Disney’s long-gestating hybrid project Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers finally has a trailer.
The project was first announced back in 2014, back when the hybrid Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise had raked in over $1 billion worldwide theatrical gross, and Disney must’ve realized they were sitting on their own chipmunk goldmine.
In this reincarnation of the late-Eighties tv series of the same name, the main characters have been transplanted to a modern-day live-action Los Angeles that exists as a multiverse of sorts in which cartoons from different eras and humans exist side-by-side.
If you’ve bought into that set-up, then here’s the premise: Decades after the cancellation of the tv series, Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) has succumbed to a life of suburban domesticity as an insurance salesman, while Dale (voiced by Andy Samberg) has had cgi surgery and works the nostalgia convention circuit, desperate to relive his glory days. When a former cast mate mysteriously disappears, the duo work to repair their broken friendship and take on their Rescue Rangers detective personas once again to save their friend’s life.
The impish conceit of ‘cgi surgery’ allows one chipmunk, Dale, to appear as a cg character while Chip retains his familiar ‘drawn’ aesthetic. However, the idea must have worked better on the written page than what appears in the trailer. The combined shots of the chipmunks in this trailer are both distracting and unappealing.
Some of this clunkiness stems from the fact that both Chip and Dale appear to be animated in cg, however Chip was subsequently cel shaded to appear hand-drawn. The result is unconvincing, and the poses and expressions of the 2d version are bereft of life. Then, there are shots where 2d Chip is wearing cg clothing, which further confuses the boundaries of what is possible in this world. But don’t forget the cameos of other animated characters like My Little Pony, Scrooge McDuck, and Roger Rabbit, which are not cel-shaded cg, but simply animated in 2d (albeit on what looks like a very tight budget). Roger Rabbit this ain’t.
The cg animation in the film was done at vfx/cg animation house MPC. Here’s a studio that can handle just about anything – The Lion King, The Jungle Book, Justice League, Blade Runner 2049, Dumbo, you name it – so it’s a headscratcher that they’d miss the mark so wildly on something relatively straightforward like Rescue Rangers, which doesn’t seem to be stretching any technical pipelines.
MPC worked not so long ago on another notoriously unaesthetic cg film, Cats, which is actually parodied in the Rescue Rangers trailer. The problem with that earlier film was a director who had zero knowledge of the animation production process. One can’t help but wonder if that isn’t the case here too. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is directed by Akiva Schaffer of The Lonely Island comedy troupe, and it’s his first time handling animation.
Disney is wisely releasing this straight to streaming – Disney+ launch is May 20 – so thankfully no one will have to pay to find out whether the actual film is as clumsily constructed as the trailer suggests.
In addition to Mulaney and Samberg, Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers stars the following: KiKi Layne, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Flula Borg, Dennis Haysbert, Keegan-Michael Key, Tress MacNeille, Tim Robinson, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons, and Chris Parnell.
The film is written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and is produced by Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman, with Alexander Young and Tom Peitzman serving as executive producers.