Alvin and the Chipmunks

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Alvin and the Chipmunks, left to right: Theodore, Simon, and Alvin.

Alvin and the Chipmunks are a fictional musical group, created by Ross Bagdasarian in 1958. The group consists of three singing chipmunksAlvin, Simon, and Theodore — who are "managed" by their human "dad" and leader, David "Dave" Seville. In reality, "David Seville" was Ross Bagdasarian's stage name.

After first being brought to life in Bagdasarian's 1950s novelty recordings under the name David Seville and the Chipmunks, the characters were an unprecedented success, and the singing Chipmunks and their manager were given life in several animated cartoon series and motion pictures. It is notable that the characters are now perceived as cartoon characters that also released some accompanying music, while in reality they are quite the opposite.

The voices of the group were all performed by Bagdasarian, who sped up the playback to create the most-distinctive higher pitched squeaky voices. This process wasn't entirely new; Bagdasarian had also used it for a previous novelty song project "The Witch Doctor," but it was so unusual and well executed it earned the trio two Grammy Awards for engineering. Although the characters were fictional, they did release a long line of "real" albums and singles, with "The Chipmunk Song" becoming a #1 hit single in the United States. After his death in 1972, the voices of the Chipmunks were subsequently recorded by his son, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., and his wife, Janice Karman, in all future incarnations to date. The Chipmunks themselves are named after the executives of their original record label, Liberty Records: Alvin Bennett (the president), Theodore Keep (the chief engineer), and Simon Waronker (the founder and owner).



"The Chipmunk Song"

Alvin and the Chipmunks first appeared on the scene in a novelty record released in 1958 by Ross Bagdasarian. The song, known either as just "The Chipmunk Song" or "Christmas Don't Be Late" featured the singing skills of the chipmunk trio. The novelty record was very successful, selling more than 4 million copies in 7 weeks, and it launched the careers of its chipmunk stars. It was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from December 27, 1958 to January 19, 1959. It also earned three Grammy Awards and a nomination for Record of the Year.


While the series was being prepared for broadcast, an imitation, the Nutty Squirrels, beat them to the market, but was less successful, despite catchy scat singing.

A scene from The Alvin Show
A scene from The Alvin Show

The Alvin Show

The first television series to feature the characters was The Alvin Show. Running from 1961 to 1962, and was one of a small number of animated series to be shown in prime time, on CBS. Unfortunately, it was not immediately successful and was cancelled after one season, only to find new life in syndication.

In addition to Alvin cartoons, the series also featured Clyde Crashcup and his sidekick Leonardo. Those characters did not feature prominently on any of the later series. Crashcup made a single cameo appearance in an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The first television series was produced by Format Films for Bagdasarian Film Corporation, and scheduled for release on DVD in 2006. Although the series was broadcast in black and white, it was produced and later re-run in color. Twenty-six episodes each were produced of the Alvin and the Chipmunks and Clyde Crashcup segments, along with fifty-two musical segments.

A Chipmunk Christmas

After the death of Ross Bagdasarian in 1972, the Chipmunks' careers stalled until NBC showed interest in the original show and released a new album of contemporary songs performed by the Chipmunks. The new album featured the late Ross's son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., doing the voices of the characters. That album and the continued reruns of the series proved to be popular enough to warrant new television production, and in 1981, the Chipmunks and David Seville returned to television in the Christmas special A Chipmunk Christmas, produced by Chuck Jones, which was first broadcast on NBC on December 14 of that year.

A scene from the opening credits of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
A scene from the opening credits of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Alvin and the Chipmunks

In 1983, the second cartoon series, produced by Ruby-Spears, was released. Titled simply Alvin and the Chipmunks, the outline of the show closely paralleled the original Alvin Show. The show lasted six production seasons, until 1991. In the third season, the show introduced The Chipettes, three female versions of the Chipmunks with their own human counterpart, the myopic Mrs. Miller. Many fans consider this the moment when the show jumped the shark. After 1987, the show was renamed just The Chipmunks to indicate that there were now two groups of them.

Missing image
The Chipettes, as seen in the feature film The Chipmunk Adventure (1987).

In 1987, during the fifth season of the show on television, the Chipmunks had their first (and thus far, only) animated feature film, The Chipmunk Adventure, directed by Janice Karman and released to theatres by The Samuel Goldwyn Company. The film featured the Chipmunks and the Chipettes in a contest traveling around the world. Other than improved production values, the movie was more of an extended and enhanced episode of the series.

