The sky isn’t falling: After a rough patch of Pixar luck, Disney returns and proves itself more than chicken s***

“Chicken Little”

Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Mark Dindal

Written by Steve Bencich and Ron J. Friedman

Starring the voices of: Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn, Garry Marshall, Amy Sedaris, Adam West and Fred Willard

Rated G/77 minutes

Opens Nov. 4, 2005

Three out of four stars

Disney took a blow to the gut last year when Pixar-its money-printing, computer-animating, creative life force-flew the coop to build its nest in less fascist environs.

Many wondered how Disney would recover (or if that were even possible), and many more balked at the idea of a Pixar-less computer-animated film-one about Chicken Little and the sky falling, for that matter-turning a profit for the house that Walt built.

“Chicken Little” has arrived. It sure ain’t Pixar, but it’s zippy entertainment all the same. Kids will like the bright colors and the beanie-brained plot in which the little ones save the day. Adults will like the brisk running time and the clever gags that will probably fly over the heads of little Billy and Susie.

Zach Braff, from TV’s “Scrubs,” lends his kooky-cute voice to Chicken Little, a pint-sized beaky-bopper that stirs up a panic when he rings the town bell, proclaiming, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Something did, in fact, fall from the sky and bonk poor Little on the head, but there’s no trace of…whatever it was.

Everyone waves Little off as a loony-including his father (voiced by Garry Marshall), who was already having a hard time mustering up enthusiasm for his bookish kid.

Little’s father, by the way, is a single parent, in the grand tradition of Disney Single Parents. “If only you were here…you’d know what to do,” he says to the framed photo of his dead wife.

Attention Disney executives: It’s time for you to put this clich to rest. What’s supposed to be poignant is quickly slipping into self-parody. The day a Disney movie features a mom and a dad together is the day Tony Scott lays off the smack and directs a movie that doesn’t come in a straight jacket.

But I digress.

“Chicken Little” expends its imagination in other ways-namely in the design of Little’s world and its inhabitants.

The townsfolk-such as Mayor Turkey Lurkey (Don Knotts) and Little’s best friend, Ugly Duckling (Joan Cusack)-are straight out of storybook world.

The most ingenious character is Fish Out of Water (Dan Molina), a happy-go-lucky goldfish who wears a diving helmet full of seawater on his head. Unable to speak, he mimes his words.

If the idea itself doesn’t make you giggle, you’ve been working behind that desk for far too long, my friend.

Fish is undoubtedly the product of some late night brainstorm in the Disney studios-one involving too much coffee and the donning of silly propeller hats.

That might also explain the last half hour of the movie, in which the sky does, in fact, seem to fall and…

Oh, but my divulgence would ruin the fun.

At a slim 77 minutes, “Chicken Little” doesn’t outstay its welcome. It burns a lot of energy and makes us smile in that harmless, sugar-coated, Disney-channel kind of way.

Will there be a Saturday morning cartoon version of this little “Chicken?” Oh yes, there will be…

There will be…

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