There are a couple of reasons why I actually really like Chicken Little.
Fish is just good.
The Baseball Scene
This scene is probably the best in the movie. The dog announcer’s dialogue is clever (my favourite line is “Hold your horses, here, and horses, hold your breath,”). A cow outfielder grazing, a dog outfielder rolling around aimlessly, and a gopher digging for grubs because Chicken Little is an “easy out” is too funny. This scene ends up being kind of pointless since aliens are the entirety of the second half of the movie, so the “I’ll make dad proud by emulating his baseball prowess and this will solve everything I bet” thing just kind of full-stops. But that’s OK. Honestly I think it makes me like the scene even more.
Hollywood’s Version of Events
It’s a good joke.
Teen Vogue is impressive lately, so when I rewatched this and remembered that Abbey’s multiple teen magazines give really good advice about communicating I yelled, “Topical!” at no one in particular.
Chicken Little’s Posse
The major reason that there’s a Chicken Little-shaped place in my heart is because Chicken Little’s quartet remind me of my friends in high school.
Maybe I should clarify. I didn’t know anyone exactly like Fish, or Runt, or even like Abbey, but my group was full of people who at different times displayed all of those quirks. We ate lunch in a stairwell. I’m only now realizing how weird that was. So we were all easily summed up by Chicken Little’s plucky nerdyness, and we were occasionally Runt with our anxiety and our love of showtunes (I know he’s a Streisand fan but that’s almost the same thing), and we were all about over-analyzing everything like Abbey (maybe some of us still do that *cough*). Occasionally we all played the role of Fish – I did that quite often. I didn’t build newspaper sculptures of the Empire State Building but when my friends were being really angsty (and it got really angsty. Once two of them drove off so that they could cry in a parking lot. Because of reasons.) I’d just be there like, “… wheeee.”
I absolutely would have done this ^^ – at the most inappropriate moment, too.
And while we never did Spice Girls karaoke we would have, if we’d had any notion of how to live our best lives during those woefully angst-filled times.
But on the other hand, this movie is also not really aware of how to live its best life. I have just a few thoughts on that.
Apparently the original concept of the film was that Chicken Little would be a girl, because the filmmakers wanted a vulnerable main character and “girls are more vulnerable than boys.” But Michael Eisner said that being small is more of a problem for boys than for girls, and therefore the whole thing would be “more interesting” with a male lead.
I do get where Eisner is coming from here because there are a lot of things that are harder for guys. Displaying emotions, for example, is
a little a lot rougher for the menfolk. But it’s hard not to wonder whether having the female lead would have made the movie work better, especially in our post-Frozen world.
A Little About the Dad
I read a “Top Ten Worst Disney Films” list. I should say instead, I skimmed it. I noticed Frozen was on it. I smirked and stopped feeling bad for skimming.
But the major themes of the part where they explained why everyone hated Chicken Little were aliens, and Buck, Chicken Little’s father. Personally I don’t mind the aliens, and while I understand why Buck gets on people’s nerves I kind of respect the film for having him be the way he is.
Buck’s version of parental support is to cringe really obviously whenever he’s reminded of Chicken Little’s big “mistake” and to smother any of his son’s attempts to stand out. He’s horrified by Chicken Little’s attempts to be a baseball hero, but when his son actually does become that hero it seems like their relationship is repaired. Buck is proud, because the entire town sees Chicken Little as the athlete who won them the game. He’s a fair weather father, I guess.
During the alien invasion, Chicken Little stops everything to yell at his father about not ever being there for him (apart from after winning the big game), and Buck says, “You need to know that I love you. And I’m sorry. And I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like that was something you had to earn.”
Despite how not great Buck is at parenting throughout most of the film, I like him and his character arc, and I also think it’s important for the story to have gone this way. Maybe in an ideal world, parents wouldn’t need their kids to yell at them in order for them to try to be better at parenting but that isn’t the world we live in. I still remember the Little Mermaid clickbait that complained that the movie gave Ariel a happy ending even though she “disobeyed her father.” As though parents always know what’s best. Parents are not infallible, actually, and it’s one of the earliest and most painful lessons of childhood. And I’m only talking about parents who are generally good, but who make mistakes because they’re human. There are parents out there who are actively abusive, or who hold their love hostage to an ideal their children cannot and will not grow into.
Maybe there are better animated films that deal with infallible parents (The Little Mermaid, How to Train Your Dragon, Happy Feet, Ratatouille, etc.), but none of them does it quite like Chicken Little does. A common theme I see running through these others is defiance. Ariel disagrees with her father’s outlook on humans. Remy and his dad are always at odds about… humans. Hiccup and Stoic have rather different opinions about dragons. And Mumble’s too sweet for defiance but he’s not really looking for parental approval, either. Chicken Little’s whole story is about fixing the broken relationship between him and his father, and it seems possible to me that one of those kids who loved this movie might have learned something really important from it. Disney movies do that, even when they’re not at their best.
Also Fish is in it.