For the sixth and final season, the show switched production companies (to DiC Entertainment) and switched titles again: Chipmunks Go to the Movies. Each episode in this season was a spoof of a Hollywood film, such as Back to the Future, Dick Tracy, and others. In additional, several television specials featuring the characters were also released. At the conclusion of the sixth season, the show was cancelled again.

In 1990, a documentary was produced about the show entitled Alvin and the Chipmunks/Five Decades with the Chipmunks. In that year, the chipmunks also teamed up with other contemporary cartoons (such as Bugs Bunny, Garfield, etc.) for the drug abuse-prevention special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.

Direct-to-video Alvin

In 1996, the rights to the characters were purchased by Universal Pictures. This resulted in The Chipmunks' 1999 reappearance in the form of the direct-to-video movie Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein. The movie was successful enough to spark interest in a sequel, and in 2000, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman appeared. Both movies featured the "original" cast of the second series reprising their roles and the tone of the movies are very similar to the series. These film titles reflect earlier horror spoofs by Abbott and Costello.

Alvin's future

In 2000, Bagdasarian Productions sued Universal Pictures for breach of contract, in order to recoup monentary damages and to regain control of the Alvin and the Chipmunks characters. If that lawsuit is not successful, the contract will expire in 2006. Until that is resolved, there will likely be no major activity with the franchise and no further television movies produced.

A live-action feature-length movie is in development by 20th Century Fox, featuring computer-animated Alvin and the Chipmunks, and a live-action David Seville. It is scheduled to be released in theatres around 2006.


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The Chipmunks as babies in a scene from the 1983 Alvin and the Chipmunks Saturday morning cartoon


  • 1959: Let's All Sing with the Chipmunks
  • 1960: Sing Again with the Chipmunks
  • 1961: Around the World with the Chipmunks
  • 1961: The Alvin Show
  • 1962: Christmas With the Chipmunks, Vol. 1
  • 1962: The Chipmunks Songbook
  • 1963: Christmas With the Chipmunks, Vol. 2
  • 1964: The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits
  • 1965: The Chipmunks a Go-Go
  • 1965: The Chipmunks Sing with Children
  • 1965: Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious
  • 1968: The Chipmunks See Doctor Dolittle
  • 1969: The Chipmunks Go to the Movies
  • 1980: Chipmunk Punk
  • 1981: A Chipmunk Christmas
  • 1981: Urban Chipmunk
  • 1982: Chipmunk Rock
  • 1984: Alvin and the Chipmunks
  • 1987: The Chipmunk Adventure
  • 1990: Rockin' Through the Decades
  • 1992: Chipmunks in Low Places
  • 1992: Greatest Hits
  • 1993: Alvin's Christmas Carol
  • 1993: Sing-Alongs
  • 1994: Here's Looking at Me!
  • 1995: Alvin's Daydreams
  • 1995: Chipmunk Celebration
  • 1995: Easter Chipmunk
  • 1995: When You Wish upon a Chipmunk
  • 1995: A Very Merry Chipmunk
  • 1995: Very Best of Chipmunks
  • 1996: Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes
  • 1996: Christmas with 2
  • 1998: The A-Files: Alien Songs
  • 1999: Alvin & the Chipmunks Greatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years
  • 2003: Merry Christmas from the Chipmunks
  • 2004: Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks


  • 1958: "The Chipmunk Song" (US #1)
  • 1959: "Alvin's Harmonica"
  • 1960: "Ragtime Cowboy"
  • 1960: "Alvin' Orchestra"
  • 1960: "Alvin for President"
  • 1960: "America the Beautiful"
  • 1960: "Rudolph, the Red-Reindeer"
  • 1962: "The Alvin Twist"
  • 1963: "Alvin's All Star Chipmunk Band"
  • 1963: "Eefin' Alvin"
  • 1963: "The Night Before Christmas"
  • 1964: "All My Lovin'"
  • 1965: "Do-re-mi"
  • 1965: "I'm Henry VIII"
  • 1968: If I Could Talk to the Animals"
  • 1968: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"
  • 1992: "Achy Breaky Heart"

Awards and nominations

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The original theatrical poster for The Chipmunk Adventure

In total: five Grammy Awards and a Golden Reel Award.

External links


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