ANIMATION ANECDOTES
February 18, 2022 posted by Jim Korkis

The Original “Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers”

Suspended Animation #359

There was a quick buzz of mixed-reaction this week to the release of the trailer (embed below, at the bottom of this post) for the upcoming Disney+ live-action CG/hand-drawn hybrid Chip N’ Dale Rescue Rangers. So I figured today we should take a look back at where this whole idea all began…

After the success of Duck Tales (1987), Disney was seriously considering producing a syndicated television series based on the animated feature The Rescuers (1977).

However, when Jeffrey Katzenberg also re-discovered the simple delights of The Rescuers and that Disney still retained the rights to the stories, he green-lit the production of the first Disney animated film sequel The Rescuers Down Under (1990) and then some adjustments had to be made to the development of the property for television.

Supervising Story Editor Tad Stones and his team, including co-creator Alan Zaslove, took the core premise of small animals as heroes in the world of humans and came up with a program titled Metro Mice, a take-off on the title of the detective television series, Miami Vice.

The main characters would have been Kit Colby (a mouse wearing an Indiana Jones jacket and hat who was the adventurous leader of the team), Colt Chedderson (a burly Australian kangaroo rat and explosives expert), Gadget (a blonde female mouse who was an inventor), Chirp Sing (an Oriental cricket who loved baseball and martial arts), Camilla (a chameleon and the team secretary) and Eagle Eye (a near-sighted eagle who was the team’s lookout).

Stones recalled a pitch meeting with Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, “They went: ‘We love the idea of the show, but your main character doesn’t have it.’ The meeting went on a little longer and we’re saying Duck Tales is a big success, what other Disney characters can we work with? You don’t want to do Mickey or Goofy, but there’s Pluto and all that. Finally, I said, ‘There’s Chip and Dale.’

“Eisner said, ‘Great — put those guys in that show,’ and Jeffrey says ‘home run.’ That’s why Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers got done. It changed our development, because now instead of one hero you have this dynamic, which was well established and gave us lots of stories about how they interacted with other characters. “

Chip inherited Kit Colby’s Indiana Jones attire and love of adventure and Dale, who was to be more lighthearted when it came to danger, was given a Hawaiian shirt—perhaps influenced by the then-popular television detective show Magnum, P.I.

Colt Chedderson transformed into the cheese addicted Monterey Jack. Gadget was retained while the other animal characters were abandoned. Zipper the housefly inspired by Evinrude the dragonfly in the original animated film The Rescuers was added to perform similar functions such as flight and a power source.

Issue #1 of the comic book came out in 1990

On August 2, 1988, a movie-length version, Chip’n’Dale’s Rescue Rangers to the Rescue, was aired on the Disney Channel. It was structured so the film could be broken up into five episodes on the regular series, although when that did happen there were changes made so there were scenes both added and cut in the five episodes.

To the Rescue is an “origin” story of how the Rescue Rangers were first formed and got their name and some back story information on the characters, including the fact that Gadget was the daughter of one of Monty’s old friends who had died a year earlier.

On March 5, 1989, Season One of the show premiered on the Disney Channel with “Piratsy Under the Seas” as the first episode. Beginning September 1989, the series was added to The Disney Afternoon syndicated line-up.

On November 19, 1990, “They Shoot Dogs, Don’t They?” was the last original episode to have its premiere with the show going into reruns of its 65 produced episodes for the next few years. In 1993, the show was taken off The Disney Afternoon block and replaced by Bonkers, an attempt by the Disney Company to create a Roger Rabbit-like character that was fully owned by Disney.

According to the original press release from 1989:

“‘Chip ’n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers’ is a half-hour of broad comedy and adventure with large doses of mystery, featuring two of Disney’s most popular primary characters. Chip and Dale head a small, eccentric group of animal characters who monitor not only the ‘human’ world, but the animal community as well, solving mysteries wherever they may be.

“Although those cases may see small to start with, they invariably lead to crimes and mysteries of much greater proportions. The local police are either too busy for problems like these or they are out of police jurisdiction.”

