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Alvin (2)
This article is about the sing-along group. For other uses, see Alvin and the Chipmunks (disambiguation).

Alvin and the Chipmunks is a 6-time Grammy award-winning animated music group created by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. in 1958. The group consists of three singing animated chipmunks:

Alvin, the mischievous troublemaker, who quickly became the star of the group;
Simon, the tall, bespectacled intellectual;
Theodore, the chubby, impressionable sweetheart.

The trio is managed by their human father and confidant, David Seville. In reality, David Seville was Bagdasarian's stage name, and the Chipmunks themselves are named after the executives of their original record label, Liberty Records:

Alvin Bennett (the president),
Simon Waronker (the founder and owner), and
Theodore Keep (the chief engineer).

The Chipmunks act began with recordings first brought to life in Bagdasarian's 1950s novelty recordings under the name David Seville and the Chipmunks. For stage purposes, such as during an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Bagdasarian lip-synced the words of "David Seville" in front of a small puppet theater, with puppets of the three Chipmunks also lip-syncing. The puppets looked similar to the Chipmunk illustrations on the covers of some of the group's 45 RPM records. The characters were an unprecedented success, and the singing Chipmunks and their manager were given life in several animated cartoon series, using redrawn, anthropomorphic chipmunks, and eventually motion picture.

The voices of the group were all performed by Bagdasarian, who sped up the playback to create higher pitched, comical, squeaky voices. This often-used process was also not entirely new to Bagdasarian, who had also used it for two previous novelty song projects, including "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 actual albums and singles, with "The Chipmunk Song" becoming a number-one hit single in the United States.

Since Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.'s passing on January 16, 1972, their voices were performed by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and Janice Karman in all subsequent incarnations except for the four CGI/live-action films, when they were voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney.

History

"Witch Doctor" (1958)

Main article: Witch Doctor

In early 1958, Bagdasarian released a novelty song, as David Seville, about being unlucky at love until he found a Witch Doctor who told him "What To Do" to woo his woman. The entire song was done by Bagdasarian in his normal voice, except for the "magic" words, done first in Bagdasarian's pitched-up, pre-Chipmunk voice, and then in a duet between his pitched-up voice and his normal voice. The words, of course, are nonsense: "Oo-ee, oo-ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla, bing-bang." The "Walla Walla" part of the song was just thrown in as a reference to Ross Bagdasarian's uncle who lived in Walla Walla, Washington. The song was a major hit, sitting at #1 in the Billboard Top 100, a predecessor to the Billboard Hot 100 chart which would be introduced that August, for three weeks during the spring, and the Witch Doctor's "magic words" were being sung by kids in many countries. Nothing in the song makes any reference to the Chipmunks but the song is now sometimes included on Chipmunk compilations, as if the Chipmunks themselves had provided the voice of the Witch Doctor (Bagdasarian did record a Chipmunks version of "Witch Doctor," which appeared on the second Chipmunks album, Sing Again with The Chipmunks, in 1960). 

"The Chipmunk Song" (1958)

Main article: The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)

The Chipmunks first officially appeared on the scene in a novelty record released in late fall 1958 by Bagdasarian. The song, originally listed on the record label (Liberty F-55168) as "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)," featured the singing skills of the chipmunk trio. One phrase in the chorus has Alvin wishing for a hula hoop, which was that year's hot new toy. The novelty record was highly successful, selling more than four million copies in seven weeks, and it launched the careers of its chipmunk stars. The song spent four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from December 22, 1958 to January 12, 1959, also earning three Grammy Awards and a nomination for Record of the Year. At the height of its popularity, Bagdasarian and three chipmunk hand-puppets appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, lip-syncing the song. "The Chipmunk Song" appeared on the Chipmunks' debut album, Let's All Sing with The Chipmunks, in 1959, and was repeated on Christmas with The Chipmunks, released in 1962. The song also has been included on several compilation albums.

The Alvin Show (1961)

Main article: The Alvin Show 

The first television series was produced by Format Films for Bagdasarian Film Corporation. Although the series was broadcast in black and white, it was produced and later re-run in color. Twenty-six episodes each were produced for the Alvin and the Chipmunks and Clyde Crashcup segments, along with 52 musical segments. Their first solo album, The Alvin Show, consisted of songs from the series.

