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Chicken Little

A Wartime Short

Release Date : December 17, 1943

Running Time : 8:50

Synopsis

The traditional story of the little chicken who believes that the sky is falling ... but with a decidedly different ending.

Characters

Chicken Little
Cocky Locky
Ducky Lucky
Foxy Loxey
Goosey Poosey
Henny Penny
Jitterbirds
Turkey Lurkey

Credits

Director
Gerry "Clyde" Geronomi
Animation
Ward Kimball

Cut Scenes

Some scenes of the animals smoking and drinking have been cut.

Video

United States
Storybook Classics
Germany
Donald Total Verliebt
France
Disney Festival
Italy
Paperino Pippo Pluto e …

Laserdiscs

Japan
Disney Cartoon Festival 7

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : On the Front Lines
Walt Disney Animation Collection : Volume 2 : The Three Little Pigs
Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s

Television

The Ink and Paint Club: Episode 56: Wartime Disney

Technical Specification

Color Type: Technicolor
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : The shorts of 1943 end with a story that could be read in multiple ways. Chicken Little is a classic tale, but read in the larger context of World War II, this short shows a little bit of satire and political commentary. It’s not something you’d expect from Disney, who most people think of staying away from politics, but it’s definitely a part of Chicken Little.

If you’re familiar with the story of Chicken Little, you will understand the premise of the short. In the original stories, an acorn falls on the chicken’s head, and the chicken decides that the sky is falling, and whips the other birds into a hysteria. There are a couple of endings in traditional tellings – in the first, the chicken narrowly escapes, and in the second, an unscrupulous fox eats all the birds.

For this short, Disney took a different, but much more relevant tilt to the story. Here, it’s the fox who stirs up the trouble, looking to capitalize on the fear to eat the chickens. He preys on the weakest of the bunch, Chicken Little, trying to make him believe the sky is falling. The resulting panic that Chicken Little drums up drives all the chickens into the fox’s cave.

The simple twists here are the ones that give this short its political punch. The fox, of course, represents Hitler and the Nazis, and the chickens are the German people. By inciting the hysteria, the fox gets his goal of driving the chickens out of the safety of their fenced in yard. I giggled at the ingenious way he starts the action, hovering over the fence with a psychology book, and identifying Chicken Little as the “stupid one.”

Seeing the fox play the birds against one another is a nice study in character animation, as he starts the whispering campaign that convinces them that Chicken Little is correct. Since most of the whispering is the fox, we get to see the reactions of the other birds bit by bit, and every single one is perfect. The animators manage to capture the irrational fear but also the slight pleasure in seeing another person upended, in this case the mayor of the coop.

The underpinnings of the short are easy to read, especially when the short ends and the chickens are driven into the fox’s cave. While the narrator assures us that everything will turn out alright, once the shot goes to the inside of the cave, we see that the fox has eaten all the chickens. It’s a definite commentary on what was happening in Germany, projecting that Hitler had led the Germans to doom, only to enhance his own reputation. While it’s odd today to see Disney wading into this sort of material, even subtlely, it’s a sign of how entrenched the entire country was in the war effort during those years.


From David Hastings : Great short animation! Saw it a long time ago and just recently had the opportunity to view it again. Very funny, has all the makings of an allegory and with a great ending! Seldom does Disney bring all its cute characters to a horrible fate! (In this case the hungry tummy of a certain "foxy-loxy") If you get the chance, see it! It's decidedly twisted.
From Jerry Edwards : Foxey Loxey convinces dim-witted Chicken Little and the other farmyard poultry that the sky is falling and the fox's cave is the only safe place. When they enter and are trapped, they are devoured.

On the surface, this short has nothing to do with World War II. The basic wartime propaganda moral was to teach the audience to think for themselves. But the short was originally planned to contain much stronger propaganda. At the end, the fox was going to be reading "Mein Kampf" and the chickens' grave markers were to be swastikas. But Disney wanted the cartoon to have more lasting appeal, so the book title was changed to "Psychology" and the markers were changed to "wishbones."

A truly demented short, especially if you don't realize the original wartime propaganda plans.


From Ryan : This short was okay, but it wasn't one of my favorites. It is different from most Disney films in that fate actually meets the characters. The fox tricks them into coming into his cave and eats them, leaving their bones as the only remains of them.
From Baruch Weiss : This is a good short but it isn't one of my favorites.
From Mr. X : This short is highly interesting, especially when you consider what it was meant to convey when it was first released to the general public. It's interesting...Leonard Maltin mentioned in his special introduction on Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines that Chicken Little might be a short best seen by parents before showing it to their kids. Personally I feel he should have said that about Education for Death or even Der Fuerher's Face.
From Chip Wolfe : I give this version of Chicken Little a 10. Everyone's got to deal with life and Foxy Loxy sure did give those chickens a taste of it after he ate them. This short after watching it just tells you that's life live with it. Chicken Little made the biggest mistake of his life and got all the chickens eaten. If this thing teaches anything besides you got to deal with life it also teaches as Foxy Loxy says: "Yeah! Don't believe everything you read brother!" which summarizes everything up perfectly. Hearing something from someone can either get you killed, injured, or left in panic for the rest of your life. And that's what this war time parable showed in it. For those people who love the original Chicken Little and not the Wartime parable. I suggest you go suck your thumb and lick your lolly pop in La La land cause the wartime parable brings in every mistake in life that anyone can think of this cartoon shows life and what it's really like. You get fooled you get eaten. That's the way life is and we all got to deal with it.
From Billy Joe : This short has the wonderful Disney-quality animation with a fun story. The fox (who sounds like Tex Avery's wolf) tricks happy-go-lucky Chicken Little throughout the film. This short was released during WWII, so you may find some references to that period in this film. In my opinion, this version of Chicken Little is more wonderfully done than Disney's 2005 computer animated feature film.
From Bryan Hensley : Don't let a dictator tell you what to do... or in this case Foxy Loxy and his psychology book. If you listen to rumors and spread them, it'll spell your doom like all the animals in the farmyard. This reminds me of what happened in the 2005 CGI movie by the same title. Only in the original short, instead of an alien invasion, it's more war propaganda, let's leave it at that. You can hear Donald Duck's voice for some of the ducks and geese at the "bar". The original 1943 short of Chicken Little, or the 2005 CGI movie, which is your favorite? You be the judge. As for me, I can't decide!
From Happy5482 : As a kid I LOVED this cartoon but could never understand the ending and why it turned out the way it did. But now, years later, after hearing the intro from Leonard Maltin on the Disney Treasures I was SHOCKED! While looking into this research online, I came across something else that was twice as SHOCKING. According to IMDB.com trivia: the chicken's graves would have been marked by swastikas! Unbelievable! I will always like this cartoon but will never look at it the same.
From Matthew Cooper : Awesome cartoon! This short is my all time favorite of all the cartoons Disney made that did not feature "the gang" (y'know Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck etc.) The ending is very sad, it always saddens me no matter how many times I watch it. However, I think that the ending instantly "hits" the viewer the exact moral of the short: "Do not listen to gossip, think for yourself". Although, I think that the conclusion may rather surprise the viewer because just before we see Foxey Loxy and the wishbones, the narrator tells us that it all turns out all right. However, the teaching of the moral is not what stands out for me in this short, it is the color and all the effectively done anthropomorphic fowls. Between this cartoon and the 2005 film, I definitely chose this one!