Alvin And The Chipmunks Movie
Alvin And The Chipmunks In Theaters
In this live action "Alvin And The Chipmunks Movie," Jason Lee ("My Name Is Earl") stars as David Seville in the CG/live-action hybrid film, based on the 1950s cartoon series about chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore, who lay waste to Seville's surroundings and sing in three-part harmony.
STARRING: Jason Lee, Cameron Richardson
DIRECTOR: Tim Hill
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
RATING: PG (For crude humor)
Wild About Movies Grade: D- (Adults)
Wild About Movies Grade: A- (Under 10)
"Alvin And The Chipmunks"
Behind The Scenes
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS, a global phenomenon to generations of fans, becomes a live action/CGI motion picture event with a contemporary comic sensibility. Songwriter Dave Seville transforms singing chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore into pop sensations -- while the out-of-control trio lays waste to Dave's home, wreaks havoc on his career, and turns Dave's once-orderly life upside-down.
The film stars Jason Lee ("My Name is Earl") as Dave Seville, David Cross ("Arrested Development"), rising star Cameron Richardson, and as the voices of Alvin, Simon and Theodore, Justin Long ("Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," "Live Free or Die Hard"), Matthew Gray Gubler ("Criminal Minds," "R.V.") and actor-pop sensation Jesse McCartney. "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" helmer Tim Hill directs from a screenplay by "The Simpsons" veteran Jon Vitti and Will McRobb & Chris Viscardi ("The Tale of Despereaux"). The producers are Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., son of Alvin and the Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian, and Janice Karman.
Alvin and the Chipmunks have been wreaking havoc for Dave Seville - and delighting audiences around the world - for nearly 50 years, in various incarnations. From the moment they sprung into being, the creative brainchild of singer/songwriter Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., the 'Munks' catchy sound has been a pop culture mainstay, for both young and old.
According to producer Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., a big-studio ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS feature film has been a longtime goal. "[Producer] Janice [Karman] and I had been thinking about making a movie with the Chipmunks for over ten years, and one of the things really important to us was to make a film that could be enjoyed by the three generations of Chipmunks fans. He explains: "Whatever we do with The Chipmunks, we always try to keep it fresh. And we thought it would be fun to put the Chipmunks into a live-action world and then reinvent the look of the characters to make them believable in that environment."
"We wanted to make sure the Chipmunks retained the essence of the characters that people grew up with," adds Karman. "So you could look at Alvin and even though he's three-dimensional now in CGI, the spirit of the original creation is still there."
Under the watchful eyes of the two producers, the "inner-'Munk" of these beloved figures -Alvin's mischievous but well-intentioned nature, Simon's brainy intellect and Theodore's adorable charm - all remain intact.
Karman elaborates: "Ross and I never treated The Chipmunks as a cartoon. They had real emotions. While Alvin was brash, it was important that he was also vulnerable. Simon is the oldest and because The Chipmunks don't have parents, Simon is the adult who looks after the baby, Theodore, and tries to temper the rash Alvin."
As director Tim Hill points out, the 'Munks have undergone some important stylistic and attitudinal upgrades for their big-screen debut. "These aren't your father's Chipmunks," Hill laughs. "They have a contemporary edge and attitude, and they look and move a lot differently than previous versions of the characters. They're feisty and funny, they sing and they dance. They're pop superstars...with fur."
Moreover, the filmmakers up the emotional stakes for Alvin, Simon, Theodore and Dave. "We wanted to tell a heartwarming story about the coming together of a new family," explains Hill. "Dave, despite his doubts about himself and his new charges, comes to love Alvin, Simon and Theodore."
THREE 'MUNKS RUN AMUCK
As the story opens, we meet the three chipmunks, Alvin, Simon and Theodore, who watch as their home is chopped down by a Christmas tree company. With the boys still inside, the tree is shipped off to the lobby of the prestigious Jett Records, helmed by a slick and conniving record executive named Ian Hawk (David Cross), in downtown Los Angeles. Ian is a former college roommate of Dave Seville (Jason Lee), a down-on-his-luck musician and songwriter who has never given up hope for making a successful career out of his quirky musical sensibilities.
