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Sync is a technology blog site created by Marc Saltzman.

On March 26, 2010, a YouTube interview about Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, entitled A Chat with 'Chipmunks' Producers about 'The Squeakquel' on Blu-ray was released.

Synopsis

A Chat with 'Chipmunks' Producers about 'The Squeakquel' on Blu-ray

A Chat with 'Chipmunks' Producers about 'The Squeakquel' on Blu-ray

Syndicated tech columnist Marc Saltzman chats with producer Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., son of The Chipmunks' founder Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. and his wife Janice Karman, producer/creator of The Chipettes.

Main Questions

  1. Could you tell us a bit about the premise of the film?
  2. Could you tell us about how you came up with the idea for The Chipettes and maybe a bit about their personalities?
  3. So can you tell us a bit about the DVD and Blu-ray extras we can expect?
  4. Do you ever feel like you're taking away some of the magic, especially for the younger viewers?
  5. Did you ever think that in 2010 that we'd be standing here at a music store, a media store, with Alvin all around us? How weird is that?
  6. What are your thoughts on chipmunked songs? Is it neat or is it frustrating because it could dilute the brand?
  7. How many times a day do you get asked to hear the voice? What do you tell them?
  8. Are there any extras or anything else that you're aware of that's on the blu-ray, not found on the DVD?

