Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers (1989)

Premiering on March 5, 1989, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers was Disney’s fifth venture into television animation, and the second show to revive old classic Disney characters into a new era, whilst adding new characters into the mix. Its concept was loosely based on the feature films The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under, and featured Chip ‘n Dale who were originally created in the 1940’s as troublemakers for Donald Duck and Pluto in Disney’s classic cartoon shorts.

Initially though, it wasn’t planned like that. When the idea first came up for the Rescue Rangers series, Chip ‘n Dale were not part of the show. The original idea centered around a group of animals as a team, which included a chameleon, an earlier draft of Gadget, and Monterey Jack (with a different name). The main character was an Indiana Jones type mouse named Kit Colby who sported a fedora and a fluffy collared leather jacket. When the show was proposed in a meeting with Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the idea was well received except for the character of Kit Colby. At Eisner’s suggestion, he was replaced with the chipmunk duo to give the show some established Disney characters to work with. While Chip ‘n Dale were well-known characters, to bring them into the series only their general appearance and broad personality traits were kept. Unlike their appearances in Disney shorts, in the Rescue Rangers the chipmunk duo are very verbal – audio processing was used to speed up the voice recordings and give the voices a higher pitch, particularly Dale’s. The pair were also given clothes, with Chip given Kit’s original concept clothing, while the goofier Dale was incidentally modeled on Magnum, P.I. with his Hawaiian shirt.

Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers became a huge success for Disney, despite only running 65 episodes. It eventually became syndicated and became part of the Disney Afternoon line-up, and aired its last episode on November 19, 1990. It’s no surprise that when Disney first started to release DVD’s of their old cartoons in 2005 that Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers and DuckTales were the first ones out of the gate. They are arguably their most successful shows with the biggest fandoms. But out of the two, and all the other old classic Disney cartoons, I’ve never quite seen such a long lasting fandom than what I’ve seen from Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers. Numerous websites, fanart, fanfiction, articles, and music videos (thanks to Youtube) have been posted over the years. Nearly twenty years after premiering the show still has an active forum called The Acorn Cafe (which itself is already ten years old) where fans, who like to call themselves “Rangerphiles” can reminisce and discuss this old program. There’s even a RangerWiki for cryin out loud!

And why did the fandom for this show grow to be so huge? I’d say its the show’s characters and group dynamics – Disney gave a great set of characters to work with, but as with usual kids programming they were limited to tell certain, more mature stories. This is where fanfiction comes in, and how many fans built off what they were given from Disney to create more intense and satisfying stories. One character in particular was the main reason to write about, a trait some cartoons have where a single character becomes so fascinating with fans they nearly take over the entire fandom (a topic I’ll cover later on). Gadget Hackwrench – a cute, blond, smart, female mouse. People love to add layers and layers onto her background and make romance stories between her and Chip ‘n Dale. One of the most electrifying fan comics I ever came across was Chris Fischer’s Of Mice And Mayhem. Makes me wish other cartoon fandoms had a dedicated fan like this – because the time spent on the artwork and story are phenomenal.

Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers spawned perhaps the most merchandise for any Disney cartoon I’ve ever seen thus far. Videogames, puzzles, a line of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, coloring books, a board game, stickers, stamps, posters, plus many other items. A monthly comic based on the show was published by Disney Comics in 1990 that ran for 19 issues, as well as comic stories featured in the magazine Disney Adventures from 1990-1995. In 1990 in was reported that a theatrical feature film based on the series was planned for a 1991 release, however the film never happened possibly due to the lackluster performance of DuckTales The Movie: Treasure Of The Lost Lamp. The show also has the honor of having the most production art I’ve ever come across for a Disney cartoon series. And it’s not cheap looking either – it’s of high quality, something you never see anymore in production artwork.

The last time these problem solving critters were seen in Canada was on Family Channel in the spring of 2004. I watched this show when I was younger, and I remember trying out some episodes when it was last on. I don’t know how well this show has aged, but for me the characters and some storylines came off as boring. Gadget’s consistent use of the word “golly” becomes and annoyance after a while. Various episodes are up on Youtube if you want to watch them. Of course the opening theme song (and the ending theme) is timeless in their glossy 80’s fashion, and in fact two themes exist both for the opening and ending credits, while the opening credits have two difference arrangements of visuals. I’ve linked the one that I remember seeing the most and was the best, sound effects included. Its known that 80’s pop group The Jets sang the opening theme song as you can see in the show’s official promo music video (don’t you wish all your favorite cartoons had these?). But the arrangement of the song and vocals sound different from what is actually played in the program. So it could still be left to wonder who sings on the original one minute version.

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