When Dave goes to Jett Records to pitch Ian a new song, he is rudely booted out of the offices. Taking a basket of muffins as consolation, he wanders past the Christmas tree being installed in the lobby. The Chipmunks, smelling the tasty muffins, jump in the basket unbeknownst to Dave, who unwittingly carts them back to his apartment where the Chipmunks secretly install themselves quite comfortably.
Before you can say, "Alvinnnnn!!!" the 'Munks run amuck, turning their new digs into a disaster area. The boys' home-wrecking antics include storing toaster waffles under the carpet (put aside for the winter, the 'Munks explain), and leaving some mysterious dark, round objects strewn about (Simon insists they're...raisins). Shocked at what the boys have done to his apartment, Dave is even more astounded when he discovers that not only can these rodents talk, they can sing.
Despite his misgivings about his new tenants, Dave seizes the opportunity to put together his songwriting skills with the 'Munks unique talents. Their first collaboration, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" becomes an overnight sensation, propelling the Chipmunks to superstardom. They revel in the rock star perks that follow: album launch parties, limos, flashing cameras, fans and press interviews.
At the same time, Alvin, Simon and Theodore decide to play Cupid, frantically trying to set a romantic scene for a reunion between Dave and his former girlfriend Claire (Cameron Richardson). Much to Dave's consternation and embarrassment, the boys prove themselves to be better singers than matchmakers.
But Dave's problems extend far beyond missed opportunities for romance. Ian's greed and Dave's difficulty with commitment create a rift between Dave and his lovable rodent pals. Alvin, Simon and Theodore venture out into the world once again and land themselves squarely in Ian's corrupt landscape of global contemporary pop music. As Ian pushes them beyond the breaking point, the boys begin to understand the true meaning of loyalty, family and friendship. But is it too late for them to escape Ian's clutches and find their way back to Dave?
RE-BOOTING THE 'MUNKS: THE SCREENPLAY
The producers and studio turned to screenwriter Jon Vitti to come up with the story for ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS. Bagdasarian and Karman wanted the script to be really smart and being fans of Vitti's work, waited eight months until Jon was available. Vitti, who had a lengthy stint as a writer-producer on "The Simpsons" and was one of the "all-star" writers on the blockbuster "The Simpsons Movie," relished the opportunity to help bring to life a new incarnation of the beloved characters. "I knew [writing the movie] would be a lot of fun, and that the movie's potential appeal could spread to all ages," he notes. "It's a timeless, albeit crazy premise with a lot of heart: a father figure with three talking and singing chipmunks who effectively become his kids."
Vitti took note of the reactions of those who learned he was writing the story and co-writing the script to a new, big-screen iteration of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS. "It was really fun to see how excited people would get at even the idea of a new [Chipmunks] film. The characters are fondly remembered and people love the songs."
The screenwriting team of Will McRobb & Chris Viscardi also made important contributions to the final screenplay, including a big third-act concert sequence where the Chipmunks perform on stage in front of thousands of fans, while Dave seeks to extricate them from the clutches of ruthless music producer Ian. "It's a big scene, the film's climax, and it was a lot of fun to write," notes McRobb. "But it really didn't completely fall into place until the location was set."
The location to which he is referring is Los Angeles' Orpheum Theatre, one of the city's most venerable landmarks. Everyone from a young Judy Garland to a recent crop of American Idols has performed in the renowned venue - which can now add Alvin, Simon and Theodore to its roster of luminaries.
McRobb & Viscardi took seriously the responsibility of updating ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS for a new generation of fans. "Pretty much everyone on the planet knows 'The Chipmunk Song'," says Viscardi. "The characters and their music are sacred parts of our pop culture, and we wanted to be very careful how we dealt with that."