Full Interview

Host: Hey everyone, it's Marc here for Sync and today we've got a special video for you, especially if you're a fan of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and who isn't, and The Chipettes. We are joined by Ross Bagdasarian-
Ross: Hi.
Marc: The producer of Alvin and the Chipmunks, the movie, and more recently, The Squeakquel, which we'll talk about, and his partner in crime, Janice Karman, who is the creator of The Chipettes, as well as you provide the voices for them and Theodore.
Janice: Yes. Except in the movie, yeah.
Marc: Okay, so you don't provide the voices-
Janice: Not for the movie. We did a Saturday morning show where we were all the voices, but for the movie we have other celebrity actors.
Marc: Okay. Got it, okay great. So, thanks for joining us.
Ross: Sure.
Janice: Sure.
Marc: Okay, so there's a lot of buzz about the film coming out on Blu-ray disc and DVD on March 30th, The Squeakquel. My kids came home from the theaters ranting about the film. So perhaps Ross, we'll start with you.
Ross: Sure.
Marc: If you could just tell us a bit about the premise.
Ross: Well, you know, the fun idea is that the first movie with The Chipmunks two years before was about them finding a family with David Seville. Now, Dave is hurt at the beginning after a huge concert in Paris. The boys are now gonna go home under the tutelage of their crazy cousin who is played by Zachary Levi, and they're gonna go to school, and they've gone from the heights of popularity to now the bottom rung of the-
Janice: Humble.
Ross: You know, they've got bullies chasing after them, life is cruel. Alvin is so desperate for popularity that he kind of forsakes his brothers and is gonna be in this song contest, that he's pretty sure, "Who's gonna beat singing chipmunks?," and of course, lockers close and The Chipettes, Brittany, and Jeanette, and Eleanor, are revealed. So, that's the beginning.
Marc: Alright so, my daughter was thrilled that there were Chipettes this time around. So please tell us about how you came up with the idea for The Chipettes and maybe a bit about each of their personalities.
Janice: Well it was in the 80s and we were doing a lot of The Chipmunks covering a lot of songs by male artists, and I wanted to do female artists. So after putting The Chipmunks in dresses as many times as I possibly could, I had this epiphany, "Wait a second! Girl chipmunks!" So I created three counterparts. Brittany, who is Alvin's counterpart, very superficial, very involved with herself, but has a heart of gold at the end of the day. And Jeanette, who is Simon's counterpart, and Eleanor, who was in the movie played by Amy Poehler. Jeanette was played by Anna Faris and Brittany was played by Christina Applegate, and they did a great job.
Marc: Oh, that's great.
Janice: Yeah.
Marc: Okay, so they have their counterparts. Now a lot of people who are into the film are excited about the extras. There's always bonus features on both DVD and of course Blu-ray. So can you tell us a bit about what we can expect?
Ross: Yeah, there's actually some really fun things on this one. One is called Munking History, so it gives you kind of a little bit of a kind of a 52-year hurried up view of how The Chipmunks were created, how it all first started with my dad-
Janice: That's all us, so it's really good.
Marc: So, you're very modestly speaking.
Janice: We really like that segment.
Marc: So, objectively, she thinks you might like that one. Yeah, okay.
Ross: You know, the different animation styles and all the rest of it.
Marc: Yeah, sure.
Ross: Then there another thing called A-nut-omy of a Scene, and it's basically taking The Chipettes singing "Single Ladies," but how it goes from the characters are not there at all, then they have what we call "stuffies." So, it's a kind of a plush doll that stands in just so the actor can see, "Is that where the eye line is? Is that where the eye line is?"
Janice: Then we take them away.
Ross: Then we take them away, and then you see still the extra post production animation stages where they're, like, a grayscale, then it's all this almost geometric kind of form, and then it's furred and unbelievable.
Marc: So, on one hand I think it's super cool that you're educating the viewer as to the process. But, at the same time, do you ever feel like you're taking away some of the magic, especially for the younger viewers?
Janice: Absolutely.
Marc: Like, you're showing behind the curtain a little too much?
Janice: But you know what's odd? They still come to our house, they still want to meet The Chipmunks. So, even though it's revealed on the DVD, they still believe that they're there. And that to us is important, especially to me, I always felt that I didn't want to reveal all this information, but it doesn't seem to bother the kids, they still wanna know, you know-
Ross: No, no, you know, and I also think that probably the kids at the age where they believe in The Chipmunks, probably are not gonna go to a lot of the DVD extras and go, "Yeah, wonder how they make it?"
Marc: Good point, good point. Maybe it's for mom and dad.
Janice: Yeah.
Ross: It really is more that, and it's also for some of the older kids that actually are interested in animation or how they do stuff in there. Kids are so sophisticated now, you know, and they see how all of these films, whether it's Avatar or whether it's, you know, Fantastic Mr. Fox, "How do they make these films?" And so, they're a lot more aware aware of the technology than we were as kids.
Marc: Yeah, so speaking of technology and as kids, it must be very interesting for you, Ross, especially that your father created The Chipmunks was in the 50s. And then after early 70s, you sort of took the reins. To see the animation evolve and to see the IP, the brand, evolve. Did you ever think that in 2010 that we'd be standing here at a music store, a media store, with Alvin all around us? How weird is that?
Ross: Yeah. No, no it-
Marc: It's been a lifelong thing for you.
Ross: Absolutely, absolutely.
Janice: It wasn't supposed to be, it was supposed to be a year. He enlisted me for a year-
Marc: Right.
Janice: -and said, "Well, just do it for a year. Just to honor my dad, to bring my dad back." So-
Ross: So here we are 32 years later.
Marc: Here you are.
Ross: So, my schedule was a little bit messed up, but the idea of them being embraced around the world the way they have, you know, is obviously thrilling. And, equally thrilling is the fact that we've got such amazing animators doing this work. So that, when we were doing the TV shows, we couldn't afford this caliber of work. You could never get the expressions and the attitudes, you know, or the shows would go over-season, be animated by people. When you said you wanted a sheepish expression, we'd have a sheep come back. So, the nuance of what we get to do now is just phenomenal.
Marc: So, we're shooting this for a blog that's primarily about technology, but very entertainment focused. So, I wanted to ask you that, you know, when you go to YouTube, if you type "chipmunks", you're gonna see every hit song has been chipmunked, it's, like, turned into a verb, which is basically speeding up the voice and what have you. What are your thoughts on it? Is it neat or is it frustrating because it could dilute the brand?
Ross: Well, no. It doesn't dilute. We don't worry about that, but if they're done with the intention that is good will and what not, and with good humor, we love it. Sometimes they're used, and I'm sure you've seen some of those-
Janice: Raunchy.
Marc: Yeah. Right.
Ross: -that are really kind of horrific, and those we unfortunately stop as often as we can find them.
Marc: Sure.
Ross: So, but for the most part we take it as a compliment that we think it's intended.
Janice: We have a 23-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son, so they're also watching, and they're very cool kids and they feel the same way we do when it's done tastefully and done well.
Marc: Mmm-hm
Janice: Or even if it's, you know, a little South Park-y, but funny.
Marc: Right.
Ross: Yeah.
Janice: And not mean spirited.
Marc: It's in good humor, not tasteless.
Ross: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And there's some very, very creative applications, so-
Marc: It's not just taking the DVD or the CD and speeding it up, there's some other people for it.
Ross: Oh yeah.
Marc: Okay. Speaking of which, how many times a day do you get asked, like, where you have a young kid who meets you and they want to hear the voice? What do you tell them? I mean, usually it's done in the studio.
Janice: Well, they usually want to meet Brittany who they think is in my purse.
Marc: Oh yeah, pull them out.
Janice: You know, honestly-
Marc: You never do it?
Ross: Well, we can't because we need the tapes, you know, because it's slow it down like that and then back to speed.
Marc: Ok, that's how it's done.
Ross: So, we can't. Yeah, we can't do it. I mean, it's funny. We talk about all the technology.
Marc: So, what do you say?
Ross: Well, we usually say, "Alvin's not here today.," or, "Brittany's taking a nap."
Marc: Right, right. That's good. Great. Just finally, blu-ray is really starting to catch on. Naturally, we'll see the film in high definition, but are there any extras or anything else that you're aware of that's on the blu-ray, not found on the DVD?
Ross: Yeah, there's actually quite a few things, from various sing-alongs for some of the younger kids to some of the actors and actresses talking about the process of doing the voice to, you know, as I say, some of the history stuff. There's probably ten or twelve different special bonus features, and I'm fascinated by all twelve, so.
Marc: Of course. Thank you very much.
Ross: Thank you.
Janice: Thank you.
Marc: Thank you very much. Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and his lovely wife and partner in crime with The Chipmunks brand, Janice Karman. Thank you very much.
Ross: Thanks.
Janice: Thank you.
Marc: Thanks, cheers.
Ross: Yeah.
Marc: Have fun here in Toronto. Bundle up!
Ross: Yeah, you've got the cold stuff on-
Marc: Yeah.
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