hit the nail on the head and I was impressed with all the voice performances, it's easy to see that these actors made the characters their own.
Overall "Chicken Little" makes for a decent fluff entertainment for the kiddies but lacks any substance otherwise, it's a good job but trying to fill Pixar's boots is a hard job for anyone.

Video

Presented in 1.78:1 this anamorphic widescreen transfer is impeccable, taken straight from the digital source the detail is sharp and simply beautiful to look at. The colors are all bright and bold, blacks are bold and shadow detail is consistent especially during scenes that take place at night. I found no instances of damage or dirt throughout this entire print and am generally pleased with the overall result.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track as well as a pair of Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks in French and Spanish. I chose to view the film with its English track for the purposes of this review. I found the dialogue to be clear and distortion free, surround activity is well spread throughout the 5.1 space creating a general atmosphere for the world these characters inhabit, however lacks a certain depth that should have been achieved with a film such as this. There were many instances were sound could have worked well for the filmmakers but instead they chose to ignore it or go for a more subtle approach, when is anything subtle in animation? Music is also rendered well however occasionally feels too out of place and does overwhelm the senses.
Optional English subtitles are also included on this disc.

Extras

First up we have a series of 4 deleted scenes with intros from the producer Randy Fullmer and director Mark Dindal, who basically give us a brief rundown on the scene:
- “Alternate opening 1: Chicken Little storybook” which runs for 2 minutes 50 seconds and is a 2-D opening that covers the original Chicken Little story in true Disney fashion.
- “Alternate opening 2: Cooking with Klaus” runs for 6 minutes 10 seconds and is a scene where Chicken Little’s dad is making breakfast for him and turns into a cooking show gag.
- “Original opening with Chicken Little as a girl” which runs for 2 minutes 5 seconds, this clip shows Chicken Little in bed hearing all sorts of scary night time sounds, in a mixture of incomplete animation and storyboards.
- “Lunch break” runs for 2 minutes and is entirely in storyboard form, here Runt struggles to get a snack from the vending machine and Fish helps him out.

Next up we have a section entitled “Music and More” there are a few music videos and interactive singing segments as well:
- “Shake your tail feather” a music video performed by The Cheetah Girls, some teen pop band. This runs for 3 minutes 5 seconds.
- “One little slip” a music video by Barenaked Ladies, this is the film’s title track. This runs for 2 minutes 50 seconds.
- “One little slip” a karaoke version with the music and the lyric running along the bottom set to some animation of the characters dancing. This runs for 3 minutes 1 seconds
- “One little slip” a sing-a-long version, which is basically the same as the above only the lyrics are sung in this clip. This also runs for 3 minuets 1 seconds.

Next up is the “Games and Activities” section that includes an interactive game entitled “Where’s the fish” here you have to answer some trivia questions and find the fish behind the sky piece, this is for one or two players. Kids will get a kick out of this however doesn’t really pose any challenge as anyone who paid attention to the film will get all these answers rather quickly.

Following that is the “Backstage Disney: Hatching Chicken Little the making of the movie” these are a series of 5 short featurettes that take you behind-the-scenes and include:
- “The Incubation Period: The story behind the story” which runs for 2 minutes 45 seconds and takes a look at the genesis of the story and characters.
- “Cracking new ground” which runs for 3 minutes 15 seconds and takes a look at the design of the film and its characters, and looks at the differences between 2-D and 3-D animation.
- “Birds of a feather: The voices behind the characters” this clip runs for 3 minutes and we get to meet the talent voice actors that help bring these characters to life.
- “Rock-A-Doodle-Doo: The music of Chicken Little” runs for 4 minutes 30 seconds and here we get to see the scoring process as well as take a look at the different people involved in making music for this film from Patti LaBelle and Joss Stone to Five for Fighting and Barenaked Ladies.
- “Ruling the roost: A day in the life of the director” runs for 2 minutes 45 seconds and takes a look at the director’s job on this film.

Rounding out the extras are a series of bonus trailers that include:
- “The Little Mermaid”
- “The Wild”
- “Dumbo”
- “Air Buddies”
- “Cars”
- “Howl’s Moving Castle”
- “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”
- “Brother Bear 2”
- “That’s so raven” promo spot

The first 4 trailers are start-up previews and play before the menu, however they can be skipped by pressing the Menu button on your remote.

Overall I was rather under whelmed with these rather light extras, they are very kid-centric however even for kids these are far too brief and don’t provide a totally engrossing experience.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: A+ Audio: B Extras: C Overall: B

 


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