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The sky is falling.” Well, indeed it isn’t, not when a ballistrade rolls on city streets, and not when an acorn falls on Chicken Little (Zach Braff’s voice), and he starts a citywide panic when he mistakes it for the sky.
I pause a moment, as this little saying has been popular in the workplace, especially on a Medicare project that I worked on in Texas in the early 80s, CABCO. Every steering committee meeting, every plan presidents’ meeting we would revert back to the original 1943 cartoon.
Well, Little’s stunt inspires a website, book and movie, to the great embarrassment of his father, who warns him to keep a low profile. Little is accused of drawing attention to himself, of self-promotion, when he is really just a sissy. Nevermind that he is much smaller than his contemporaries. He sort of comes across as a special ed kid, maybe emotionally disturbed, maybe with Aspergers, someone who gets picked on by the other kids because he doesn’t measure up and just wants to cause trouble. He is, well, chicken. Maybe he would carry bird flu.
He is forced to pinch hit in a softball game with the home team (the Acorns) down 14-13 and down to the last out. He is told to take the walk, because his strike zone is too small. But he swings and misses twice, while the fielders go to sleep. On the good old two-strike pitch he hits a Texas leaguer fly – as far as he can hit it, and the sleeping outfielders let if fall and bounce all the way to the fence. Chicken, not knowing at first which way to run, legs out an inside-the-park home run and wins the game, 15-14. The home team does have the advantage of the last ups.
Then Little sees something really fall out of the sky. Here the movie goes off into paraphrases of Signs, War of the Worlds, and perhaps Donnie Darko. He follows up, watches crop circles get drawn, and gets abducted. Returned, he tells the townspeople, but the UFOs disappear. But then they come back, parsing the entire sky into hexagons as if the world were to become one big beehive. “It’s the end of civilization as we know it.” Maybe, or maybe not. A much more favorable movie about Chicken Little will get premiered a year later.
There are some similarities between this any my own story, but some differences. I promoted my own books and website, whereas in this story third parties did. But maybe indeed the movie is next. A good “sign.”
So is Little finally a hero because he attracted attention to himself but attracted the revelation of a dangerous truth, that people didn’t want to hear? Was he the way he way because he rejected conformity, socialization, and the experience of Faith the way other people expect? Did he have to go his own way and then find out the real truth? Interesting philosophy for a kids’ movie. But great satire.
The film is shot flat (standard aspect), but technically the 3-D version is stunning, perhaps the best 3-D that I have ever seen. We really feel like we live in their world for 80 minutes. It’s like looking through a living room picture window. The creatures become wonderful characters, with clever visual analogies taking advantage of zoology: hairy arms in people turn into limbs covered with hair-like feathers.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion. The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Buena Vista/Walt Disney/Sony/Walden Media, dir. Andrew Adamson, based on the novel by C. S. Lewis, PG, 140 mi USA/UK/New Zealand). A lot has been said already about the Christian theology mapped by this fantasy, and it’s a pretty good example of how a “kid’s movie” can get into adult topics. Four middle school kids (by age and appearance, played by Lucie Pevensie, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) have been trapped by the blitz during the Battle of Britain. One girl finds a portal to a parallel universe, Narnia, through the wardrobe closet. It is perpetual winter, and she meets gentle Tumnus (James McAvoy), a half-man centaur-like being, whose chest and forearms are artificially decorated with scraggly, white hair. Soon she returns and gets the three other kids (one of them gets in trouble playing backyard cricket and breaking a window). One of the kids is kidnapped, but the other three going on a journey through Narnia, where the encounter animal-people (beavers and wolves—the canines being hostile), and eventually the evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton). But they will be rescued by the Aslan the Lion, and fight a medieval battle against the Jadis. The good guys include cheetahs, and this is definitely a movie for people who perceive cats as people or even as gods. Now Aslan’s enemies capture him and “kill” him—after shaving part of his mane and body, a procedure that could be interpreted as male hazing and humiliation. But Aslan rises from the dead, in parallel to Jesus in the Bible and leads the battle. The kids are called “sons of Adam and Eve” and this gets into all of the theology. You can draw some other parallels here, as with Clive Barker’s novel Imajica where people and creatures pass among reconciled dominions. Narnia does not seem to be as complicated a world as Middle Earth in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Instead, it seems to be a metaphor for the heavens, where good and fallen angels battle. In my own novel work, I have a setup where Saturn’s moon Titan (as well as a twin solar system ninety light years away) serve the same purpose.