Wednesday, March 17, 2010
CC and I 'munked out this week at Fox Studios in honor of the upcoming release of "Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" DVD, hitting shelves March 30.
We actually saw "The Squeakquel" at the theater -- a rarity for us -- while Ian was next door checking out James Cameron's "Avatar."
CC was riveted by the movie and sat in her seat the entire time -- another rarity -- watching the chipmunk trio and the Chipettes vocally duke it out for high school singing glory.
Now, this isn't your '80s or even '60s Chipmunks. I haven't seen the 2007 original in this new series, but the second installment offers a mix of live action and CG animation, which has had some entertainment reporters asking if the movie even belongs in the "animated category" for awards shows.
Not only that, but the next installment in the series will be in 3-D, which seems to be the latest trend for all movies, not just a franchise's third big-screen outing.
"The Squeakquel," which boasts Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Anna Faris and Amy Poehler in voice roles, has Alvin & Co. enrolling at a new high school while Dave is held up with injuries abroad. His videogame-geek nephew (Zachary Levi) is put in charge, as the boys get up to their usual hijinks. When they're asked to save the school's music program by competing in a battle of the bands, they get some unexpected competition from The Chipettes.
After I watched CC hang out and take the stage with other kiddos (all of whom received goodie bags), I had the chance to talk with director Betty Thomas and producers Ross Bagdasarian Jr. (whose father created The Chipmunks) and his wife, Janice Karman, who conceived of the Chipettes.
"Hill Street Blues" alum Thomas explained that most of the shots had to be created before any animation was in place. And because of that, she had to get creative with her directorial handy work -- which meant going back to her acting roots.
"They said, 'You have to turn in that shot now,' so you have to make those decisions," she said, "and the best thing for me, having been an actor at one time in my life, was to just act out the scenes and play every character, which was kind of fun when you think about it. Or crazy or something."
She also mentioned that her first album as a child was The Chipmunks. "It was a Christmas album, and I remembered that," Thomas said. "It was so nostalgic for me, and I tried to not let that take over and find fresh ways of looking at them."
Bagdasarian and Karman also were looking for new ways to approach the classic Chipmunk trio. So they invested in CG artists who could really focus on the nuances of everything from facial expressions to movement.
"It's all about performance for us," Bagdasarian said. "Are they doing something in a way that's like 'Oh My God, what a great' ... (something) that's so selling that attitude."
"As long as we also kept their emotional life, because that never changes with people," Karman added, when talking about keeping the characters current yet still not dating them. "You still get your feelings hurt, you still cross the line and you have to be accountable, you still have sibling rivalry, so those things don't change, and that's real important for Ross and for me to keep those emotions alive. Otherwise, we're talking animals."
I'm giving away three copies of "Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel." Leave me a comment below telling me your favorite chipmunk and why, or your favorite song they've sung over the years, and I'll throw your hat in the ring.
If you add yourself as a fan on the L.A. Story Facebook page, I'll add your name twice.
I'll announce winners Tuesday, March 30. Good luck!