Still, that responsibility was accompanied by a lot of Chipmunk-themed fun. "When working on the script, there were moments of feeling like we were involved with something really cool; for instance, when I was actually typing the words, Oo-ee-oo-ah-ah - and trying to figure out how to spell it," McRobb laughs.
ACTING UP: A CAST GETS 'MUNKED
The old show business adage that goes, "Never work with children or animals" took on a new meaning to the film's cast - which got to work with animals [the Chipmunks] who are children! Happily for all concerned, the film's two-legged cast got on swimmingly with their four-legged (CG) counterparts.
But the casting process wasn't an easy one. Director Tim Hill notes that the character of Dave Seville requires a rare combination of comedic skills, charisma and sympathy, "all of which Jason Lee brought to the project." Ross Bagdasarian adds, "It was important to find an actor who had the kind of appeal that when he shouted [Dave's signature exhortation] 'ALVIN!!!' you would still root for him. We were lucky to get Jason because he has that kind of charm and appeal."
In addition to his comedic talents, Lee was adept at interacting with three principals who, of course, weren't really there. "It takes more than a correct eye line to make you believe Alvin, Simon and Theodore are there with Jason; what makes it real are his actions and focus," Bagdasarian continues. "And Jason's task was complicated by a factor of three because he was acting opposite a trio - who rarely are seen standing together. He always had to keep in mind which Chipmunk was speaking, and from where."
"Jason seemed unusually comfortable acting opposite nothing," agrees Tim Hill. "And David Cross had a fantastic sense of being able to roll with one take after another."
"Having to remember where the 'Munks are hopping and in what order was the biggest challenge," Lee adds. "Alvin goes this way, Simon goes that way, Theodore stays here...wait, he's up there...and now there!" Lee laughs, gesticulating to illustrate his point.
"Acting opposite nothing is sometimes difficult because of the inherent technicalities," says David Cross. "Sometimes even just a speck of dust will get my eyes all a twitter, and I'd have to do another take."
Lee and Cross were cast by the time co-screenwriters McRobb & Viscardi joined the project - much to the delight of the scribes. "It took a lot of pressure off of us when we knew Jason Lee and David Cross would be speaking our lines," says McRobb. The screenwriting duo also notes that Cross' casting as villainous record company executive Ian brought another dimension to the character. Viscardi explains: "David doesn't look like your standard villain, and we had a lot of fun with that. In earlier script drafts, Ian was more of a stereotypically slick music executive. David brought out the character's inner dork, so his Ian is a guy trying to be something he's not, taking on the mannerisms of somebody who is cool and powerful. But inside...he's still a dork."
The character of Dave's ex- and perhaps future girlfriend, Claire, provides another dimension to the beleaguered songwriter. "Dave has a comically difficult history with women; it's another aspect of his inability to keep his life in order," says Cameron Richardson. "I think their relationship gives the story added appeal to adults. Dave has to learn how to grow up, and his dealings with Claire are part of that process."
Three of today's hottest young actors - "Dodgeball's" Justin Long, "Criminal Minds'" Matthew Gray Gubler, and pop sensation/actor Jesse McCartney - joined the project in post-production to voice, respectively, Alvin, Simon and Theodore. Producers Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and Janice Karman were delighted with the work of all three performers - no small thing given that Bagdasarian's father, Ross, Sr., voiced all three roles before his untimely passing, with Bagdasarian and Karman performing the voices the past thirty years. "Justin, Matthew and Jesse were all funny and smart, while conveying the critical heart of the characters," says an appreciative Bagdasarian.
ANIMATING THE 'MUNKS
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS sees the boys completely re-imagined for the digital age. A successful fusion of the real world and state-of-the-art digital animation was necessary to make the Chipmunks convincing in a live-action movie. Although this new look definitely has more of an edge than the cartoon Chipmunks we've known and loved for over 45 years, they still retain their essential "'Munk-ness." "The challenge was to make them believable in a live action environment, while still being recognizable as the Chipmunks we know and love," says producer Janice Karman.
