The treat of having CHICKEN LITTLE on DVD is that it can be on call anytime the need arises for an egg-centric story featuring such endlessly fascinating characters as Fish Out of Water. It manages to be whimsical and sweet without sacrificing wit, not to mention a few on-target swipes at over-budgeted films that are as much about effects as story.
The story is the classic tale of a fowl who is hit on the head with something odd and thinks that the sky is falling. In this case, it’s a piece of something that really does look like the sky, but is shaped like a stop sign. And, of course, he’s the only one who sees it. The unwanted fame, the film based on the public panic that ensued, and the father who loves his kid, but can’t hide how embarrassed he is by it all, are just the start as the film takes a turn as unexpected as it is smartly executed.
The bonus features are good. There’s the usual making-of mini-doc, and another that shows director Mark Dindal in action, with pithy contributions by the film’s crew about how he goes about putting it all together. Also typical, though nicely done, is a look at the voices behind the characters. Actors are shown as they record their parts with cuts to the filmmakers about the whys and the wherefores of casting people, such as Zach Braff as the undersized hero (he talks fast), and inventing the sounds that the ci-mentioned Fish makes in lieu of actual dialogue. There’s also the startling, for me anyway, revelation that Fish was in and out of the film before they finally decided to keep him. Er her. Uh, it.
The deleted scenes, though, are outstanding. They show not just the creative process of the filmmakers, tinkering with the elements of the story as production start, and doing such things as changing the opening and the gender of the title character after getting the green light for a heroine, but also the creative process involved in 3-D animation. Some of the sequences are little more than inspired doodles, while others run the gamut from screen-ready to storyboard with lots of the in-between steps. What’s interesting is that even in its most rudimentary form, there is real life in these characters.
CHICKEN LITTLE is a paean to the misunderstood and the misfit in us all. It’s fiendishly clever and imaginatively realized in candy-sweet colors. But, more importantly, there is something universally appealing in the way the little guy keeps plugging along, coming up with clever ways to cope with a world not designed for one of his stature (diminutive) and imagination (colossal) that make him worth watching over and over again.
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