Disney’s “Chicken Little” (1943)

In 1943, Walt Disney released a short called “Chicken Little,” using the traditional story of the little chicken who gets bumped on the head and starts running around causing a panic, convinced that the sky is falling. But in this WWII-era short, the fox is reading a book titled “Psychology” (although it was really “Mein Kampf,” they opted to not be entirely transparent on that count), and at the end, he gets Chicken Little to lead all the chickens into his cave, where he eats them and plants their wishbones in a way that makes them resemble gravestones.

Chicken Little: Foxy Loxy and the cave entrace

Foxy Loxy finishing off a wishbone

Foxy Loxy planting a wishbone in what looks like a cemetery of wishbones

Foxy Loxy getting in his last digs at the narrator, who is audibly upset that this wasn’t the ending in HIS book.

I showed this film to some students a couple months ago, and they were suitably horrified by the ending. When I was talking with one of the students yesterday about the end of my film and all the shorts I wrote about in my previous post, she reminded me about that one, so I went back and watched it again. There’s a tension in the storytelling, between the narrator and the character of the fox – especially at the end, after the fox has eaten all the chickens, when the fox has clearly “won.” I am going to look at more WWII-era propaganda cartoons because these clearly are trying to emphasize the mortal stakes that were at hand. I found this one a little too heavy-handed, but it is another clear example of a cartoon with a fatal ending that I want to try to learn something from as I work on the ending of my film.

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