On Tuesday, Disney releases Chicken Little on DVD. The 2005 box office hit, however, isn't Disney's first treatment of the sky-is-falling parable. In 1943, at the height of World War II, Disney released Chicken Little as a 9-minute cartoon that was a cautionary tale of the perils of spreading rumors and misinformation. How do the two versions compare? Let's see . . . .
(Yes, there will be spoilers)
Our Hero (1943)
This "playboy and yo-yo champ" is slow-witted, reactionary and easily influenced. "He looks nice and stupid," says Foxy Loxy.
Our Hero (2005)
This baseball champ is optimistic, industrious and awkward. "Tardy again," says Foxy Loxy.
Father Figure (1943)
Cocky Locky runs the chicken coop. Rational and decisive, he is respected by all until Foxy Loxy turns everyone against him. A born leader.
Father Figure (2005)
Buck Cluck raises Chicken Little as a single father and runs the household. Apologetic and a poor communicator, he's unable to defend Chicken Little when the town turns against him. Wuss.
Foxy Loxy (1943)
Evil, shifty and manipulative with a shiny gold tooth.
Foxy Loxy (2005)
Pushy, pompous and arrogant with shiny silver braces.
Foxy Loxy beans Chicken Little and Cocky Locky in the head with fake stars, convincing everyone that the sky is falling.
Foxy Loxy beans Chicken Little in the head with real acorns. Has nothing to do with the sky falling. Those darn aliens.
Piece of wood.
Piece of spaceship.
Turkey Lurkey (1943)
Sophisticated and erudite. Able to discuss any topic with intelligence and insight.
Turkey Lurkey (2005)
Barney Fife as mayor. Unable to say or do anything without cue cards.
Water Fowl (1943)
Happy-go-lucky party animals fight drunkenness and emphysema.
Fish Out of Water (2005)
Happy-go-lucky party animal fights paper biplanes.
Patrons of the Beauty Coop read Fem and Vague.
Friends of Abby Mallard read Modern Mallard and Cosmo Duck.
Panic in the Streets (1943)
"THE SKY IS FALLING!"
Panic in the Streets (2005)
"THE SKY IS FALLING!"
The End (1943)
Characters gather in a cave and are devoured by Foxy Loxy. How's that for a Disney ending?
The End (2005)
Characters gather in a theatre and are enraptured by a movie. Undeniable Disney ending.
Best Line (1943)
Foxy Loxy: "Don't believe everything you read, brother."
Best Line (2005)
Chicken Little: "Prepare to hurt--and I don't mean emotionally like I do."
Chicken Little (1943)
A timeless classic in glorious hand-drawn 2D animation. In our present day of political propaganda and alarmist journalism, this story still resonates--perhaps not the way Walt originally intended, but isn't that what makes any story timeless?
Chicken Little (2005)
With overused music from C & C Music Factory and the Spice Girls, not to mention tired pop-culture references to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars, this frenetic Chicken Little is already dated. The filmmakers spend so much time trying to be clever and hip, they forget to serve the story--which is actually a pretty clever twist on War of the Worlds. The 3D animation is top-notch and there are a few very funny bits, usually involving the delightful Fish Out of Water, but little else to make the movie memorable.
Question to ponder: If the 1980s and '90s were Disney's age of headstrong, empowered women (think The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Mulan), are the 2000s the age of emotionally-distant single fathers? Chicken Little explores this theme, which was also visited in recent Disney offerings Finding Nemo and Bambi II. Is this a new trend?
Chicken Little's (2005) extras include alternative opening scenes in partial animation and storyboard and a de rigueur "Making of" featurette. The box promises "Games & Activities," but I only counted one: an innocuous but fun "Where's Fish" trivia game. For those of you needing your Cheetah Girls or Barenaked Ladies fix, videos and sing alongs by them are also included.
Chicken Little (1943) is included on the Disney Treasures collections On the Front Lines (if you can find it) and Disney Rarities (still available on Amazon). A must for devoted Disney collectors.