Chickenhare is aptly named—he’s part hare, part chicken. As far as he’s aware, he’s the only one of his kind. When he was a baby, he was adopted by Peter, a famous rabbit adventurer who discovered the young critter alone in the deep jungle while he and his brother Lapin were searching for the legendary Hamster of Darkness—one that they never found.
That was 20 years ago. Now, Chickenhare’s father is king, Lapin is in prison for attempting to overthrow the kingdom and Chickenhare aspires to be a great adventurer just like his dad was. But in Chickenhare’s eyes, he feels that the only thing holding him back are his physical differences—namely, the fact that his legs are chicken legs and his body is that of a hare.
He decides to hide his feet from the world, using large hare-feet shoes to conceal his chicken legs. Now, he can surely be a true adventurer like his father! Only, it’s Chickenhare’s false legs that cause him to fail his once-in-a-lifetime qualifying test for joining the Royal Adventurer’s Guild—meaning that his chance to become that adventurer is over.
But Chickenhare can’t just give up on his dream, so he has to go to desperate measures to try to get them to reconsider: he’ll find the Hamster of Darkness, come back to great laudation and applause and impress everyone so much that they’ll have to let him into the guild!
Only, while searching for the artifact’s potential whereabouts, he inadvertently helps his uncle Lapin escape. What’s worse, Lapin knows where the Hamster of Darkness is, and he’s going to use its mystical powers to overthrow the kingdom! What’s worse than that, Chickenhare discovers that the kingdom’s army has fallen for a diversion and is sailing the wrong way—leaving the self-conscious Chickenhare as the only one left who can stop Lapin.
Throughout his journey, Chickenhare overcomes his self-conscious tendencies. He feels embarrassed that he’s different from everyone else. He’s got a hare’s body and a chicken’s feet, after all, which has made him the subject of mockery. Though he starts his journey wearing false prosthetics to make it appear as if his feet are that of a rabbit’s, he eventually learns to leave the elements concealing his differences behind and embrace what makes him different.
Indeed, this is the encouragement that he gets from his extremely supportive and loving adoptive father, Peter—the “things that make us different are the things that make us special” (though it does not fall on deaf ears that this idea could be used in support of immoral behaviors, but there’s little indication that this movie is trying to be an allusion of such”). Peter is shown to be a great father, supporting his son while still keeping him within realistic boundaries.
Chickenhare also encounters Meg, a skunk who serves as a guide for his adventure. She tells him that she also tried to hide her differences (namely, using a cork to prevent her spray from unleashing) so that she would be accepted by her peers. However, when her differences saved the day, even though her peers still treated her poorly, she came to appreciate herself rather than relying on the appreciation of others. She tells Chickenhare that, like her, he was “corking” himself.
Chickenhare’s servant, Abe, believes he must go on the adventure with Chickenhare because it’s his job. But Chickenhare gives Abe the option to stay or go “as a friend.” Though Abe is frequently afraid and wishes to turn around, he pushes himself forward in order to help Chickenhare on his quest.
A tribe of pigs worship a god named Santoro the Stoic (a rock idol), and they do things in his name. In an attempt to protect themselves, Meg embellishes Chickenhare by calling him “god of the land and sky.” Chickenhare mentions a place called the “Atheist’s Temple.” Lapin sends ghostly hamsters to attack the kingdom. Chickenhare references an artifact called the “holy spork.”
Abe takes off his turtle shell and is seen in his underwear. Meg and Chickenhare comment on his pale skin. A rhino is seen with pierced nipples.
Lapin implies that people were eaten by a crocodile (and because we later find the baby Chickenhare in a basket here, that’s likely the case). While exploring a temple with Peter, Lapin is nearly hit by an arrow trap, and he and Peter must later escape as the temple collapses. Lapin and his crew are seemingly killed in an avalanche.
During an adventurer qualifying test, Chickenhare falls down stairs and is hit by a large number of wooden obstacles. Chickenhare’s adventure involves avoiding quicksand, tranquilizer darts, spikes and more. Lapin fights Chickenhare and Chickenhare’s father with a sword.
Meg fights an attacker through punches and kicks, and a rat is knocked out by a wine bottle. On multiple occasions, Meg uses her skunk spray to cause attackers and pursuers to pass out.
A duck says he’s in prison for murder (though the guard tells Chickenhare that he’s actually in for tax evasion). Lapin says one of his team members once killed an animal just for snoring. A character falls to his death. A tribal group of pigs attempts to sacrifice Chickenhare and his party in a volcano to appease their god.
Chickenhare is often called a “freak.” We also hear a single instance of “screw up,” “geez” and “shut up.”
Animals drink in a bar. Wine bottles are thrown as weapons, shattering and spraying animals with wine. Abe attempts to pour out liquid from a flask for a dead person.
When Meg uses her skunk spray, we hear a distinct flatulence noise. Two animals frequently make fun of Chickenhare.
Our central protagonist wants nothing more than to be a famous adventurer like his father was—breaking into ancient temples, grabbing the golden artifacts and escaping just as massive boulders are about to squash him.
The only thing that Chickenhare believes is holding him back is the fact that he’s neither chicken nor hare. He’s both. In the succinct words of a couple childhood bullies, Chickenhare is “a freak.”
But as Chickenhare makes his way into the wilderness to find the Hamster of Darkness, he begins to discover that his differences don’t count as disabilities. Rather, they’re quite uniquely helpful to him as he and his companions dodge deadly encounters.
And Chickenhare isn’t in this alone. Though his adoptive father doesn’t quite understand Chickenhare’s self-image struggle, he provides wonderful support and unconditional love in every scene he’s in. Chickenhare’s friend Abe will ignore his own fears to be by his side, and their guide Meg can relate to Chickenhare’s story better than he can imagine, helping him to overcome his insecurities.
That’s not to say that this adventure is free from potentially concerning content. Death is a real danger in this world filled with violent animals and dangerous encounters, and the Hamster of Darkness is shrouded in sorcery.
In general, though, Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness provides a positive message that winds around its content issues—one that will open up good conversations about self-image issues for parents to initiate with their children.
Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank betrayed his roots by leaving the wheat behind to study journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics.