Interrupting Chicken, the new Apple TV+ children’s show about a family of chickens who get lost in the power of books and storytelling, is a winning combination of beautiful animation, good voice acting, and charming and warm-hearted stories.
Based on the Caldecott Medal-winning book series of the same name, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein, it’s another solid entry in Apple’s growing catalog of kids shows.
Interrupting Chicken review
Season 1: Papa Chicken (voiced by Sterling K. Brown) finds his daughter Piper (Juliet Donenfeld) and son Benjamin (Maximus Tran) fighting, and decides to leaven the tension by reading them a story. He chooses The Three Little Pigs.
A few minutes in, Piper inserts herself into the narrative, curious and agitated by the decisions that the story’s characters make. What if they did things differently? What if, instead of loving to blow down houses, the Big Bad Wolf loved pizza? Or playing the tuba? Or ballet dancing? What would that story look like?
Papa explains to her that what she’s doing is being an author, and so together they learn about the conventions of storytelling. In each episode, Papa reads the kids a different story, ranging from Little Red Riding Hood to Humpty Dumpty. Each time, Piper learns a little more about character and about herself as well, as do her friends at school and her family.
Another solid kids show on Apple TV+
Maybe it was a software glitch or something, but for the last several months (since El Deafo, if I’m not mistaken), none of the Apple TV+ kid shows have been uploaded to the press site. Screeners for last week’s two-show drop appeared after the premiere date and, folks, to quote Ambulance, we’re a locomotive, we don’t stop! If you want your show reviewed you gotta give it to your reviewers in time for them to sit with it, understand its aims, and write reviews as thoughtful as the one you’re currently reading. Right now. As you read this. Kinda funny, no?
Now, I get not needing to screen children’s shows for the press. It’s not like kids are gonna decide what to watch based on reviews, after all. But I do know that the practice can help parents, who do need to vet the entertainment they give to their children. Now to be clear I have zero clue if parents read my reviews, but hey, my sister’s got kids, so I never take for granted that writing about these things is a lost cause. Someone has to know if this is safe to show their kids and why…
All this to say, it was a nice surprise to get the screeners for Interrupting Chicken prior to its release today, because the show is very charming. And personally, occasionally seeing something made with care for the next generation of viewers can be a heartening experience.
This show, created by Sesame Street writer Ron Holsey, is very good children’s entertainment. It’s energetic and well-paced (not so slow a kid would get bored, but not so fast it feeds the dissolution of said kid’s attention span), cute and funny in equal measure.
The vocal performances are all great, and fit in with the show’s scheme of bright colors and adorable characters. There’s just enough of a spark of anarchy to keep things from ever settling into being too well-behaved. We see crabs playing accordions, cows playing basketball — left-field elements that will get kids laughing. It’s creative and it’s funnily designed.
The animation on Interrupting Chicken is a frequently marvelous thing. The framing device involving Piper and her friends and family has a deeper-set, more detailed look, while the stories-within-the-story are a little more minimalist, but still very appealingly drawn. Some stuff in here reminded me of the best of Disney movies from an artistic perspective.
I also love that the show is about a young kid learning the perimeters of storytelling. It encourages children to want to learn about writing and narrative, and also tries to explain why some stories have hung around as long as they have. These are cool lessons to impart to kids.
Still, it suffers from a couple of minor drawbacks. Like Helpsters, another Apple TV+ show Holsey worked on, Interrupting Chicken only contains one song — and you hear it twice an episode. It’s cute once, maybe twice, but it gets a little monotonous when binging (as all streaming shows for kids are meant to viewed).
Also, there’s this weird detail: The animal children in this show’s universe go to Montessori school? I’m not sure what that’s about, but it feels like someone high up was trying to make a point. Can’t have little farm animals going to public school, I guess — those things are underfunded and nightmarish.
Anyway, those quibbles are slight enough to be overlooked. Mostly Interrupting Chicken is suitably enchanting and will appeal to small kids of every background.
Watch Spirited on Apple TV+
Interrupting Chicken drops on Friday.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.