A Chipmunk Christmas (1981)

Main article: A Chipmunk Christmas

The final Chipmunks album in their original incarnation, The Chipmunks Go to the Movies, was released in 1969. After the death of Ross Bagdasarian in 1972 from a heart attack, the Chipmunks' careers stalled until NBC showed interest in the original show (the network carried Saturday morning reruns of The Alvin Show as a mid-season replacement in 1979) and the following year, Excelsior Records released a new album of contemporary songs performed by the Chipmunks. The new album — Chipmunk Punk — featured Bagdasarian'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 further new records as well as a new television production, and in 1981, the Chipmunks and Seville returned to television in the Christmas special A Chipmunk Christmas.

Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983-1990)

Main article: Alvin and the Chipmunks (TV series) 
Main article: The Chipmunks (TV series) 
Main article: The Chipmunks Go to the Movies 

In 1983, the second animated television series, produced by Ruby-Spears Productions, was released. Titled simply Alvin and the Chipmunks, the outline of the show closely followed the original Alvin Show. A more sustained success than the original, the series lasted until 1990 with eight seasons. In the first, the show introduced The Chipettes, three female versions of the Chipmunks — Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor, who each paralleled the original Chipmunks in personality, with their own human guardian, the myopic Miss Beatrice Miller (who arrived in the fourth season).

In 1987, during the fifth season, the Chipmunks had their first animated feature film, The Chipmunk Adventure, directed by Janice Karman and Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., released to theaters by The Samuel Goldwyn Company. The film featured the Chipmunks and the Chipettes in a contest traveling around the world.

After 1988, the show was renamed just The Chipmunks to indicate that there were now two groups of them. The show reflected current trends and historical events in pop culture; the Chipmunks sang recent hits and wore contemporary clothing. 

In the 1988–89 season, the show switched production companies to DIC Entertainment, by which time the Chipmunks had truly become anthropomorphized. In 1990, the show switched titles again to The Chipmunks Go to the Movies. Each episode in this season was a spoof of a Hollywood film, such as Back to the Future and King Kong. In addition, several television specials featuring the characters were also released. At the conclusion of the eighth season, the show was cancelled again.

Direct-to-Video Chipmunks Movies (1999-2000)

Main article: Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein
Main article: Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman

In 1996, the rights to the characters were purchased by Universal Studios. 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, accordingly the tone of the movies is very similar to the series. In 2002, Universal lost the right to use the characters as a result of a breach of contract.

Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks (2003)

Main article: Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks

A live-action movie called Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks was released on November 15, 2003. It features puppetry used for the Chipmunks and Chipettes. In this movie, when Dave (Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.) goes out of town, he leaves the young Chipmunks and the Chipettes in the care of Lalu (Janice Karman), a friend who is happy to have six preschoolers stay with her. The direct to video feature was directed and co-written by Jerry Rees, who also animated all the CGI effects and voiced two characters. The budget for the project was unusually low, at $600,000. It was also the only live-action appearances of Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and Janice Karman, respectively.

Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)

Main article: Alvin and the Chipmunks Film
Alvin-Chipmunks-movie-10

Alvin and the chipmunks

In 2004, 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises and Bagdasarian Productions announced a CGI/live-action film adaptation of the popular musical group and animated series. The new film, starring Jason Lee as Dave Seville, was released on December 14, 2007. With Justin Long as Alvin, Matthew Gray Gubler as Simon, and Jesse McCartney as Theodore, The Chipmunks stumble upon Dave who starts their music careers. The motion picture marks the first film in which nobody related to Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. has performed as David or the Chipmunks. Though critics gave the film harsh reviews, audiences flocked to the theaters and marked a revival for the Chipmunks by reaching out to a new, younger generation of viewers.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009)

Main article: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

A CGI/live-action sequel to the first film was released on December 23, 2009. The voice actors for The Chipmunks retain their roles, but with the addition of The Chipettes, with Christina Applegate as Brittany, Anna Faris as Jeanette, and Amy Poehler as Eleanor, who leave the forest to try and start their music careers just as The Chipmunks did. This film marks the first motion picture in which Janice Karman does not voice The Chipettes. Despite harsher reviews from critics than the first film, worldwide box office totals increased by nearly $80 million.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011)

Main article: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

A third CGI/live-action film was released on December 16, 2011. The voice actors for both The Chipmunks and The Chipettes retained their roles. In the film, The Chipmunks and The Chipettes go on a cruise with Dave but end up stranded on a deserted island instead. The film was shot aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship, in Hawaii, and in a studio forest in Canada. The motion picture was planned to be the first Chipmunk movie in 3-D but was announced at the last minute by the producers that the film would be in 2-D.

