The Chicken from Outer Space was an 11-minute cartoon created by John R. Dilworth for What A Cartoon. Released on December 31, 1995, the short eventually got nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film (losing to A Close Shave). It later served as the pilot for the Cartoon Network series Courage the Cowardly Dog.
Enjoying a nice and peaceful day in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, Courage is scared out of the house by Eustace and, shortly after, sees a UFO land in the front yard. Horrified, Courage gets his masters, but when they arrive at the scene, the space craft had gone, as well as its captain, a red eyed chicken.
Throughout the course of Courage, two sequel episodes were made. In one, the chicken returns as a headless, fried chicken, and in the other, the chickens three-headed son comes down to Earth to finish the job.
This short provides examples of the following tropes:
- 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The very first shot of the flying saucer is rendered in computer animation.
- Alien Animals: The Chicken, though its not a friendly one.
- Asshole Victim: Chicken!Eustace gets vaporized by Courage in the end. It becomes a Running Gag in the following series where the majority of his appearances has him suffering a nasty fate. Somehow though, he always manages to come back.
- Creator Cameo: That's John Dilworth's live-action photo on the wall of the farmhouse, as well as on the Drink Silly-Pop billboard.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Surprisingly little. For a standalone Domestic-Only Cartoon short, it has more in common with the show it was spun off into than most actual pilots do for their shows. The only major differences are Courage having a bigger snout, significantly more Medium Blending (all of the photos are real photographs), Eustace and Muriel being slightly less on-model, and a couple of interiors in the Bagges' house that were never seen again. It also lacks some of the show's trademark comically oversized props, and Eustace and Muriel have no spoken dialogue (as a result, we don't even learn their names until the credits roll — even then, Eustace has no name, listed instead as "Farmer"). Otherwise, the show would follow the short's aesthetic to a tee.
- Eek, a Mouse!!: How Courage makes the audience think that he doesn't live up to his name.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Eustace is only referred to as "the Farmer" in the credits. Muriel, meanwhile, keeps her name.
- Hammerspace: Courage is famous for it.
- Here We Go Again!: After the worst seems to be over, a mouse eats Eustace's ashes and gets glowing red eyes.
- Heroic Dog: Courage, of course.
- Laughing Mad: Eustace starts laughing maniacally when he turns into a chicken after eating the space chicken's eggs.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Implied—when Eustace completes his transformation into a chicken, he ends up as little more than a cackling nightmare with little semblance to his former self.
- Narrative Shapeshifting: After seeing the UFO, Courage runs inside and turns into a Flying Saucer and a robot to warn Muriel and Eustace.
- Neck Snap: How the Chicken kills the other chickens.
- No-Dialogue Episode: Except for the end of the episode where Courage speaks once, this short has no one speaking.
- Painful Transformation: Eustace, immediately after eating the eggs laid by the chicken from outer space, appears to suffer from a very bad stomachache and then goes through a long and slow process of transforming into a chicken one limb at a time.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Chicken has red eyes. As does Eustace after eating its egg. And after the mouse nibbles some of Eustaces ashes, its eyes become red as well.
- Shout-Out: The ending where Courage opens the iris and says, "This shouldn't happen to a dog" and then having the iris close on his nose with him saying "Ouch!" is a reference to the ending of the 1944 Bugs Bunny Robert Clampett cartoon Hare Ribbin'.
- Sore Loser: The Chicken, after losing his duel to Courage and is told to go home, pulls out a Ray Gun in response. It ends up frying him.
- Vocal Evolution: Compare Courage's screams and his dialogue at the end of the short to his voice in the actual show. Helps that his original voice actor, Howard Hoffman, was replaced by Marty Grabstein for the series.
- The Voiceless: The only vocalizations in the pilot are screams, laughs, grunts, and scoffs, save for when Eustace yells OOGA BOOGA BOOGA, and when Courage speaks at the end.