From the writers’ story bible, here are the character descriptions:

“The chipmunks run the group as a team. Chip is definitely the more organized and pragmatic chipmunk with a clear sense of duty. He dresses the part of an adventurer. He’s the braver of the two, if only because he usually recognizes the danger he’s facing, while Dale is more oblivious. Dale is more of the free spirit with a sense of wackiness that’s somewhere between Curly of the Three Stooges and Harpo Marx. Dale is not stupid but very gullible. Reality seems to warp around Dale. Dale focuses on the actions of the moment and not their consequences.

“Monterey Jack is the raucous, backslapping muscle mouse of the Rescue Rangers, a gung-ho guy not fond of subtle tactics and strategies. Monterey has a touch of an Australian accent but really has an international background. His culinary weakness is cheese. Unfortunately, many times his ‘cheese tooth’ works against him.

“Somewhere on Monterey Jack’s travels he met Zipper, the definitely uncommon housefly. This little guy has the enthusiasm and energy of 10 men packed into his tiny frame and his loyalty is equaled only by Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. He also provides the power for some of Gadget’s tools and inventions. Between his frantic buzzing and pantomime, he has no trouble making his thoughts known.

“Gadget is a likeable chatterbox with the biggest intellect and warmest heart of all the Rescue Rangers. She is basically a shy person and only becomes extroverted when she’s working on or talking about one of her inventions. Her inventions are always constructed of human scaled components and are mechanical in nature.

“She doesn’t build anti-gravity machines, invisibility rays, shrinking beams, etc. She works more on the order of gliders, elevator shoes, climbing equipment, and soap box racers. Chip and Dale are crazy about Gadget and constantly compete for her attention. She doesn’t realize how cute she is, and blatant compliments make her blush. She joined because she sincerely wanted to use her talents to help people.

“Fat Cat, a felonious feline who has his claws into every scam and racket in town is the kingpin of animal criminals. He rarely partakes in violence himself but has no reservations about consigning someone to an excruciating fate at the hands of another. He constantly whines that fate is stacked against him; he’s plagued by incompetent underlings, shoddy workmanship and low grade caviar. But it’s all a cunning façade. Although Fat Cat schemes to steal objects valuable in the human world, he never deals with humans. He is strictly a criminal of the animal world.”

Actually, these are only brief excerpts. The actual character descriptions for each character run to two or more pages but I thought Cartoon Research readers would enjoy a “taste” of how these characters were perceived by those who worked on the series.

All that said, here is the trailer for the new reboot feature. What’s your verdict?

12 Comments

  • So Chip is rendered in more or less traditional animation and Dale is rendered in CGI. The blending of styles doesn’t work for me. The movie should all be one style or the other but not a mingling of both. Plus it looks like the storyline is very self-aware. I heard the word “reboot” several times. Either you’re telling a story with the fourth wall intact or you’re engaging experimentally with the audience, but this movie appears to be trying to do both at the same time. I did enjoy the original series, but I am likely to give this one a miss–unless the finished product is much different from the trailer.

    • I am totally at the other end of the spectrum re the upcoming movie.

      If it was entirely CGI, I would have low expectations of a cookie cutter CGI cousin of Alvin And The Chipmunks.
      But the idea of Chip being animated gives me the feeling that the filmmakers are really trying to please all camps.

      I thought the TV series was not far above average (enough though to warrant purchasing the blu ray).

      The backstory of the movie is a bit silly but I can deal with that if it is merely a setup.
      But for the first time in almost 20 years I have seen a trailer that makes me want to see the movie on the first day.

    • Oh, please! Chip and the other Rescue Rangers in the new movie are all CGI, but cel-shaded. (Though, cel-shaded’s not so bad) Dale gets the CGI surgery.

  • All I can say is they should’ve given the time and money for another Muppet project. Also, they could’ve sped-up the voices.

  • The various reboots of Alvin and the Chipmunks over the years all seemed designed to attract new young fans to the franchise, with nothing of interest for those of us who had grown up with the original TV series. To judge by the trailer, the Rescue Rangers reboot seems to be the exact opposite. I was never that big a fan of the show, having been in my late twenties during its original run and seldom able to watch TV in the afternoon, so I expect a lot of the jokes in the movie would go right past me. But I thought the bit in the Uncanny Valley was pretty funny.