ALVINNN!!! and the Chipmunks (2015)

Main article: ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks

A CGI-animated television series featuring the Chipmunks premiered on Nickelodeon (US) on August 3, 2015. Two seasons (each one lasting 52 episodes) were ordered for the series. In the series Dave does his best to raise six chipmunks.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015) 

Main article: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

A fourth CGI/live-action film was released on December 18, 2015. The voice actors for The Chipmunks and The Chipettes reprise their roles, excluding Eleanor, who is now voiced by Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting instead of Amy Poehler. The filming was carried out in locations including Atlanta, Georgia and Miami, Florida.

In Other Media

Main article: In Other Media

The Chipmunks have had an influence on various music groups, TV shows, and films since their creation.

Characters

Alvin Seville

Alvin 8

Alvin is the leader of The Chipmunks. He is a roller coaster and can sometimes be considered an antagonist. His enthusiasm is boundless and his despair bottomless. The term "look before you leap" definitely doesn't apply to Alvin, who is impulsive, charming, musical, and full of animal magnetism. He always seems to make up hare-brained schemes to get what he wants: whether it be trying to help his brothers, keeping Dave from figuring something out, or getting out of a sticky situation. However, Alvin seems to refer to his often illogical or crazy plans as "challenging the ordinary." Alvin's signature color is red, and he has blue eyes (although in the CGI/live action film series, he has brown eyes). Alvin and Brittany share a love-hate relationship.

Simon Seville

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Simon possesses a very dry sense of humor as well as a keen wit and an IQ just north of Einstein. Alvin exploits Simon's master mind for his crazy schemes because he is smart enough to carry them out. In the end, Simon loves Alvin, although he secretly worries that they share the same gene pool. His signature color is blue, and he has blue eyes and black glasses; his glasses had blue frames after the 1983 television series' second season up until the show's final season, and in The Chipmunk Adventure. He also has brown fur in the film. He plays the bass, bass clarinet, saxophone, bagpipes, tuba, and drums, among others. He is shown playing the keyboard in the original open for the 1980s series. He was also shown playing guitar in a 1980s Hardee's commercial. Simon and Jeanette are very shy about their romantic relationship, but it's obvious he cares for her.

Theodore Seville

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Theodore is the child of innocence and is the youngest of the group. He is shy, loving, sensitive, gullible, trusting, naive and cute. In short, he is an easy target for Alvin's manipulations. In fact, Theodore often holds the swing vote between his two brothers' choices of action. Simon appeals to Theodore's better nature while Alvin goes straight to bribery. He is constantly craving snacks and in one episode, tried to eat Alvin's hand because of his hunger. Theodore's signature color is green, and has the same color eyes (except in the 2015 series, in which he has brown eyes). He also has blonde/tan fur in the film. He plays the drums, the guitar, and others. Theodore and Eleanor are the most open about their romantic relationship. 

Other Characters

Click here for a full list of characters, including The Chipettes.

Recording Technique

The Chipmunks' voices were recorded onto audiotape by voice talent talking or singing at half the normal speed. When the tape was played back at double speed, they would sound a full octave higher in pitch, at normal tempo. The technique was by no means new to the Chipmunks. For example, the high and low pitched characters in The Wizard of Oz were achieved by speeding up and slowing down vocal recordings. Also, Mel Blanc's voice characterization for Daffy Duck was sped up to some extent. Now the same effect can be created digitally and in real time.

However, the extensive use of this technique with the Chipmunks, coupled with their popularity, linked this technique to them. The term "chipmunk-voiced" has entered the American vernacular to describe any artificially high-pitched voice. A similar effect could be obtained in playback by merely taking an LP recorded at 33 1/3 RPM and playing it back at 45 or 78 RPM, a trick sometimes tried out by ordinary record listeners. The instrumental portions of the song are sped up as well, however, making it obvious that the music is being played at the wrong speed (Bagdasarian recorded vocals and music at different speeds to combine properly on his recording). Also, doing so might damage the record being played. This technique was frequently imitated in comedy records.

