Next month Walt Disney Co. hopes to prove the sky is no longer falling.
The adorably round-headed star of its computer-animated movie, "Chicken Little," will make the case that the storied studio has moved into the next generation of animation and can produce the type of hit films that once were its signature -- and an important profit centre.
In the works for five years, "Chicken Little" is the first computer-generated feature film created by Disney animators and follows a string of traditionally animated films that failed to perform as well as many computer-made competitors.
Disney's new effort follows Chicken Little's travails in middle school a year after his disastrously incorrect observation that the sky was falling.
It debuts November 4 in the midst of Disney's talks with Pixar Animation Studios Inc over whether Disney will continue to distribute and share profits from Pixar's computer-generated, or CG, films and could prove an important factor if a deal is struck, analysts said.
Disney's studio has had a number of golden ages with hand-drawn animated features centring around hits such as the 1937 film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," and in 1994 "The Lion King." Partner Pixar has had animated hits since 1995.
Ryan Ball, a senior writer for the online Animation magazine said the studio, known for its "Disney Look" and classic story lines, may have to sacrifice both to tap into a more sophisticated audience that now includes young adults.
"Now that everything is going CG, everything is looking the same. That's the trend," Ball said. "(DreamWorks Animation's) 'Shrek' was kind of the first animation movie that went from being a matinee movie for kids to a Friday night date movie."
Analysts said the film must open big and perform well overseas for Disney to be considered a player in the new world of animation, where DreamWorks Animation SKG's "Antz" was not considered a success despite $170 million in worldwide ticket sales.