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CHICKEN LITTLE

Hatching the Plot
Director Mark Dindal had been toying around with a spoof of the fairy tale/fable genre for many years. As he started to analyze his favorite childhood stories, he discovered that there was a lot of humor to be had from trying to apply real world logic to the magical realms.

"I was always really interested in the folk tales and fairy tales as a jumping-off point because they're simple stories that are very familiar,” explains Dindal. "I always thought it would be fun to start asking questions like ‘Why would that character do that?' It's a crazy thing when you think about stories like ‘Little Red Riding Hood.' The wolf could eat the girl when he first meets her, but instead he takes this long detour and disguises himself as her grandmother. You can have a lot of fun when you start to think about the reasons why those characters make the choices they make. Suddenly those characters become more interesting and complex.

"At the same time that I was playing around with that concept, I had an idea about these misfit farm animals that get left behind when all the pretty animals go off to the county fair to be judged,” adds Dindal. "And while they're away, these aliens touch down to start a conquest of the planet. Suddenly these misfits are the only ones to stand in the way of them launching this attack and they're called upon to save the world. As I was driving home from work one night, the two ideas merged together, and it solidified as ‘Chicken Little.'”

"Chicken Little” went on to have a long incubation period over the next five years. Scenarios changed radically and even the gender of the title character went from female to male early in the creative process. In the end, Dindal and head of story, Mark Kennedy, along with screenwriters Steve Bencich & Ron J. Friedman, and Ron Anderson fashioned a fun and engaging story about a misunderstood chicken and his desire to have his father believe in him.

Kennedy notes, "Mark is a great story guy. He's just got a great feel for what's simple and emotional and doesn't get distracted by other things. He is really able to focus on the essence of each sequence and what it is contributing to the film as a whole.

"The heart of the film is really the relationship between Chicken Little and his dad,” adds Kennedy. "There is a pivotal moment in the third act where Chicken Little confronts his dad and says to him that he never believed him about the acorn incident and that has always bothered him. He tells his dad that he was wrong not to support him. For the first time, Buck hears the truth and it's something he probably knew all along but hadn't realized. Chicken Little learns to believe in himself, and Buck realizes that he should support his son no matter what.”

The actual fable of "Chicken Little” is thought to have originated in rural England back in the 1700s. It was conceived as a cautionary tale to tell young schoolboys the dangers of exaggeration and drawing the wrong kind of ill-informed conclusions. Names like Foxy Loxy and Turkey Lurkey are typically British. The story was most likely written down by traveling journeymen and collectors of folk myths and fables. As the story was adapted in other parts of the world, the ending came to vary widely. In some versions, Chicken Little hears a voice and runs away before Foxy moves in for the kill. In other versions, Foxy gets the upper hand. Coincidentally, the Disney Studios made a World War II animated propaganda short called "Chicken Little” in 1943, in which the fox lures the unwitting chicken population to their doom.

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