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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Chipmunk Adventure DVD Review (Special Edition)

The Chipmunk Adventure movie poster The Chipmunk Adventure

Theatrical Release: May 22, 1987 / Running Time: 77 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Janice Karman

Voice Cast: Ross Bagdasarian Jr. (Dave Seville, Alvin Seville, Simon Seville), Janice Karman (Theodore Seville, Brittany, Jeanette, Eleanor), Dody Goodman (Miss Rebecca Miller), Susan Tyrell (Claudia Furschtien), Anthony DeLongis (Klaus Furschtien), Frank Welker (Sophie), Nancy Cartwright (Arabian Prince), Ken Sansom (Jamal)

Songs: "The Chipmunk Adventure Theme Song", "I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi/Cuanto Le Gusta", "Off to See the World", "The Girls of Rock 'n' Roll", "Come on a My House", "Getting Lucky", "My Mother", "Wooly Bully", "Witch Doctor", "Diamond Dolls"

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Though Fox's recent live-action-with-CGI feature film is pretty much guaranteed to stay high among Google search results for years to come,
the global hit released last Christmas marked the second time Alvin and the Chipmunks visited theaters. The first came twenty years earlier with The Chipmunk Adventure, a traditionally animated film from Janice Karman and Ross Bagdasarian Jr., the creators and producers of the singing rodents' popular and long-running 1980s NBC cartoon series.

Adventure takes the three distinctive Chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, Theodore) and their color-coordinated female counterparts the Chipettes (Brittany, Jeanette, Eleanor) across the world in a hot air balloon race. The fun begins when the Chipmunks' human father Dave Seville embarks on a vague trip to Europe, leaving his wards at home with scatterbrained babysitter Miss Miller. A visit to a local hangout to play the arcade game "Around the World in 30 Days" introduces the Chipmunks and the Chipettes to shady European siblings Klaus and Claudia Furschtien.

Klaus and Claudia coax the two chipmunk trios into competing in an actual test of speedy circumnavigation. Claiming in their own words to merely be "quite wealthy and very bored", the Furschtiens propose a $1 million bet and a $100,000 prize as the stakes, slyly setting up the well-meaning youngsters to unwittingly deliver their smuggled diamonds around the world.

Reflecting the times, the plot of "The Chipmunk Adventure" is established following an Alvin vs. Brittany arcade game. Jet setters Claudia and Klaus Furschtien strike sketchy poses while smoothly pushing our innocent young leads into the world of black market diamond trade.

The specifics of the plot actually don't make a great deal of sense, but in their journeys, the Chipmunks and Chipettes are supposed to exchange dolls bearing their likenesses (and carrying the stolen rocks) for one of the other team's dolls at various locations. On their separate paths, the boys and girls are pursued by mysterious agents being commanded by Klaus and Claudia's nemesis Jamal.

The brisk travelogue takes the Chipmunks and Chipettes to an assortment of foreign lands, providing ample opportunity for upbeat musical numbers and mildly insensitive culture portrayals. Less anthropomorphized animals, including the villains' mistreated dog and a baby penguin, serve as comic relief or, in the case of a cave full of snakes, dramatic foil when summoned.

The innocuous movie is able to expand upon the design of a mass-produced television episode and provide something that is involving and ambitious, even if international travel and the obstacles encountered feel a little generic and obligatory. This Adventure is unmistakably a product of the 1980s, the decade when colorful Saturday morning cartoon properties like The Care Bears, Transformers, Smurfs, Heathcliff, and My Little Pony were all able to leap to the big screen with modest expectations, restrained distribution, and generally middling results.

A close call with a hurricane leaves the Chipettes with fluffy afros. We're tied to stakes and suspended by fiery ropes over hungry crocodiles... what a perfect time to appease the natives by singing Sam the Sham's "Wooly Bully"?

The Chipmunks' only all-animated theatrical outing boasts some impressive visuals. The production employed a number of animators who had been laid off at Disney following the costly flop that was 1985's The Black Cauldron and then artists from firms around the globe. Characters mostly stay on-model throughout (though continuity goofs abound) and the assortment of locales are satisfactorily detailed and imaginative.
The fact that the final product is as coherent, consistent, and charming as it is seems all the more remarkable after reading a bit about the burdensome production endured by the inexperienced, self-financing Bagdasarian and pregnant wife Karman.

The memorable songs, regular fun, and occasional hilarity of Chipmunk Adventure aren't enough to make it more than a footnote to the new film for most of the general public. However, those that know it, presumably fans of the '80s "Alvin and the Chipmunks" series, do enjoy it and for good reason.

