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Chipmunk Love

4 Apr, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

When your dad, Ross Bagdasarian Sr., in 1958 with the help of a tape recorder, created the character David Seville (think Mr. Cleaver in “Leave It to Beaver”) and mischievous Alvin, Simon and Theodore, better known as The Chipmunks, keeping alive the nostalgia might be a tall order.

Then again, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and his wife, Janice Karman, have continued the franchise almost 30 years — 21 years longer than senior Bagdasarian, who died in 1972. An animated TV show aired on NBC for eight years.

“We expected to do it for six months, and it just turned into a lifelong career,” said Karman, who plays the voice of Theodore and the three Chipettes (Brittany, Jeanette and Eleanor).

Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment May 23 (prebook April 11) releases for the first time on DVD Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Chipmunk Adventure ($14.99). The 1987 title — the first animated feature film directed by a woman (Karman) — featured eight songs and a musical score by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Songs include “Wooly Bully,” “Girls of Rock 'n' Roll” and “My Mother.”

The 35mm film was financed by Bagdasarian's production company, which hired 130 Los Angeles illustrators employing old-fashioned 2-D cel animation and a studio in South Korea to get the project completed on time. It grossed almost $7 million at the box office.

The film, about Alvin concocting a foolproof plan so The Chipmunks can travel the world, was digitally restored in 5.1 surround-sound for the DVD. Bonus materials include original pencil sketches, storyboard panels and backgrounds.

“We didn't do a commentary, which we will probably do for the 20th anniversary next year,” said Bagdasarian, who over the telephone not only sounds like Mr. Seville, but is also quite capable of yelling the infamous “Alvin!”

He also plays the voices of Alvin and Simon.

“Ross' dad did a great job creating a true personality with Alvin and a true relationship between Alvin and Dave,” Karman said. “Since people relate to those characters, the franchise has an everlasting appeal.”

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