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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Chicken Little (2005)

"Dad, I'm not making this up! You've got to believe me this time."
- Chicken Little (Zach Braff)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: April 17, 2006

Stars: Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Don Knotts, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack
Director: Mark Dindal

MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 01h:20m:50s
Release Date: March 21, 2006
UPC: 786936246803
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+AA- C+

DVD Review

You can almost see the wheels turning in the Disney boardroom on this one. Flash back two years ago, with Michael Eisner coming to the end of his Lear-like reign and his adamant refusal to name a successor; add to that the threat that Pixar would walk away from the Mouse, after the expiration of their distribution deal, and the diminishing box-office returns for the studio's traditional, two-dimensional animation, and you can see why Chicken Little was hatched. But of course, all that and $29.99 will get you a copy of this DVD, and the target audience is decades away from giving a darn about corporate politics. The good news, then, is that this is quite an entertaining kids' movie—Pixar remains the gold standard (and, happily for House of Mouse shareholders, that studio has now been acquired by Disney), so if this doesn't quite reach those heights, it's still a fun family movie that holds up upon numerous re-watchings.

The movie doesn't take too much for granted, but the story of Chicken Little is a staple of the childhoods of many of us—here, it gets a smart new turn. That is, what if the sky really *is* falling? In the standard version of the story, a stray acorn in his tail turns Chicken Little into a prophet of the rapture, insisting that the end is near. Here instead, he's an overeager little kid who pushes the panic button, sending his town of Oakey Oaks into a tizzy for just a little bit, and then becoming a punchline. That's the prologue; the film picks up a year later, with Chicken Little and, especially, his father, Buck Cluck, hoping that finally the whole episode will fade into memory.

There's a lovely sort of whimsy with which the characters in the story are introduced and developed, starting with father and son. Poor Chicken Little's glasses are forever falling down his nose, and he's a tiny little thing; Mother seems to have passed on, and his father has had to abandon all hope of his son striding in his footsteps on the ballfield, and try to figure out just what's up with his bookish and possibly delusional little boy. Much of the film, in fact, is about Chicken Little's desperate quest for his father's approval—a whole lot of the time, the movie goes all Dr. Phil on us, but even when it comes with knowing winks and nudges, it's hard not to roll your eyes a little bit at the quasi-therapeutic discussions about communication and healing and closure. (Zach Braff voices Chicken Little, and Garry Marshall his father—as you might imagine, they seem to have a lot more fun with the lighter stuff.) The silly little pleasures of the movie come mostly from Chicken Little's pals—Joan Cusack gives voice to Abby Mallard, bucktoothed and disparaged as an ugly duckling; and Steve Zahn cuts up as the voice of Runt, a little pig already shopping in the big and tall section. Rounding out the quartet is Fish Out of Water, whose omnipresent helmet and gills keep him from speaking, making him either the Harpo or the Kenny of Oakey Oaks.

The movie sags some in the second half, when it becomes a sort of pointless and arbitrary (if cheery) alien invasion movie. But there's enough here to keep your attention, and the telling of the story is spiked with the seemingly necessary, knowing pop culture references. (Some of them are a bit much, but you pretty much have to laugh at a pig cutting loose with some Spice Girls karaoke.) And while it's easy to make fun of the family dynamics and the poultry generation gap, its heart is in the right place, even if it's a little too often right on its little animated sleeve.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Very strong effort on the transfer—consistent colors, all very bright, and with little or no scratching.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 track is clear, though the mix clearly goes in for the dictum that louder is better.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Little Mermaid (Special Edition), The Wild, Dumbo (Special Edition), Cars, Airbuddies, Howl's Moving Castle, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Brother Bear 2, That's So Raven
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. trivia game
Extras Review: Director Mark Dindal and producer Randy Fullmer provide intros for a package (13m:24s) of four deleted scenes, highlighted by a couple of alternate openings—one is done in traditional storybook style, with Don Knotts narrating; in the second, Chicken Little is a girl. Also worth a look is an extended breakfast sequence—it must have been cut because it doesn't push the story forward, but it shows Buck Cluck in full Dustin Hoffman-in-Kramer-versus-Kramer mode.

Dindal and Fullmer are also prominent in Hatching Chicken Little (18m:07s), with an emphasis on the Disney pedigree of the story, and featuring a look at some of the voice-over actors. The Cheetah Girls favor us with a music video—Shake Your Tail Feathers—and there are three full versions of One Little Slip—one by Barenaked Ladies, one a sing-a-long, and the last a karaoke opportunity. Finally, after watching the film, try your hand (or your fin) at the trivia game, and see if you can answer the question, Where's Fish?.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

A worthy heir to the Disney animated storytelling tradition—great fun for the whole family, even if some will need the Gloria Gaynor jokes unpacked for them.


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