The new look comes many years after Alvin, Simon and Theodore made their public debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show," as puppets performing with Bagdasarian Sr.'s Dave Seville. In the beginning, the Chipmunks looked, well, very much like chipmunks ... not photo-realistic, but based more on the animal than on a plushy derivative.
Their animated series "The Alvin Show" debuted on television in the fall of 1961 and with it, a new look for Alvin, Simon and Theodore. The Chipmunks' sharp lines and feral look was replaced by a friendlier, colorfully vibrant trio. Although Karman herself supervised another redesign for the second cartoon series launched in 1983, it has remained essentially the look of the Chipmunks...until now.
The Chipmunks' digital makeover was a long, complicated process that stretched well into production and even post-production. Working closely with Bagdasarian and Karman, some of the industry's top character designers contributed to the 'Munks' new look, including H. B. "Buck" Lewis, whose impressive resume includes "Ratatouille" and "Ice Age"; and Chris Consani, who had worked on "Night at the Museum" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe."
As the characters were being finalized, animation supervisor Chris Bailey and his team at visual effects house Rhythm & Hues Studios - whose preeminence in character animation is evident in "Night at the Museum," "Happy Feet," and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" - began to work their magic in animating and virtually creating the performances of Alvin, Simon and Theodore. Taking classic characters beloved by generations of fans around the world and changing their look altogether while retaining a sense of familiarity posed quite a challenge, but one for which Bailey was up to the task. Bailey has worked in the digital realm for several years lending his talents to films such as "X2," "Garfield" and "Fat Albert."
The caretakers of the ALVIN phenomenon - Bagdasarian and Karman - were impressed with the animators' work. "The Chipmunks are only as smart and interesting as the animators move them to be," Bagdasarian points out. "The animation team really makes you feel for the Chipmunks; they make them relatable. Alvin couldn't be just Mr. Know It All and a daredevil; he had to have vulnerability. Yes, Theodore is as sweet and food-crazy as ever, but the animators also gave him a naive quality that is endearing. Simon is as smart as can be, but he also has a great sense of humor and is able to stand up to Alvin when required to do so. Chris Bailey and Rhythm & Hues provided these critical character dimensions."
But before the animation began, the animators at Rhythm and Hues video taped Karman and Bagdasarian talking about The Chipmunks, detailing the "boys'" personal idiosyncrasies and how they would react to a given situation. "Alvin and Simon might fight, Alvin and Theodore might fight, but Simon and Theodore would never fight," says Karman.
To create the Chipmunk performances, Bailey worked closely with director Tim Hill, the actors, and key department heads. Early in pre-production, Bailey and Hill storyboarded the script and effects shots, always looking for more entertaining actions for the characters in a given scene.
During principal photography, scenes with the Chipmunks were rehearsed with stuffed animals - the cast and crew called them "stuffies" - standing in for the CG 'Munks. New staging and comedic moments for the diminutive trio continued to be developed.
In post-production, Bailey oversaw the work of the animators at Rhythm & Hues responsible for the individual Chipmunk performances. "I was Alvin, Simon and Theodore rolled into one," says Bailey. "My job was to make certain that everyone understood the characters and maintained a consistency of performances."
Bailey mixed important character delineations with the high-voltage Chipmunks-run-amuck action. "I was always looking for things that the Chipmunks could interact with," he explains. "For example, when they jump from one spot to another, can they knock over a glass of water, or push a book over to the side. Do they care when they jump past a plant? I surmised that Alvin would probably jump through the plant because he knows it's not going to hurt him. Simon would be more thoughtful; he wouldn't want to damage anything belonging to Dave, so he'd walk around the plant. Theo would bump his head on the plant."
