The problem-solving chick siblings from Doreen Cronin’s early chapter book series, The Chicken Squad, will make their television debut on May 14, when a CG animated series of the same title premiers on Disney Junior and DisneyNOW. The Chicken Squad will feature 29 episodes, each comprised of two 11-minute stories. The series’ recurring theme song, as well as other original songs spanning an array of musical styles, are featured on a digital soundtrack, Disney Junior Music: The Chicken Squad, which will be released simultaneously by Walt Disney Records.
These spunky chicks are no strangers to the spotlight. They initially appeared in Cronin’s The Trouble with Chickens, the first of her J.J. Tully Mysteries, which HarperCollins’s Balzer + Bray imprint published in 2011. The author gave the chickens their own series in 2014 with Atheneum’s The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure, in which the heroes, aided by retired search-and-rescue dog-turned-detective J.J. Tully, gear up to battle what they mistakenly assume is a UFO (which looks uncannily like a backyard grill).
Kevin Cornell illustrated the launch title, as well as the series’ next installment, The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken: The Second Misadventure. Four additional Chicken Squad titles followed, all illustrated by Stephen Gilpin, and Atheneum issued a boxed set of the six-book series, The Complete Chicken Squad Misadventures, in 2019. The series, which has a total of 500,000 copies in print, extends into a new format this fall with the release of The Chicken House, a Level Two Ready-to-Read title from Simon Spotlight, written by Cronin and illustrated by Gilpin.
Bringing the Chicks to the Small Screen
Helming the crew of The Chicken Squad TV series, which is produced by Wild Canary in association with Disney Junior, are developer and executive producer Tom Rogers, co-producer and story editor Rachel Ruderman, art director Tony Trujillo, and supervising directors Elliot M. Bour and Scott Bern.
The voices of the chicken characters are provided by Ramone Hamilton, Gabriella Graves, and Maxwell Simkins, while Yvette Nicole Brown voices their canine mentor, Captain Tully. The series’ recurring guest voice cast includes actors Sean Giambrone, Tony Hale, Jane Lynch, Zack Pearlman, Melissa Rauch, Melissa Villaseñor, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
Rogers, who won an Emmy for Elena of Avalor, recalled that he connected immediately with Cronin’s plucky pullets when he read her book series. “We are always looking to adapt stories that have the key ingredients of aspirational storytelling, humor, tons of heart, a good message, and a little bit of magic,” he said. “The Chicken Squad hits the center of the bullseye for Disney.”
The producer praised Cronin’s knack for creating animal protagonists with layered personalities. “I like that the chicks are kooky and so much fun, but they use their brains to do good in their community and to make the world better,” he said. “This series drew me right back to what I loved reading as a child, like The Three Investigators books, and plays on the kid fantasy of being the smart ones who can solve mysteries that adults cannot. I am hopeful that we are doing Doreen’s series justice, and that through the TV series kids who are not familiar with the books will go back and discover them.”
Rogers noted that he had numerous conversations with Cronin (whose own family members inspired the Chicken Squad’s characters) when Disney Junior began developing the television series. “When you take someone’s baby and turn it into something else, it’s very important to be careful and respectful,” Rogers explained. “And because the chicks are modeled after Doreen and her siblings, and J.J. Tully is based on her father, we wanted to make sure that the show, at its core, captured how much they all love each other.”
Though Cronin acknowledged that turning her beloved characters over to Rogers and his crew was initially “a little daunting,” any concerns soon dissipated. “The TV adaptation process was so new to me, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I was invited in at every step of the way,” she said. “From early development to production, my opinion was solicited and welcomed. I always felt very connected to the project and knew that The Chicken Squad was in good hands.”
Still, when the folks at Disney Junior sent Cronin the inaugural episodes to view, she was a bit anxious about pressing the play button. “Honestly, at first I could barely sit still!” she admitted. “Even though I had a strong sense of what the show was going to look like, it was so surreal to see these characters interact in a way I hadn’t seen—and to hear their voices. It was a true gift to see how Tom and the entire creative team turned my words into stories with so many moving parts—and so much humor and heart. The chicks are no longer constrained by what I created. They have left the roost and are out in the world—and it’s a great feeling to have been a part of that.”