Sunday, April 06, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Chip 'n' Dale to the Rescue!

My occasional looks back at the many animated appendages of the Disney Afternoon continue this week with the second series the Mouse House added to their syndicated after-school lineup in the late '80s: Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers. The premise of the skein, which enjoyed a three season, sixty-five episode run, had the iconic Disney chipmunks (created by Uncle Walt himself back in the '40s) taking a break from taunting Donald Duck and stealing acorns and stuff to start up a miniature detective agency, where they teamed with various original characters to solve crimes, help the helpless, etc. Here's the intro, with theme song by Mark Mueller (who also wrote the DuckTales theme):


As first pitched by creator Tad Stones, Rescue Rangers was completely unconnected to extant Disney characters. The titular team (including veteran mouse adventurer Monterey Jack and girl genius Gadget) would have been led by a new creation called Kit Colby, a dashing, bomber jacket-wearing mouse in the Indiana Jones mold (see the original concept art here). At the suggestion of then-honcho Michael Eisner, who wanted a more explicit connection to Disney properties, Colby was dropped and replaced by Chip 'n' Dale, with the former inheriting the Indiana Jones riff, and the latter getting a Magnum-esque Hawaiian shirt.

A one-episode sneak of Rescue Rangers aired in August of '88, and the series-proper premiered with a two-hour special (later turned into a five-part miniseries) on the Disney Channel in spring of '89, going national that September. Teamed with DuckTales for one hour of weekday Disney, the shows' successful pairing directly led to the launch of the Disney Afternoon in fall of '90 (with both shows part of the inaugural lineup). While I don't think it ever matched the sustained success of DuckTales (and, insult to injury, a planned theatrical feature was scotched because of the DuckTales flick's  poor reception), it's still a memorable part of many folks' formative experiences.

Next up (eventually): TaleSpin!

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