Bailey points to a sequence where the Chipmunks perform a new version of their classic hit "Witch Doctor" before their legions of fans, then enjoy a big backstage party, as being particularly satisfying. "They're stars in this scene," he enthuses. "It's big, opulent, and wonderfully designed and choreographed. And it's a great, funny song.
"Once the Chipmunks animation was added to the scene, everyone - the studio, director, producers - thought the scene should have gone on longer. That was a huge compliment to the animation team."
Rhythm & Hues animation supervisor Lyndon Barrois directed the performances of the Chipmunks through seventy-three Los Angeles-based animators and another ten in India. For Barrois, the principal challenge was one of scale. "Alvin, Simon and Theodore are small and have to interact with humans while keeping their chipmunk characteristics," he says. "We wanted audiences to believe these are talking/singing/dancing chipmunks - but they're still chipmunks!"
To obtain background on the Chipmunk phenomenon, the animation staff met with Bagdasarian and Karman, watched episodes of the original "Alvin and the Chipmunks" television series, and filmed real chipmunks for movement and anatomical references. "We really wanted to understand how chipmunks move," says Barrois. "We examined their dart-y, furtive actions, how they stuff their mouths, and how they transition from biped to quadruped, then back to biped."
Barrois notes that this research was an important tool in rendering the digital Chipmunks. "I think the boys are most appealing when they're being their natural chipmunks selves, getting up on their hind legs, and stretching back to look at something. We really tried to resist the temptation to make them too anthropomorphic."
Another key figure at Rhythm & Hues was CG supervisor Todd Shifflet - the "How-Do-We-Do-It?" filmmaker who determined lighting schemes and ways to best integrate the Chipmunks into the set and with the human actors. It was Shifflet and his team who, among other things, made sure the Chipmunks' fur was combed, their hair moved correctly, and their eyes sparkled.
'MUNK MANIA: ALVIN, SIMON AND THEODORE SING ...AND BUST A MOVE!
All singing! All dancing! All Alvin! In ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS, Alvin, Simon and Theodore have a brand new sound that incorporates their signature music with modern takes on rock, pop, reggae and hip hop. Included in the film's soundtrack, released by Razor & Tie, are renditions of classics such as "Funkytown," "Witch Doctor" and "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)." Stand out new songs include "Get Munk'd," "Follow Me Now," as well as a cover of the Top 40 hit "Bad Day."
Overseeing it all is the film's executive music producer, Ali Dee Theodore. Theodore's ability to deliver accessible, fun pop music has long been recognized by industry watchers, and he more than rose to the task of creating a new incarnation of the band known as ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS.
Theodore's goal was to make the boys a legitimate band - to create music that could be played today on MTV, and that would appeal to kids, teens and adults. "I wanted every song to be a hit single, and treated each track as such," he explains. "Here again, the Chipmunks-'run-amuck' theme is front and center. Their antics fit right in with their standing as emerging pop superstars," says Theodore. "Private jets, trashing hotel rooms...it's all part of that lifestyle.
"In fact, one of the tracks, 'Ain't No Party' is about ...how there 'ain't no party' like a Chipmunk party. It's heavily rooted in hip-hop, and it's all about being on the road."
For Ali Dee Theodore, one of the highlights of producing a new Chipmunks sound was the completion of the soundtrack's final mix. "We cranked the mix in the studio, and everyone's heads started bopping up and down, and they'd sing the choruses. You got three little furry guys singing these songs about love, about clubbing, and about hanging out with their boys - and it all worked. Every song has a different highlight, but each one provoked the same reaction: 'Wow, this is a hot record!' Everyone was surprised to experience the Chipmunks this way; their beat was banging."
The soundtrack is complemented by composer Christopher Lennertz's music, which underscores the film's comedy, as well as the evolving relationship between Dave and the Chipmunks.
Dance is another key element of the Chipmunks' on-stage electricity. Choreographer Rosero McCoy mapped out show-stopping steps for Alvin, Simon and Theodore. Like the songs, the dancing mixes contemporary with old-school moves. "I wanted the steps to hold up a year from now, and beyond," says McCoy.
