Chicken Little

2006-07-17 16:00


Life is tough for Chicken Little. It's been nearly a year since he wreaked havoc in the town of Oakey Oaks by ringing the alarm bell unnecessarily. He was certain that it was a piece of the sky that hit him on the head, and not an acorn. Instead of blowing over, the incident has made him the laughingstock of the town ever since, and a source of great embarrassment to his father Buck. Desperate to please everyone, Chicken Little joins the local baseball team and, in a show of unexpected heroism, wins the championship game. With things finally back on track he is horrified to discover, that very evening, that the sky really IS falling. Now he must decide what he values more - his hard won popularity or the fate of the world.


What on earth has happened to the once great Walt Disney Pictures? This is the company that brought us the world's first animated feature film - the still impressive Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - in 1937. These are the guys that made The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. How can they expect this bland, soulless, computer generated commodity of a movie to live up to that great heritage?

Where has Disney lost its way? In a word - story. They've forgotten that, while we all enjoy gorgeous animation, an audience needs a decent yarn to get involved in. Unless you're three-years-old, moving pictures with pretty colours can't be expected to hold your attention for 80 minutes. Disney's history has always been one of great stories. Sure they stole half of their core plots from the Grimm brothers, but they were experts at tarting them up with endearing characters, breathtaking designs and deft touches of humour.

In the right hands the Chicken Little story had plenty of potential. It fits the classic Disney pattern of familiar old folk tale turned sassy modern film. What's more the original tale has a wealth of great material to mine for quirky characters and ironic gags to embellish the story. Instead, in the wrong hands, it has become nothing but embellishments - all sight gags, silly voices and ironic winking - with no substance to back it up.

To make matters worse the animation has a very experimental, technology obsessed feel to it. Chicken Little is Disney's first fully in-house computer generated film, and it's visual design and execution lacks the refinement of older CG producers like Pixar and Dreamworks. The characters look plasticky, stiff and shiny - like action figures that have been filmed in stop motion. You constantly get the feeling that the filmmakers are trying techniques out for the first time - "Let's simulate a tracking shot and go into a slo-mo sequence! Yeah, that will look cool!" These techniques frequently draw attention to themselves, so much so that many scenes are reduced to a collection of effects rather than adding anything to the story.

The filmmakers have also failed to understand what appeals to kids. Effective children's films usually rely on strong archetypes - the kind of good versus evil stuff that made films like The Little Mermaid so compelling. In Chicken Little the biggest evil is a distant and neglectful parent, followed closely by the callousness of small town society - not exactly themes that an 11-year-old can relate to. The invading aliens that our hero battles may look evil but this soon turns out to be a red herring. Without a real enemy to defeat the film is reduced to a clumsy, pop-psychology infested fable of an absent father. It makes you wonder what's next in the Disney ideas drawer. Mid-life crises? Monetary policy?

Of course the film has some strong points. Some of the jokes work, some of the ideas are clever and well executed and many of their new techniques, however distracting, are impressive. But overall the film just doesn't live up to the legacy of its predecessors. Where Disney once led - now they follow. We can only hope that falling box-office receipts shock them into waking up, because a world without Disney's trademark brand of magic will be a poorer place.

- Alistair Fairweather

Disney's shallow, soulless new kiddies film is a giant step backwards for quality animated entertainment.

LIEZEL 2005/11/03 2:08 PM
mrs excellant!! yes
ane 2005/11/06 2:31 PM
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valerie 2005/11/06 4:25 PM
alistair I think the movie is very funny and original. Alistair Fairweather needs to lighten up and be more positive. Life is not about moaning and groaning, but rather enjoying what little pleasures there are! I Definitely recommend it - not for the negative and miserable people, but for people that enjoy laughing and just have fun.
tanya 2005/11/06 6:57 PM
chicken little cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! yeah!!!
Linda 2005/11/06 10:25 PM
Such a Shame! Such a shame that such an eloquent, insightful, intelligent, and accurate review receives such an imbecilic response from the mentally retarted general public Well done Alistair Fairweather - take heart in the fact that many intelligent people will have read your review, enjoyed it, taken note, and not bothered to comment on it. 95% of commercial movis are utter nonsense ...try Cinema Nouveau
Ernst Nieuwoudt 2005/11/06 10:35 PM
Lekker! I quite enjoyed the movie and the eight year old with me sat quietly watching the whole movie and really liked it
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