Walt Disney Animation Studios was such a mess back in the 2000s. After the height of the Disney Renaissance, Disney's success turned around on them as they started making animated movies that simply didn't reach the height of their previous triumphs. Despite a handful of these films being very good, they weren't drawing in the huge crowds as other animated films like "Monsters Inc" and "Shrek" were bringing in. After "Home on the Range" ended up another flop for the company, Disney temporarily threw in the towel making hand-drawn animated films and decided to make computer-animated movies by themselves with their first attempt being "Chicken Little". When it was released in 2005, it made a decent amount at the box office, but critics and audiences were not impressed. This film is often seen as the low point in the entire filmography from Walt Disney Animation Studios and it's a notion I have to agree with. This film just left me baffled watching it again. I don't understand how the studio that had made "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", "Fantasia", "Beauty and the Beast", "The Lion King" and many more animated classics could make a film this bad, but here we are.
In the anthropomorphic animal town of Oakey Oaks, Chicken Little (Zach Braff) is seen as the laughing stock after an incident erupted where he proclaimed that the sky was falling. Everyone thinks he's a joke and his father Buck (Garry Marshall) isn't backing him up as he wants. Wanting to turn his life around, Chicken Little tells his friends, a duck named Abby (Joan Cusack), a pig named Runt (Steve Zahn), and Fish that he has a plan to fix his misfortune and become liked again. He then joins the baseball team and after constantly being benched throughout most of the season, he ends up scoring the winning home run in the championship game and gains the respect of the town again. You think that might be the plot, but that's not all. After the winning game, Chicken Little then discovers that his sky falling predicament isn't over as it eventually leads to a secret involving aliens and he and his friends need to figure out how to solve it.
Look, I know that this film is an easy punching bag. It's easy to hate and mock this film because of how bad it is as well as what studio made this and it has been torn apart by many people throughout the years since it first came out. When rewatching this, I tried my best to give this film a fair chance and separate it from everything people have said about it. Needless to say, I still think this film is awful and still a mess and I feel so bad for the people at Walt Disney Animation Studios. The film was directed by Mark Dindal and despite directing excellent animated movies in the past like "Cats Don't Dance" and "The Emperor's New Groove", his manic energy and excellent precision is sorely missing from this film and I don't blame the failure of this film on him. This entire film was the fault of then Disney Animation president David Stainton who took Dindal's original concept and tossed it out while adding elements that made no sense whatsoever which we'll get to in a bit. With that said, I think I dislike this film for other reasons than others who dislike it. It's easy to point out that the film has a meanspirited tone throughout and tries its best to be sweet and heartwarming, but it fails to shed that miserable tone though that's not my main issue with the film. My biggest problem with the film is the story which to put lightly is a mess. This is not a coherently told story considering the film is broken up into two halves that don't tie into each other whatsoever. You'd think that the baseball plot would come into play again in the second half when the aliens invade, but it doesn't. It's just thrown out the window entirely and is never brought up again. It also sucks because the original concept of the film was way better than what we got. Dindal's original concept was about Chicken Little (who was originally a girl in his pitch) being sent to summer camp to build confidence. It may not be a great concept, but it was a good start. Stainton unfortunately threw in aliens to the mix and damaged what could've made this film great in the end. Also, the tone is indeed mean spirited and left a bad taste in my mouth. In a scene at a gym class, the teacher asks the kids to break into two teams for dodgeball and wants them divided between popularity. Moments like that really made me uncomfortable as I can really see this really making a kid very upset in school if they're not popular. I don't know what Disney was going for with that. As far as the jokes go, they mostly are misses but there are a few hits. I liked the imagery of a bull owning a china shop and "It's The End of The World As We Know It" by REM playing during the alien invasion. Moments like that show the film could've worked had it been tended right, but sadly it isn't enough to save the film. As far as the animation goes, it's not very good. The character designs are decent at best and have appeal, but their models don't hold up incredibly well and move very stiffly at times. The effects animation in this film though was awful. Elements like dirt or water move in a very awkward fashion and look incredibly fake while at times also disappearing from view in certain frames. I noticed this in the opening sequence in this film and I couldn't un-notice it. It just looked bad. For a film costing $150 million, it's saying something when films from the year before that came out and had lesser budgets have looked better than this. As far as the characters go, they're not impressive. I think Chicken Little, Abby, Runt, and Fish could've been a decent losers gang if they had more personality but they're so underdeveloped that it left little to be desired. I mean, Runt does have a taste for 70s music and talks about Barbra Streisand, the Bee Gees, and Elton John, but it's not really brought up much. Abby does have a crush on Chicken Little, but it's only mentioned once and there's no time to develop their chemistry. Also, Chicken Little is just a bland protagonist. There's not much to root for him in the end except to repair his self-esteem but apart from that, there's nothing else to him. Then there's Chicken Little's father Buck Cluck. This character is often cited as being the big low point in the film for not backing up his son until the end and he has really been torn apart by many people. While I think the character is badly written and I don't like that aspect at all, I don't think that it's as bad as people made it out to be. It was only brought up in the film twice from what I saw. It's clear that Disney was trying to have him be a confused parent and wanted to protect both of them from further embarrassment but it was executed badly. I don't think it's nearly as awful as some make it out to be, but I understand why others are taken aback by it. I also didn't like how some of the lines in this film were obviously the same audio take without changing it. Stuff like that bothered me and just came off as lazy.
In the end, "Chicken Little" is just not a good film. The story is a mess and incoherent, the animation isn't impressive and has bad effects, and the characters are underdeveloped and bland. This is easily the worst film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and I do not recommend it at all. If you want my advice, skip this film and watch any other Disney classic instead or even Mark Dindal's other films like "Cats Don't Dance" or "The Emperor's New Groove". This film on the other hand is simply a bad egg.