Yesterday, on the same day that Fox brought its new Chipmunks movie to DVD, Paramount reissued The Chipmunk Adventure in what they're calling a Special Edition though the packaging does not. The feature disc appears to be identical to the one debuted two springs ago, but this time, it's joined by the film's original CD soundtrack.

Buy The Chipmunk Adventure (Special Edition) DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.33:1 Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English),
Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
Release Date: April 1, 2008
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) plus audio CD
Suggested Retail Price: $16.99
Black Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

As stated above, I don't think there's any difference between the new DVD and the 2006 disc. So if you own the original DVD and are looking for a comparison for picture/sound upgrades, you can probably skip ahead.

The Chipmunk Adventure is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen, which probably isn't how it was exhibited in theaters. The package doesn't contain a "modified to fit your screen" disclaimer and considering the film's origins,


Alvin's A T-Shirt
I suppose it's possible it was animated for standard TV dimensions. There's nothing to suggest the framing here is cramped, but if an alteration has occurred, I'd guess we're missing some width but retaining the full height.

Perhaps more importantly, the case does tout that the movie has been "digitally remastered from the original 35mm film" and that appears to be true. Colors are vibrant, the images are sharp, and the element is largely clean. There are a few minor speckles here and there that surely aren't deliberate, but they're far from distracting, at least on a standard-sized television. I'm sure that owners of widescreen TVs would have liked to get a 16x9 version on this second release, but perhaps that would have been a compromise and a waste of disc space. I certainly don't know for sure.

Two English soundtrack options are provided and both are worth considering. The Dolby Digital 5.1 remix is rather impressively marked by an abundance of directional effects. Dialogue in particular can emanate from any one of the speakers based upon its relation to screen position. Some (myself included) may enjoy this device as it absolutely places you within the film's universe. Others might call it a gimmick, overdone by modern sound design standards. Those folks will appreciate that a two-channel Dolby Stereo is also supplied, as a presentation more faithful to Adventure's theatrical exhibitions. It is evident, however, that the audio elements are a lot crisper and more vivacious in the 5.1 mix.

In a move both rare and disappointing for a major studio release, no subtitles are provided in any languages. As consolation, closed captions are.

In this piece of artwork from the bonus gallery, Brittany and Jeanette sing to the unfriendly snakes about getting lucky while dressed in Middle Eastern garb. The recycled main menu reflects the cover artwork employed for the movie's 2006 DVD debut.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The only DVD bonus feature is a gallery of "original artwork from The Chipmunk Adventure." The 95 images provide a mix of detailed black & white story reel sketches, colorful publicity stills, and panoramic background designs.
Including some deleted concepts, the set is of mild interest, though it would have been nice if behind-the-scenes production photos, posters, and tie-in product images also been included.

It's also practically a given that with the studio taking a second look at this movie, some additional supplements -- like a trailer and audio commentary -- would have been warmly welcomed by fans.

More exciting is the second disc, an audio CD of The Chipmunk Adventure's full 11-song soundtrack, which has been out-of-print for some time. The 28-minute album includes all the lyrical songs heard at length in the film (performed by the Chipmunks, the Chipettes, or both), the Royal London Philharmonic Orchestra's opening instrumental theme, and three character tunes apparently written for the film but not used. It's a great bonus that is hardly reflected in the set's modest price tag.

The 4x3 menus are static and simple, but three of the four are pleasantly accompanied by soundtrack selections. The discs claim opposite sides of the standard-width black keepcase, which makes the insert covering one (an ad for the Chipmunks' website) invite disposal.

Jeanette, Alvin, Brittany, Simon, Eleanor, and Theodore simultaneously experience shock in a hot air balloon when they notice they have unexpected company. With help from bronze statues, Simon, Alvin, and Theodore strike a triumphant pose in Greece while informing the Chipettes that they are in fact, the Boys of Rock 'n' Roll. Needless to say, the sequence is one of the film's best.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Those who are fond of the 1980s "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and its TV animation contemporaries are likely to agree The Chipmunk Adventure offers a good -- not quite great -- time. I'm not sure if today's children will appreciate it as much, but parents who were kids back in the '80s probably owe it to themselves to give it a try.

Paramount's new release doesn't register as a full-fledged Special Edition, as the DVD appears to be identical to the one issued two years ago. The addition of the complete soundtrack CD, however, without lifting the set above bargain bin prices is enough to warrant a look for those who don't already own Chipmunk Adventure. I'm willing to bet that many are able to find more enjoyment in this little film than the Chipmunks' glossy new live-action one.

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Alvin and the Chipmunks: The ALVINNN!!! Edition Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Very First Alvin Show Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Chipettes
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Reviewed April 2, 2008.



Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1987 Bagdasarian Productions and 2008 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.