While in L.A., I loved interviewing Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and Janice Karman, producers for the upcoming film, Alvin And The Chipmunks : Chipwrecked. Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. created the chipmunks in the 50’s. I love how he took a risk and created something that was so different. It really paid off for him as The Chipmunks have sold nearly 50 million records, garnered six Grammy’s, sixteen Gold and Platinum albums, and watched merchandising sales exceed one billion dollars! During the interview, I was most struck with the Bagdasarian’s desire to create films that have a good message and display good morals. In a day, where there is much negative out there, it’s certainly refreshing to hear.
As you keep creating these series for Alvin and the Chipmunks, do you ever worry that you’re going to take away from the vision that your father created? Sometimes everybody says, for a particular movie, go out while it’s big. And each Chipmunks movie is just getting bigger and better and just more creative, I believe.
(Janice Karman) I think with Ross’s dad [Ross Bagadasarian], when I heard either Alvin for President or the Chipmunk Song, you had this little being that was really pushing the envelope, but you really liked him and you liked Dave. And so, the essence of that is still the same. We struggle always to make sure that Alvin [voiced by Justin Long] doesn’t cross over that line of being bratty. And sometimes it slips in a little, but it’s important that he never is aware of the consequences. He goes into something thinking that everything’s going to be fine, and then later goes, “Oops. That wasn’t a good idea.” So, that’s the essence of what his father did with Alvin and Dave.
(Ross Bagdasarian) Yes, it was important to my dad that the chipmunks not be mean spirited, because he was making the Alvin shows in 1961 at a time when, as he called it, there was a lot of hurt animation.
For us, it’s really important that, while Alvin maybe misdirected at times, he can’t be mean spirited and he can’t become bratty, because all of a sudden there is then not a character that you like. You don’t like him and you don’t care what happens to him. So, we never want to get to that point.
What inspired you to create the Chipettes? (question to Janice Karman)
When we were doing music, I wanted to cover more girl songs.
And for me, just to be able to get into that girl world and have characters that had personality but weren’t mean girls. I’m not an advocate of that, well, none of us are.
Brittany [voice by Christina Applegate] walks that line, but she’s kind. And that’s the difference. She can be superficial. And we haven’t really had time to explore the personalities of Jeanette and Eleanor [voiced by Anna Faris and Amy Poehler]. But, Jeanette couldn’t care less what she wears, which is always an embarrassment to Brittany. And Jeanette is just kind and sweet and good. And Brittany, at the end of the day, which is important just like it is with Alvin, is sweet. She’s not mean. She’s not vindictive. She’s not catty.
I was telling my girls when we left, the Chipettes and the Chipmunks, they’re not mean spirited. But, Ian [David Cross] had a lot of fat jokes. It really bugged me that that was in the movie. But, how much of it did you really think about when you were putting this together?
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(Ross Bagdasarian) Well, you know what? We do think about it, and there are some words that we don’t want him to say. But, again, remember he’s the villain in the piece.
The word exists. And if anyone is going to say it, it’s our villain. And it’s inappropriate. It’s not right for him to do it. And again, don’t forget he’s with Dave and one of the things that’s important is we want to show the difference between the way Dave thinks of these characters and the way Ian thinks of these characters. If we don’t show Ian being inappropriate and wrong then we have nowhere to go with him.
(Janice Karman) But, it’s interesting that you say that, because I have a group of people all over the country that I call and I check. “Is this offensive?” “Would you find that hurtful?” It’s the only thing you can go by. I’m sorry if it was.
A short synopsis:
The vacationing Chipmunks and Chipettes are turning a luxury cruise liner into their personal playground, until they become ‘chipwrecked’ on a remote island. As the ‘Munks and Chipettes scheme to find their way home, they accidentally discover their new turf is not as deserted as it seems. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is in theaters nationwide December 16th.
This film is rated G and fun for the whole family!
Genre: Animated comedy-adventure
Release: December 16, 2011
Director: Mike Mitchell
Written by: Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger, based on the characters created by Ross Bagdasarian and Janice Karman
Producers: Janice Karman, Ross Bagdasarian
Cast: Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate, and Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate
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Disclosure: Fox flew me out to L.A. to attend the press junket for Alvin & The Chipmunks : Chipwrecked. My airfare and lodging were paid for, but I received no monetary compensation. Any thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.