Chicken Little is a cute, funny movie. It’s a fun twist on a classic story. Unlike Bambi, I probably won’t think of it often after this project is complete. I’ve now seen it twice, and for the time being, that’s enough. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t change me. It didn’t challenge how I thought or felt. It wasn’t a hit, but it wasn’t a miss either. It was just…enjoyable. And sometimes, that’s just what we need.
It is Halloween 2011 and today I awoke to a winter wonderland. Snow was flying around outside, there was a thin layer of white on the ground and the evergreens looked as though they’d been dusted with powdered sugar. Nonetheless, this beautiful landscape seemed strangely out of place, what with it being October and all. I thought, well snow isn’t very scary, is it?
I don’t like being scared, so not having a scary Halloween isn’t an issue for me. If it were, it would turn out I’d been wrong: snow can be scary. I was driving down the two-lane, 55 mile per hour speed limit street that accounts for 20 minutes of my 50 minute commute. Everyone else was either staying inside or were already at their destination, because the roads were mostly empty. I drove a little under the speed limit, still getting re-acquainted with driving in snow. The snow rushed around my windshield, and I felt for a moment that this is what it must be like to hurtle through space. The snow didn’t look like it was moving: it seemed to be frozen in place, with my little car displacing it. All these little white dots reminded me of stars.
Snow became scary—or rather, eerie—when it stopped falling from the sky. I’m driving along the Glenn highway, and snowy clouds snake along the pavement, under cars. The whoosh of air and ice makes creaky noises under the car. And suddenly, snow is scary. It darts around the pavement, snakelike and with the appearance of dry-ice, as though it were alive.
The arrival of snow ironically made me think of Chicken Little. In many—in fact, most—Disney films, winter plays a small part, if it’s cast at all. There are a few cute wintry scenes in Pinocchioand Bambi, but it seems otherwise to be a perpetual summer. Chicken Littlefalls into the perpetual summer category. It seems to coincide with the orphan-or-only-one-parent theme.
Chicken Little always makes me laugh. It made me laugh in theatres and I laughed over the weekend as I watched it with James. He also laughed a lot, which pleased me. He’s been watching some of the Disney films with me, but not all of them. I love underdog stories (as does Disney) and I think it demonstrates well that parents aren’t always perfect; they don’t always do, say or act the right way. It doesn’t change the way they feel about their child, but they’re only human. CL demonstrates this well with Mr. Cluck.
Visually, the film is pleasing. The details are part of what make it so funny. The dogs at the diner, drinking out of a water bowl and burying their bone-entre in the front yard when the alarm bell is rung, the dog chasing his tail in the outfield during the baseball game. These little details help make this very un-real world more believable. By surrounding us, the viewers, in this imaginary world, they have to make us want to believe it. We have to be willing to believe that a rooster (Mr. Cluck) is the parent of a miniature chicken (Chicken Little), that a Turkey can be a mayor, a fox can be great at baseball and a bully, and that aliens can hide in giant metal contraptions.
If there’s one thing Disney succeeds it, it’s immersing their viewers in another world. It’s why Snow White was so successful when everyone expected it to flop. We become entranced in this character’s life, in this world that doesn’t and can’t exist. It’s why we still flock to Disney movies. Who hasn’t cried when Bambi realizes his mom isn’t coming back? Who didn’t want Pinocchio to become a real boy? These stories, rendered in pencil and paint, make an impact. It’s why animation has evolved instead of died out.
When Walt released Snow White, he didn’t make it just for children. Adults went and saw it as well. It wasn’t until later the animation was labeled as a medium for children and since then, studios have been working to prove that label wrong. Dreamworks’ Shrekactually took great strides, including humor for the adults watching. Chicken Little also has humor for grown-ups. But Pixar really changed the game—they didn’t just add humor for the parents and non-children audiences—they tailored the story to be relatable to every age group. Don’t believe me? Go watch UPand then we’ll talk. It’s the only film where I’ve ever cried before the characters even spoke. That’s the power of animation.