Can a bespectacled fowl save Disney animation from laying another egg? Torpedoed by weak grosses for Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet, the studio shut down its hand-drawn 'toon operations. Now it's tackling its first computer-animated feature (if you discount 2000's Dinosaur, a live-action/CG hybrid) and horning in on territory staked out by Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky. ''Fear is a great motivator,'' says producer Randy Fullmer. ''If you feel like, 'Boy, if I don't [learn] CG, I'm not gonna have a job,' that's a real kick in the butt to say, 'I'm gonna learn CG.'''
Storywise, Chicken Little pecks at the Shrek formula, retooling familiar characters in a smart-alecky way. To that end, director Mark Dindal (The Emperor's New Groove) and Zach Braff (TV's Scrubs), who voices the title character, have made young master Little a suburban tyke who uncovers what may be an alien invasion; Garry Marshall provides the voice of Little's dad, Joan Cusack is Abby the Ugly Duckling, Amy Sedaris is Foxy Loxy, and Steve Zahn is Runt the pig. ''I'd heard Holly Hunter was going to be Chicken Little,'' says Braff. ''But they decided to make Chicken Little a boy. Someone pointed out to me that technically a chicken has to be a female. You'd be amazed how much people read into these things.''