Some of the more modern moves are based on snap dance, a subcategory of hip-hop dance that started in Atlanta; the Los Angeles-based Krumping, a new form of dance characterized by free, expressive and highly energetic moves (a perfect match for the 'Munks); and a street dance that originated in Oakland. But in the end, the moves belonged to the 'Munks, who in the film give their moves names like "The Paw Up" and "The Chip Hop."
The animators' mandate was to sell the excitement and rhythm of the Chipmunk dancing. But before the Rhythm & Hues wizards went to work on the 'Munk moves, McCoy went through the steps with human stand-ins who took on the characteristics of Alvin, Simon and Theodore. This template helped the animators understand a given dance's form and moves, but translating the human dancing into a chipmunk-sized body, was a formidable challenge. Says animation supervisor Chris Bailey: "The animators not only had to translate the weight and energy of a grown man into a little chipmunk body, but push the Chipmunks' expressions and imbue the characters with individual, signature moves - creating a new energy level.
"Alvin: he's really proud; this is his moment [on-stage]. He believes he was destined to be a star. Theo - his attitude is more, 'Gosh, wow! I can't believe I'm here. And, wow, people love me!' And Simon, the 'thinker' of the trio, we're surprised to see him actually get down with the best of them."
According to Rhythm & Hues' Lyndon Barrois, the animators themselves really got into the spirit of things... by bustin' a few 'munk moves of their own. "The guys would feel the music and start dancing while they were animating. They'd bounce off each other; the rhythm just started to get into everyone."
The high-tech dancing is complemented by some nostalgic and emotionally-tinged set decoration - personal touches that Bagdasarian enlisted production designer Richard Holland to sprinkle throughout the set. For instance, the piano on which Jason Lee's Dave Seville composes "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" is the same piano on which Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. composed the perennial hit. Even the address of the movie house is significant: 1958, the year the Chipmunks were born.
"I love having this stuff in the movie," Bagdasarian, Jr. proclaims. "It brings a kind of authenticity to the film that it wouldn't otherwise have."
Ultimately, though, what makes ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS work is the story. "I remember telling [producer] Janice [Karman] that there was never an episode of [the '60s series] 'The Alvin Show,' that dealt with how the Chipmunks came to live with Dave Seville. That became one of the first episodes Janice and I wrote for the 1983 network series debut, and we're delighted that an origin story became the genesis of this movie," Bagdasarian says.
"And it's also relationship story," Karman adds. "You have to have characters that people care about and, if we do our job, that the audience is pulling for to get together by the end despite the challenges they face."
"This movie is an exciting addition to all of the projects we've done in the past with the Chipmunks," Bagdasarian, concludes. "It's a dream come true, a real testimony to what my dad created almost 50 years ago."
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: BAND BIOGRAPHY
Pop icons Alvin and the Chipmunks is nothing less than a multi-generational, multi-media phenomenon. Discovered by songwriter/manager Dave Seville, who caught the boys' act in a now-forgotten small-town venue, the Grammy winning trio is beloved around the world for its signature hits "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" and "Witch Doctor," as well as for Emmy(R) nominated television series and top rated prime time specials.
Never content to rest on their laurels, the 'Munks set about conquering the silver screen - and to bring their fans an album that combines classic sounds with cutting-edge musicianship. These hotly anticipated projects are now a reality: ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS, from Twentieth Century Fox, is headed to movie theaters everywhere on December 14. And on November 20, Razor & Tie Entertainment releases the original motion picture soundtrack, featuring The Chipmunk's signature sound and modern takes on rock, pop, reggae and hip hop.
What's next for Alvin, Simon and Theodore? The boys aren't yet saying - but their new album and film secure their standing as pop icons with a glorious past...and a future without limits.