    • I was in the target age group for the show when it aired originally and I find this new trailer repellant. I would have preferred a regular animated movie similar to The Rescuers that whatever the hell this is.

  • Great article! This was one of my favorite shows as a kid, and I think that’s why the trailer disappointed me so much. It looks like they had an idea for a separate movie, and slapped Rescue Rangers on it to sell it. Which is keeping with the origins of the show’s creation, but it seems more like “REMEMBER THIS?!?!” than an attempt to tell a Rescue Rangers story.

    That being said, it did get the entire original series on Blu-Ray, so that counts for something.

  • The Disney Afternoon happened when I was officially an adult, but I caught a lot of the early ones. Like Batman: The Animated Series, they were what I wanted but didn’t get as a kid: Comparatively lavish animation, half-hour stories that echoed the comic books I grew up with, and five days a week.

    Tale Spin was my favorite, with Duck Tales a close second. Chip & Dale was take it or leave it, in retrospect not sure why. There was one episode that made an impression. C&S discover a quasi-religious cult based on a soft drink commercial. Members would watch the commercial on VHS and vicariously share in the Pepsi Generation-like joy portrayed. All very simple and kid-friendly, but an interesting undertone on how ads work.

    One of the old Disney News magazines had an article where one of the voice actors described a recording session with Carol Channing. When the engineer said Channing’s blouse was making rustling noises, she simply removed it and continued in her bra.

    Still wish they’d have done a Great Mouse Detective series. Perhaps Sherlock Hound and Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century discouraged them.

  • A small correction:

    “Supervising Story Editor Tad Stones and his team, including co-creator Alan Zaslove, took the core premise of small animals as heroes in the world of humans and came up with a program titled Metro Mice, a take-off on the title of the detective television series, Miami Vice.”

    No, Alan Zaslove was only involved when the show went in production. It was Tad Stones, Jymn Magon, and Karl Geurs that developed Metro Mice. Alan was still working on DuckTales at the time (1986). Alan Zaslove, great producer as he was, was by no means the co-creator of the show. He was the co-producer.

    I hope this gets corrected, because otherwise it only keeps wrong information in circulation. I’ll be happy to provide proof to the author if he requests it.

  • There can be great variances in what we find appealing. Another poster commented on the recent Huckleberry Hound article saying he couldn’t see why anyone would care for the early Hanna-Barbera characters beyond nostalgia, and I feel much the same way about the Disney Afternoon Shows. I can see how these shows are “better” than most American-created TV Animation that had been made up to that point, but then peas are “better” than lollipops, and I know which one I find more enticing. For me these shows mostly had a distinct lack of personality, coupled with grating and jarring attempts at competing with “hipper” studios. I’m of an age to have watched most of these shows, but they were never among my favorites and reasons to go back to them are limited.

    There are exceptions; Duck Tales, as watered down as it was, retained enough of Barks’ appealing characterisation and sense of adventure to stand out, and the much maligned Bonkers had an appealing premise and world (at least in the retooled Lucky Piquel episodes), borrowed from Roger Rabbit or not. (I haven’t seen enough of Gargoyles to judge if I like it myself, but it’s clearly a different bag altogether.) Some shows were not particularly inspired but had their moments, like Goof Troop when it had a decent Goofy V Pete plot and the excellent animation of Disney’s Australian studios. For me, Rescue Rangers fit in neither camp, but it certainly has its fans.

  • A painful experience to watch. Very educative, too. And all you have to learn here is pain.

  • Brilliant: another sarcastic piece of modern media that claims to be funny because it’s self-aware. Just because you want to make a new Roger Rabbit, does not mean you are able. You need to have a sincere story at the bottom.

    Anyway, someone needs to kick Disney® Corporation™ in the ass and remind them how it is a great idea to un-cancel the 2011 Rescue Rangers comics. No need to keep it running forever, just have the original writer come back and brainstorm a few arcs. Just a couple.

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