Discography

This is the complete discography of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

  • For a list of original songs by The Chipmunks & The Chipettes, click here.
  • For a list of songs by another artist covered by The Chipmunks & The Chipettes, click here.

Albums

Year Name Notes
1959 Let's All Sing with The Chipmunks (Liberty LRP-3132 mono/LST-7132 stereo) (Released on compact disc by Capitol Records in 2008)
1960 Sing Again with The Chipmunks (Liberty LRP-3159 mono/LST-7159 stereo) (Released on compact disc by EMI-USA in 1990 and again by Capitol Records in 2008)
Around the World with The Chipmunks (Liberty LRP-3170 mono/LST-7170 stereo) (Released on compact disc by EMI-USA in 1990 and again by Capitol Records in 2008)
1961 The Alvin Show (Liberty LRP-3209 mono/LST-7209 electronic stereo) (Released on compact disc by EMI-USA in 1990)
1962 Christmas with The Chipmunks (Liberty LRP-3256 mono/LST-7256 stereo) (Released on compact disc by EMI-Manhattan in 1987)
The Chipmunk Songbook (Liberty LRP-3229 mono/LST-7229 stereo) (Released on compact disc by Capitol Records in 2008)
1963 Christmas with The Chipmunks, Vol. 2 (Liberty LRP-3334 mono/LST-7334 stereo) (Released on compact disc by EMI-Manhattan in 1988)
1964 The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits (Liberty LRP-3388 mono/LST-7388 stereo) (Released on compact disc by EMI-Manhattan in 1987, by CEMA Special Products in 1995, and by Capitol Records in 2008)
1965 The Chipmunks Sing With Children (Liberty LRP-3405 mono/LST-7405 stereo) (Released on compact disc by EMI-USA in 1990)
Chipmunks à Go-Go (Liberty LRP-3424 mono/LST-7424 stereo) (Released on compact disc by EMI-USA in 1990)
1968 The Chipmunks See Doctor Dolittle (Sunset M-1300 mono/S-5300 stereo)
1969 The Chipmunks Go to the Movies (Sunset S-5312 stereo) (Released on compact disc by Capitol Records in 2008)
1975 The Very Best of The Chipmunks (United Artists UA-LA570)
1980 Chipmunk Punk (Excelsior XLP-6008)
1981 Urban Chipmunk
A Chipmunk Christmas
1982 Chipmunk Rock
The Chipmunks Go Hollywood
Chipmunk Mania
The Chipmunks 20 All Time Golden Greats
1984 Songs from Our TV Shows
1985 'Munk Rock
1987 The Chipmunk Adventure: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
1988 The Chipmunks and The Chipettes: Born to Rock (Label: Quality Special Products, RSP 164)
Solid Gold Chipmunks: 30th Anniversary Collection (Label: Buena Vista Records)
1990 Rockin' Through the Decades
1991 The Chipmunks Rock the House (Label: Quality Special Products, RSP 213)
1992 Chipmunks in Low Places (Label: Sony Wonder, ASIN B0000028T3)
The Chipmunks: Greatest Hits
1993 The Chipmunks 35th Birthday Party
The Chipmunks Sing Alongs
1994 Here's Looking at Me!
A Very Merry Chipmunk
1995 When You Wish Upon a Chipmunk
1996 Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes
1998 The A-Files: Alien Songs
1999 Greatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years (original release)
The Chipmunks Greatest Christmas Hits
2003 Merry Christmas from The Chipmunks
2004 Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks Soundtrack
2006 Christmas with The Chipmunks (remastered songs)
2007 Greatest Hits: Still Squeaky After All These Years (re-mastered and re-issued with additional songs)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
2008 Christmas with The Chipmunks (re-released songs)
Undeniable
2009 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
2010 Christmas with The Chipmunks (re-released songs)
2011 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Music from the Motion Picture
2012 Chipmunks Christmas (re-released songs)
2015 We're The Chipmunks
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Vinyl Reissue Albums

