The Chipmunk Adventure
The Chipmunk Adventure is a 1987 American musical animated film based on the Saturday-morning cartoon series Alvin and the Chipmunks. Directed by Janice Karman and written by Karman and Ross Bagdasarian Jr., it stars the voices of Karman, Bagdasarian, and Dody Goodman, and follows the Chipmunks and the Chipettes as they go on a hot air balloon race around the world that is the cover for a diamond smuggling ring.
When their guardian David Seville goes to Europe on business, the Chipmunks—Alvin, Simon, and Theodore—are left home in Los Angeles with their babysitter, Ms. Miller. Later, the Chipmunks and Chipettes—Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor—play the arcade game Around the World in 30 Days, and Alvin and Brittany argue over which would win an actual race around the world. They are overheard by international diamond-smuggling siblings Claudia and Klaus Furschtein, who have $5 million worth of diamonds to distribute to buyers but no couriers who are unknown to their nemesis, Jamal. Claudia tricks the children into being unwitting mules, offering to arrange a real race around the world between the Chipmunks and Chipettes for a $100,000 prize. To participate, Alvin records a phone call to Dave and edits it to trick Ms. Miller into believing that Dave wants the Chipmunks to meet him in Europe.
The two teams set off by hot air balloon, each given a different route and twelve dolls made in their likenesses, which they are to exchange at designated locations for dolls in the likenesses of the other team to confirm they visited the locations. Unbeknownst to them, their dolls are filled with diamonds, and those they are receiving contain cash. The Furschteins' butler, Mario, is secretly an informant for Jamal, who dispatches two of his men to acquire the dolls. The Chipmunks' first stop is Mexico City, where they join in a fiesta. In Bermuda, the Chipettes scuba dive to make their first exchange and Brittany is almost eaten by a shark. The teams continue their journeys, exchanging their dolls in various countries along the way. Jamal's men tail them, but fail to get the dolls due to various mishaps. The teams cross paths in Athens, where they try to outperform one another in a musical number at the Acropolis and are almost spotted by Dave.
Frustrated by his men's failures, Jamal enlists the aid of a young sheikh who has his mercenaries capture the Chipettes in Giza. Rather than turn them over to Jamal, the prince desires instead to marry Brittany, and gifts her a baby penguin. The girls perform a song to charm the cobras guarding their dolls, escape in their balloon, and detour to Antarctica to return the baby penguin to its family. Learning that they have deviated from their route, Claudia sends her thugs after them. The girls escape but discover the diamonds and cash inside the dolls, realize they have been deceived, and set out to find the boys.
Meanwhile, the Chipmunks take a shortcut through a jungle, where they are captured by a native tribe who name Theodore their "Prince of Plenty" and force Alvin and Simon to be his slaves. They soon learn that they are to be sacrificed by being dropped into a pit of crocodiles. By performing the song "Wooly Bully" to entertain the natives, they stall their execution and are rescued by the Chipettes.
Claudia discovers Mario passing information to Jamal, who is revealed to be an Interpol Inspector. The children land at Los Angeles International Airport at the same time as Dave's returning flight, and are chased by the Furschteins, who get them to surrender by falsely saying that they have kidnapped Ms. Miller. Dave sees them being taken away in the Furschteins' car, and joins Jamal in pursuit. Ms. Miller is absentmindedly driving the wrong way on a one-way street on her way to pick up Dave, and accidentally runs the Furschteins off the road. They are arrested by Jamal, and the children are reunited with Dave. Alvin and Brittany argue over who won the race, much to the adults' frustration.
After the success of his animated cartoon series on NBC, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. began developing a concept for a full-length feature film. The box-office failure of Disney's The Black Cauldron in 1985 had led to the layoff of a number of Disney animators (such as Glen Keane, Dan Haskett and Dave Pruiksma), whom Bagdasarian promptly hired to work on his film.
Bagdasarian and his wife Janice Karman decided to finance the project themselves, having generated so much revenue from the Alvin and the Chipmunks TV series. Their decision to work with several overseas studios led to major production delays. By late 1986, production had fallen far behind schedule, and a shortage of time and money resulted in major cuts being made to the film. One deleted scene had the Chipmunks go to Russia.
The soundtrack of The Chipmunk Adventure was composed by Randy Edelman and performed by The Chipmunks and The Chipettes; Edelman also contributed songs to the film. Several songs throughout the film were performed by both the Chipmunks and the Chipettes. On April 1, 2008, the soundtrack was re-released as a bonus CD with the film's DVD.
Though initially scheduled for Christmas 1986, The Chipmunk Adventure opened on May 22, 1987 through The Samuel Goldwyn Company and Bagdasarian Productions. With an opening weekend take of $2,584,720, it ultimately grossed $6,804,312 in North America alone.
In The New York Times, Janet Maslin commentated that the film is enjoyable for both parents and children. In his Family Guide to Movies on Video, Henry Herx deemed the film a "charming, lighthearted diversion for the younger set", and remarked that it resembled "a musical revue of pop tunes". Johanna Steinmetz of Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars out of four, stating that the inclusion of the minor characters (especially the villains) would "[keep] an adult viewer from insulin crisis." Charles Solomon of The Los Angeles Times, commented "listening to six little characters talk and sing in speeded-up falsetto voices for 76 minutes becomes a real test of the viewer's endurance." Solomon also said that the villains resembled those from a Ralph Bakshi film and did not fit with the world of the Chipmunks.
On Siskel & Ebert & The Movies, Roger Ebert commented that the animation is slightly better than the TV series, but criticized the film's "dumb and predictable" story while Gene Siskel criticized the plot for being right out of a Saturday morning cartoon, especially through the film's introduction of the Chipettes. Both Ebert and Siskel also criticized the plot and the Chipmunks' voices, with Ebert comparing them to "fingernails on the blackboard". Siskel and Ebert ultimately gave the film two thumbs down.
The film was released on VHS by Lorimar Home Video in 1988, Warner Home Video in 1992, and Universal Studios Home Video in 1998. On May 23, 2006, the film was released on DVD by Paramount Home Entertainment digitally remastered from the original 35mm film and presented with 5.1 surround sound. A special edition DVD re-release of the film with a bonus CD (which is the same soundtrack disc) was released on April 1, 2008, which matches that of the live-action/computer-animated Alvin and the Chipmunks and another DVD volume of Alvin and the Chipmunks Go to the Movies. On March 25, 2014, the film was released on Blu-ray for the first time.