Mascot Hall of Fame-inductee Ted Giannoulas, the original Famous San Diego Chicken who is widely credited for heralding an era of outrageous sideline mascots, was a consultant and one of three professional chicken stuntmen on the set of “Hatching Pete,” a raucous comedy about a small town’s zeal for its high school basketball team and the emergence of a shy teen’s hidden personality as its hilarious chicken mascot.
The stunt and basketball-filled movie geared towards kids, tweens and families, premieres FRIDAY, APRIL 24 (8:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel with a simulcast on Sprint TV and MobiTV. The movie will be available Friday, April 17 on Disney Channel on Demand through select cable and telco providers. The “Hatching Pete” movie website at www.DisneyChannel.com features arcade games “Tailfeathers Bounce” and “Mascot Me,” and an interactive quiz.
Starring are Jason Dolley (“Cory in the House,” “Minutemen”), Mitchel Musso (“Hannah Montana,” “Phineas and Ferb”), Tiffany Thornton (“Sonny With A Chance”), Brian Stepanek (“Brian O’Brian,” “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”) and Josie Loren.
Giannoulas gave pointers to Dolley on playing to the crowd. “A little movement inside the suit wouldn’t translate fully to the outside world,” Giannoulas said. “I tried to emphasize that the chicken has to be moving and animated. And you have to be a chicken trying to be human, not a human trying to imitate a chicken. That’s where the humor comes from.” He gives both 17-year-old actor Jason Dolley and the movie a full beaks-up. “Jason grew by the day,” he continued. “I’d see the character come across. He grew comfortable within his second skin. He was funnier and more aware of space and how to move in the arena environment as time went by.”
Dolley said, “Ted basically showed us the ropes. The trick is letting go completely of yourself and channeling you’re inner chicken or you’re just going to look like a guy in a chicken suit out there.” Since there were four chickens on the set at any given time, Dolley remarked, “The stunt coordinator would come up to me and say, ‘So, this is what we’re going to do in this stunt.’ And I’d take my head off and he goes, ‘Oh, hang on, wrong chicken.’ Happened all the time.”
Regarding wearing the giant chicken suit, his fellow star, 17-year-old Mitchel Musso said, “I’m awful at being the chicken mascot, so the trips and falls came easily for me. But my character becomes allergic to the chicken suit, so Jason is in the suit for the most part. There aren’t many stories out there about mascots, especially not chicken mascots. I love that the chicken mascot is at the center of our story.”
Michael Healy, senior vice president programming, Disney Channel, said, “Amidst the movie’s comedy and high-flying stunts, there’s a deeper story about a teen who’s asking, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Can I be shy?’ ‘Can I be myself and have friends?’ He finds his inner chicken but hides behind it until he works out these issues. It’s an optimistic, coming of age fable about a teen finding who he is. Plus it has a giant chicken and great basketball.”
As the story goes, Pete Ivey (Jason Dolley) is a quiet 16-year-old who reluctantly agrees to substitute for his gregarious best friend Cleatus Poole (Mitchel Musso) after an allergic reaction renders Poole unable to fulfill his duties — unlike generations of his family before him — as Brewster High School’s mascot, a chicken. Poole keeps this unnerving fact a secret from his parents, Principal and pals, except the obliging Pete.
At his first game, Pete as the chicken is tentative at first; he might as well be invisible to the sparse crowd of Rooster Boosters watching their team muddle through another game. But the chicken’s chance collision with an opposing player leaves spectators in stitches and awakens a natural performer in Pete who mixes slapstick stunts and mimicry on the sidelines of the basketball court. But the team’s Coach Mackey (Brian Stepanek) is not amused and sets out to stop Poole who he thinks is the one inside the chicken suit.
Although the Roosters still can’t win a game, the chicken becomes the main attraction and crowds flock to the gym for “chicken improv” as sales of plastic beaks and yellow hats soar. But there’s a growing problem — no one knows it’s really Pete wearing the wings and Poole is taking credit for the chicken’s popular antics. He becomes the talk of the town and gets the attention of chicken-smitten head cheerleader Jamie Wynn (Tiffany Thornton). For his part, Pete must sort through his feelings, which also involve a gentle new friendship with cheerleader Angela Morrissey (Josie Loren), and his neighbor’s 8-year-old son who idolizes both teen and mascot.
Pete and Poole debate the chicken’s future. “Chick magnet” Poole wants to keep the status quo despite Coach Mackey’s ire. Pete is torn between spoiling his friend’s newfound status and his success and his discomfort in continuing the hoax.
Among the movie’s music is the high-energy pop dance song “Let It Go” performed by Mitchel Musso and Tiffany Thornton.
Filmed in Utah, the movie features members of the Utah Jazz and Ogden High School cheerleading squad, basketball players from Bingham, Jordan, Brighton and Hillcrest High Schools and the marching band from Hillcrest High School.
The script was written by Paul W. Cooper. The executive producer is Sheri Singer (“Return to Halloweentown”) and the producer is Randy Sutter (“The Circuit”). The movie was directed by Stuart Gillard.