Six decades is a long time in the life of a chipmunk. Alvin and his brothers started life as disembodied voices on a novelty record in 1958, and first appeared in animated form in the 1961 primetime CBS series The Alvin Show. Since then, the Ross Bagdasarian Sr. creations have been reincarnated in series, movies, games, and more, radically changing in look — but never losing their squeaky sound.
Their shifting appearances fascinate Al-Tariq Shakur Harris (aka ToonrificTariq), an animator and Youtuber who’s created a 28-minute video essay on the subject. The video is nominally about the franchise’s character design, but in a discursive commentary he touches on everything from color palettes to sound mixing in the show(s). Watch it below:
ToonrificTariq focuses on The Alvin Show and the 1980s revival Alvin and the Chipmunks, contrasting the two series’ ways of characterizing their rodent heroes. He notes the limited animation in the shows and explores how this relates to design.