  • 1974: Christmas With The Chipmunks (United Artists UA-LA352-E2) (2-LP repackage of Christmas With The Chipmunks and Christmas With The Chipmunks Vol. 2)
  • 1975: Christmas With The Chipmunks (Mistletoe MLP-1216)
  • 1975: Christmas With The Chipmunks Vol. 2 (Mistletoe MLP-1217)
  • 1980: Christmas With The Chipmunks (Pickwick SPC-1034) (reuses the cover artwork from the United Artists reissue, with the original front cover of Christmas With The Chipmunks Vol. 2 on the front and Christmas With The Chipmunks on the back)
  • 1980: The Twelve Days Of Christmas With The Chipmunks (reissue of Christmas With The Chipmunks Vol. 2, mono but labeled stereo, with new cover artwork by Doug Oudekirk, the artist who had drawn the Chipmunk Punk cover)
  • 1980: Christmas With The Chipmunks (Liberty LM-1071) (Without "Over The River And Through The Woods" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas")
  • 1981: The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits (EMI Nut NUTM-31) (Mono UK reissue sold in the US as an import)
  • 1982: The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits (Liberty LN-10177) (Without "Twist And Shout" and "I Saw Her Standing There") (Stereo)
  • 1982: Chipmunks à Go-Go (Liberty LN-10178) (Without "Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows" and "The Race Is On")
  • 1986: Christmas With The Chipmunks Vol. 2 (Liberty)

Charting Albums

Year Album Chart Positions Certifications
Billboard 200 Top Country Albums CAN CAN Country RIAA CRIA
1960 Let's All Sing with The Chipmunks 4
Sing Again with The Chipmunks 31
1962 Christmas with The Chipmunks 84 Platinum
1963 Christmas with The Chipmunks, Vol. 2 9
1964 The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits 14
1980 Chipmunk Punk 34 59 Gold Gold
1981 Urban Chipmunk 56 23 Gold Gold
1982 Chipmunk Rock 109 44
A Chipmunk Christmas 72 Gold Gold
1992 Chipmunks in Low Places 21 6 9 Platinum Platinum
1994 A Very Merry Chipmunk 147
2007 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 5 Platinum
2008 Christmas with The Chipmunks 64
Undeniable 78
2009 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 6 Gold
2011 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked: Music from the Motion Picture 36
2012 Chipmunks Christmas 111

Singles

Concert Tours/Performances

Awards and Nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1959 Grammy Best Recording for Children "The Chipmunk Song" Won
Grammy Best Recording for Children "Witch Doctor" Nominated
Grammy Best Comedy Performance "The Chipmunk Song" Won
Grammy Best Engineered Record, Non-Classical "The Chipmunk Song" Won
Grammy Record of the Year "The Chipmunk Song" Nominated
1960 Grammy Best Engineering Record, Non-Classical "Alvin's Harmonica" Won
1961 Grammy Best Album for Children Let's All Sing with The Chipmunks Won
Grammy Best Engineered Record, Non-Classical Let's All Sing with The Chipmunks Nominated
Grammy Best Comedy Performance - Musical "Alvin for President" Nominated
Grammy Best Engineered Record - Novelty "Alvin for President" Nominated
1962 Grammy Best Engineered Record - Novelty The Alvin Show Nominated
1963 Grammy Best Album for Children The Chipmunk Songbook Nominated
Grammy Best Engineered Record - Novelty The Chipmunk Songbook Nominated
1965 Grammy Best Engineered Recording - Special or Novel Effects The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits Won
1966 Grammy Best Recording for Children "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" Nominated
1985 Emmy Outstanding Animated Program (Daytime) Alvin and the Chipmunks Nominated
1987 Young Artist Exceptional Family Animation Series or Specials Alvin and the Chipmunks Nominated
Emmy Outstanding Animated Program (Daytime) Alvin and the Chipmunks Nominated
1988 Emmy Outstanding Animated Program (Daytime) Alvin and the Chipmunks Nominated
Young Artist Best Motion Picture - Animation The Chipmunk Adventure Nominated
2000 Golden Reel Best Sound Editing - Direct to Video - Sound Editorial Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein Won
2008 Kid's Choice Favorite Movie Alvin and the Chipmunks Won
American Music Best Movie Soundtrack Alvin and the Chipmunks: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Won
2010 Kid's Choice Favorite Movie Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Won
2012 Kid's Choice Favorite Movie Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked Won
2016 Kid's Choice Favorite Cartoon ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks Nominated
Kid's Choice Favorite Animated Movie Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip Nominated
Kid's Choice Favorite Voice From An Animated Movie Justin Long as Alvin Seville in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip Nominated
2017 Kid's Choice Favorite Cartoon ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks Nominated
This article uses modified CC BY-SA Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors) (2009 revision).

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