ALVIN - A Biography
Band frontman. Daredevil. Videogamer extraordinaire. Alvin is all that... and so much more. (Just ask him.) The letter "A" emblazoned on his signature garb - a red sweater made by manager/songwriter Dave Seville... from a sock - sets this artist apart from his siblings/band mates. The superstar 'Munk is impulsive, charming, musical, and full of animal magnetism. What others might characterize as half-baked schemes, Alvin prefers to see as "challenging the ordinary."
Height: 9-9 1/2"
Eye color: golden
SIMON - A Biography
Simon's dry sense of humor, added to his prodigious musical talents, never fails to delight the band's legions of fans. His razor-sharp mind complements Alvin's "shoot-from-the-hip" antics. While Alvin sports the band's only monogrammed sweater, Simon's signature accessory -a pair of spectacles "borrowed" from a wind-up toy - gives him genuine "specs appeal," which has inspired far-sighted fans around the globe to proudly sport their 'specs.
Height: 10-10 1/2"
Eye color: Blue
Fur: Dark Brown
THEODORE - A Biography
Known to his fans as "The Sweet One," Theodore is also helpful, lovable, sensitive, gullible, trusting and naive. (In short, he's everything Alvin's not.) He has a big heart and an even larger appetite, and has been known to stuff an entire box of candy into his adorably puffy cheeks. The youngest of the Chipmunks, Theodore often intercedes when Simon and Alvin disagree (which is often).
Eye color: Green
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CHIPMUNKS
In 1958, Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. was a down-on-his-luck musician/songwriter with a family to feed. He was signed with Liberty Records, a flailing label desperate for a hit. In the spirit of a true artist, Bagdasarian, Sr. was a risk taker. He cleaned out the family's savings account and bought a state-of-the-art tape recorder, then he sat down and tried to figure out what he would do with it. Looking around his desk, he saw a copy of a book called Duel with the Witch Doctor. That was his inspiration for the number one hit song "Witch Doctor," an instant smash that everyone knows by its nonsensical refrain: "OO EE OO AH AH ting tang wal-la wal-la bing bang."
Bagdasarian employed a simple technique for the voice of the Witch Doctor. He slowed the tape recording speed down and recorded the lyrics in a meandering, low voice, then played it back at regular speed. This technique would come to define the unique voices of Alvin, Simon and Theodore.
As "Witch Doctor" surpassed the million-selling copy demarcation, Liberty Records found themselves flush with cash. But the money wasn't enough to save the label and Liberty soon needed another hit ... so they called on Bagdasarian.
Tapping back into his surroundings for inspiration, Bagdasarian found himself listening to the insistent refrain of his four-year-old son begging to know when it would be Christmas -- this was in the height of summer 1958 -- and he penned the perennial Christmas favorite, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" ... but he didn't title it that because the Chipmunks didn't exist yet.
Bagdasarian loved the voice he created for the Witch Doctor, but he wanted to take it somewhere new, imbue it with personality, he just didn't know in what way. One day, as he drove through Yosemite National Park, a chipmunk ran in front of his car, stopped in the road, rose up on its haunches and seemed to challenge Bagdasarian to pass him. The rest is history ... that little chipmunk was Alvin.
Bagdasarian created two sidekicks for the mischievous Alvin: Simon, the intellectual and practical one; Theodore, the cuddly and malleable one. Together they were Alvin and the Chipmunks, deriving their names from three of the executives at Liberty: Al Bennett, Si Waronker and Theodore Keep. It was at that time that Bagdasrian took on the stage name of David Seville.
Although it was a bit of a struggle to get "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" radio air play in the beginning, Liberty found a small station in Minneapolis willing to play it before the Christmas season officially began. The switchboards lit up, and word of mouth got the song rotation on more and more stations until it became the fastest-selling number one hit single up to that time, over four million copies in seven weeks (that milestone was eventually surpassed by The Beatles with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in 1964), and would go on to win three Grammy Awards and be nominated for a fourth.
