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.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?