“I’m yet to see Chicken Little, Home On The Range or Meet the Robinsons, but it is unlikely that any of them will feel as rote or humdrum as this sub par effort.” So I foolishly said about Treasure Planet, a film which, with the hindsight that Chicken Little affords, comes across as a masterpiece of Golden Age proportions compared to this CG sci-fi dreck. The absolute nadir of ’00s Disney, it is currently threatening Saludos Amigos for the claim to ‘worst in the canon.’ Maybe because it’s come after a long run of mediocrity so it was simply frustrating to witness yet another less-than-spectacular film, or maybe because it is a genuinely dreadful film. Either way I hated it.
Structurally, it’s all over the place. The first act of the film consists entirely of the titular poultry basically being a loser to a soft-rock soundtrack before acts two and three become an alien invasion film. The theory being, supposedly, that the central dynamic between rooster and son should be established before the main ‘plot’ kicks in, but the execution suggests that everyone involved is far more interested in the aliens than in a young chicken trying to reconnect with his father who is (rightly) embarrassed by his son. The first act, therefore, feels completely extraneous and incongruous with the rest of the film, containing an entire arc for the main character that turns out to be completely unnecessary to the rest of the film. Chicken Little’s foray into baseball is utterly, utterly pointless. The rest is hardly interesting, too.
Then there is the humour, which tries to be a bit knowing and meta but fails to actually be funny. The film opens with the narrator unsure of how to start the story, going through a few clichés before just starting at the beginning. Such jokes are nice if the rest of the film is going to be a self referential deconstruction of Disney tropes, á la Enchanted, but it isn’t, so the opening feels like a studio desperately trying to capture some of the wit (and box office) of Shrek. It’s worthless poking fun at clichés in the first 5 minutes if the ensuing 75 are full of them. Then occasionally throughout the rest of the film it remembers that it wants to be arch and witty so makes an arbitrary reference to something like King Kong. A clever pastiche of Hollywoodising true stories at the very end of the film is the only joke that really registers, but it is far too little, far too late.
The sci-fi elements of the film are underdeveloped, a far cry from the likes of Lilo and Stitch which used its genre setting to great effect. The aliens are (perhaps deliberately) generic and no thought has gone into the design of the ships or creatures. The ‘twist’ at the end is mildly unexpected but undermines anything that has gone before and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given the apparent desire for violence shown earlier in the film. The design is weak, the story weaker, adding to a litany of laziness that amounts to a whole lot of boredom when watching the finished product.
Then there is the animation. Sweet mother of mercy, the animation. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, made 68 years before this abomination, was using technology that was still in its infancy. The people working on it were still discovering how it worked, no one was sure if the film would be a success or not, yet the result was triumphant and it still looks good today. Chicken Little was made using technology that had successfully been the medium of feature length films for 10 years but was still, granted, a fairly new innovation. Today it is one of the ugliest films ever made, only 8 years old now but horrendously dated to the extent that it is almost unwatchable. Blocky, textureless characters and flat, detail deprived landscapes add up to a thoroughly unappealing aesthetic that looks like a gifted 14 year old has taught himself computer animation. Think Spyro the Dragon on PS1 or Jimmy Neutron on an off day. Every single frame should be destroyed and we should probably forget that this film ever happened.