The Chipmunks made their network television debut - as puppets performing with "Dave Seville" (Bagdasarian) - on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Again, they were an immediate success. People were clamoring for more of the 'Munks, and a look was designed that was very different than what we have come to associate with the Chipmunks. In the beginning, the Chipmunks looked, well, very much like chipmunks ... not quite photo-realistic, but based more on the animal than on a plushy derivative. A cottage industry ensued with all kinds of 'Munk toys and memorabilia, and of course, records.
The Chipmunks were huge. People couldn't get enough of them. After the 1960 release of the single "Alvin for President," Bagdasarian received a letter of support from then senator John F. Kennedy. There seemed to be no limit to their popularity. In three short years, the Chipmunks had sold sixteen million records, won several Grammys among numerous nominations, and were riding the crest of an unprecedented merchandising campaign. It was time to bring them to life in a dynamic, visual medium.
The Alvin Show debuted on television in the fall of 1961 and with it, a new look for Alvin, Simon and Theodore -- and for that matter, Bagdasarian since the character of Dave Seville was now born into the world of animation.
MUNKOGRAPHY: A CHIPMUNK TIMELINE - HIGHLIGHTS
1958 - "Witch Doctor" released
"The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" released
1959 - "The Chipmunk Song" is nominated for 4 Grammys and wins 3 of them
Chipmunks release their first album Let's All Sing with the Chipmunks
Chipmunks first appear as puppets on The Ed Sullivan Show
Chipmunk merchandise licensing campaign launched
1960 - "Alvin's Harmonica" wins a Grammy(R)
"Alvin for President" released; JFK writes to Bagdasarian, Sr.
1961 - "The Alvin Show" debuts in prime time on CBS
"Let's Sing with the Chipmunks" wins Grammy
"Alvin for President" nominated for two Grammys
1962 - The Alvin Show album nominated for a Grammy
1963 - The Chipmunk Songbook nominated for two Grammys
1964 - The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles' is released and goes multi-Platinum.
1966 - "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is nominated for a Grammy
1969 - "The Chipmunks Go to the Movies" is released
1972 - Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. dies of a heart attack
1978 - Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. & Janice Karman plot the rebirth of the Chipmunks
1980 - "Chipmunk Punk" is released goes Platinum and wins NARM's Best Selling Children's Album
1981 - "A Chipmunk Christmas" animated special airs on NBC. The companion soundtrack album goes Platinum.
"Urban Chipmunk" is released goes Platinum and wins NARM's Best Selling Children's Album
1982 - "Chipmunk Rock" and "Chipmunks Go Hollywood" is released
1983 - "Alvin and the Chipmunks" animated television show debuts on NBC
The Chipettes are introduced
1984 - "Songs from Our TV Shows" is released
1985 - "Alvin and the Chipmunks" is nominated for an Emmy
1987 - "The Chipmunk Adventure" animated theatrical feature is released
"Alvin and the Chipmunks" is nominated for a second Emmy
"Alvin and the Chipmunks" is nominated for a Young Artist Award
1988 - "Alvin and the Chipmunks" is nominated for a third Emmy
"The Chipmunk Adventure" is nominated for a Young Artist Award
1990 - "Rockin' with the Chipmunks" special for NBC features Will Smith.
1992 - "Chipmunks In Low Places" is released and goes Platinum. It features Alan Jackson, Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette, Aaron Tippin and Billy Ray Cyrus.
1994 - "A Very Merry Chipmunk" is released. It features Celine Dion, Alan Jackson, Kenny G, Gene Autry and Patty Loveless.
1995 - "When You Wish Upon A Chipmunk" is released
1996 - "Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes" is released
1998 - "The A-Files: Alien Songs" is released
1999 - "Greatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years" is released
"Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein" video is released
2000 - "Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein" wins Golden Reel Award
"Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman" video is released
2007 - ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS live-action film w/ redesigned CGI Chipmunks
2008 - 50th Anniversary of the Chipmunks