Crazy, they call him: Ever since Chicken Little (endearingly voiced by Zach Braff of Scrubs) caused Katrina-like mayhem in Oakey Oaks by proclaiming that the sky was falling, he has been an outcast, a laughingstock to his classmates, and a disappointment to his father (Garry Marshall), a former baseball hero. But just as he is redeemed by some miraculous heroics of his own on the diamond, hysteria repeats itself when another piece of celestial debris crashes into his room. Chicken Little, Disney's first computer-animated feature, does not exactly lay an egg. It was an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Film, and technically and artistically, it dazzles as only a Disney product can. But the story is a scrambled mélange of character types, themes, and comic conceits lifted from other films. Jimmy Neutron fans may recognize Carl Wheezer in Runt of the Litter, the pathetic porcine character voiced by Steve Zahn. And the climactic Hollywoodization of Chicken Little's adventure echoes the drive-in finale of Pee-wee's Big Adventure. With the baseball subplot, a seeking-closure-with dad subplot, and even a War of the Worlds alien invasion, Chicken Little is anything but. This disc hatches the usual Disney goodies, including three interesting discarded alternate openings. One is a remnant of the time when the title character was conceived as a girl. Another, narrated by the late Don Knotts (as Mayor Turkey Lurkey), is a charming, traditional 2-D animated recap of the classic Chicken Little fable.
In addition to being the infamous delusional cry of the title character, "The sky is falling" was also what some critics thought was happening at Disney, which would explain Chicken Little. But their grumpiness is unwarranted and a little puzzling. There's nothing in this film to suggest an apocalyptic end to the successful formula Disney has used for decades -- in fact, other than a crisp switch to digital animation, Chicken Little is Disney at its most Disney-like. The film fits right in to Disney's tradition of selecting fairy tales and children's stories that are just ripe for revitalization, yet Chicken Little has a space-age feel as well -- literally, as the plummeting heavens are actually the byproduct of an alien invasion. Not only is this a clever idea, but it opens some terrific visual possibilities for robot gizmos, which the animators eagerly bring to the screen. But Disney is still low-tech in its agenda, as the crux of the conflict involves the poultry pipsqueak trying to prove himself to his widowed father. Zach Braff and Garry Marshall make both halves of this relationship work with labor-of-love performances. The world they inhabit is colorful and speckled with different species, and it really has the feel of coming from a storybook -- like if you got to city limits, the drawing might just end. One welcome change is that Disney -- usually so safe on the sidekick front -- deviates from the familiar with two risky choices: a truly ugly duckling named Abby Mallard (voiced by Joan Cusack), and a not-so-runty Runt of the Litter (voiced by Steve Zahn), each of whom takes a little warming up to. That might be the most legitimate complaint leveled at Chicken Little: the whole thing takes a little warming up to. But once it starts to take off, it's pretty darn agreeable.
|Source:||Walt Disney Video|
|Sound:||[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]|