February 1, 2006 -- This is a mediocre Disney animated feature. It us notable only as the first Disney fully digital animated feature film. Disney scrapped its legendary traditional animated studio operation and went whole-hog into digital animation after the tremendous success of its partner digital animation studio, Pixar (which it later bought) and the digital animation successes of rival Hollywood studio Dreamworks (which later sold its digital animation subsidiary). Those studios produced blockbuster digital animated features like “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “Shrek” which did far more business than any traditional animated feature in recent years.
The “Chicken Little” movie was a success at the box office, but it is obvious that the story is not compelling and the characters are not that interesting. The film thus confirmed Disney's suspicion that conventional animation was dead and that, for now anyway, audiences will flock to any digitally animated film, even inferior ones like “Shark Tale,” “Madagascar” or “Chicken Little.”
The story has Chicken Little (voice by Zach Braff of “Garden State”) being chastised for saying the sky is falling when he has no proof of it. The piece of the sky that hit him has mysteriously disappeared. His father (voice by Garry Marshall) is harassed by phone calls and hate e-mail. He loses confidence in his son. Eventually, Chicken Little is vindicated when he saves the city from an alien plot related to the original sky falling incident. Main characters include the psychoanalytical Abby Mallard (voice by Joan Cusack) and panic attack-prone Runt of the Litter (voice by Steve Zahn). Other voice talents of note: Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, Wallace Shawn, Fred Willard and Adam West (the original Batman).
The artwork is solid (I saw the 2-D version of the film. There is also a 3-D version being circulated), but the story is lackluster. There are a few mild laughs for adults. Kids may be more entertained with the helter-skelter action and fast-paced pratfalls which litter the screen. The story seems more like an elaborate Saturday morning cartoon, or a straight-to-video movie. The characters have a bit of depth and they are distinct, but none of them is strong enough to make the story compelling. The story itself isn't strong enough to make up for the weakness of the characters. The result is a mediocre popcorn film. It rates a C.
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