Thursday, September 13, 2012

Disney's Chicken Little

In 2005 Disney declared, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" with it's adaptation of Chicken Little. This wasn't the first time Disney shouted these words though. Back in 1943 during WWII, they animated the fable into a short on the request of the U.S. government. In this version, Chicken Little is tricked by the mischievous Foxy Loxy, who does this by reading from a psychology book. The interesting thing about the psychology book that Foxy Loxy is reading is that it is actually passages from Hitler's Mein Kampf. Through these readings Chicken Little and all his friends end up in the belly of Foxy Loxy. The end scene is a little disturbing with wishbones used as grave stones mimicking a war cemetery.

So the bad guy wins for once? What!? The purpose of this short was to discredit totalitarianism and Nazism. It was an allegory for the idea that fear-mongering weakens the war effort and cost lives. Well I didn't get that out of the short when I was a child, but I actually prefer this version over the 2005 one. Sure the animation is not as vibrant and detailed as computer animation, but I'm old school. Plus, I'm tired of seeing Disney turn Spielberg. What do I mean by this, well for 2005's Chicken Little aliens were thrown into the mix. There are even a few scenes that are very similar to Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

I'd rather have a movie close to the original story. Kids nowadays will probably have no clue how the story really goes, instead they will talk about aliens. What a shame.
Though like most fairytales and folklores, the originals are quite darker and end up being changed into ones with happy endings. Disney is the major credit to this act of changing fairy tales. Without Disney's help, Chicken Little saw many changes throughout the years. One of its major changes is the name of which the main character is known by. In England this tale has been known to be called Henny Penny or Chicken Lickin. While America has used these names too it has favored the name of Chicken Little. I don't know if each different name came with different endings to the story, but there are about three. The first one being like the 1943 Disney short where all of Chicken Little friends and himself get eaten by Foxy Loxy. Then there is one where Chicken Little is saved by the warning of Cocky Lockey but all his friends get eaten, and the last being a happy ending of everyone surviving. Of course if I was Chicken Little, I would perfer everyone surviving instead of being eaten or being haunted the rest of my life by knowing that I was the cause of my friends' deaths. So what is the moral to this story? Well that depends on the ending. Some say when Chicken Little and his friends survive it is all about having courage. While the not so happy endings are meant to be a warning of not believing everything you hear. Disney's 2005 Chicken Little's moral of the story fell into the categories of both trust and courage.

The production of Chicken Little brought new software and hardware tools to aid animators in their creativity in Disney's first fully computer animated film."Chicken Wire", made it possible for designers to stretch and squeeze the characters in anyway that they wanted to. " Shelf Control", made it possible to see the whole model on the screen while having a direct access to any chosen area of the character. And new electronic tablet screens were introduced to allow the artist to draw digital sketches of the characters to rough out their movements, which then were transferred to the 3D characters.

The cast of Chicken Little was star-filled with Zach Braff squaking out the lead role. Not sure what Braff is up to now, but he starred in the humorous tv show Scrubs. Joan Cusack voiced Abbagail Ducktail Mallard aka the Ugly Duckling. Her character kind of reminded me of a combination of roles Joan has played in the past, including Sixteen Candles and her later work in Toy Story 2 and 3.
Other stars in the mix were Catherine O'Hara with pal Fred Willard, Garry Marshall, and Don Knotts. This was one of the last roles Don Knotts would take on before his sad passing. We love you Barney Fife!

As said in the last post, Disney needed Chicken Little to not only save the world but save their company. Wow that's a lot of pressure! At this time there was major negotiations between Disney and Pixar Animation Studios on whether they would be a team or go their seperate ways. If Chicken Little was successful, it would have give 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 the aid from Pixar. I bet everyone at Disney was feeling like the "sky was falling". Chicken Little came through and preformed very well at the box office, debuting at #1 in it's opening weekend. Something that hasn't happened for Disney since Tarzan. It also tied with the Lion King for earnings, taking in $40 million smackaroos. With the high profit that Chicken Little netted, Disney and Pixar decided to stay friends and work together. Disney, however, decided to purchase Pixar in an all-stock transaction worth $7.4 billion. So now Disney is a animation behemoth. That works, right? While the story was good on the financial end, it was not on the critical end. Chicken Little received a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst reviewed Disney movie ever. This is followed closely by Brother Bear. Critics lambasted the story by saying, "Disney expends more effort in the technical presentation than in crafting an original story-line." It received thumbs down from Ebert and Roeper, and the New York Times declared that the movie was "a hectic, uninspired pastiche of catchphrases and cliches, with very little wit, inspiration or originality to bring its frantically moving images to genuine life." Ouch. Well, as long as Disney doesn't care that their movie sucks. They made tons of money and hopefully that let them feel it was all OK. So, next time you think the sky if falling, don't worry, it's just aliens.

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