Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers Director Akiva Shaffer Talks Cartoon Cameo Challenges And Chipmunk Logistics [Interview]

Akvia Shaffer is best known for being one-third of the comedic rapping trio known as The Lonely Island, along with Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone. The three found fame as the creators of the "SNL Digital Short" on "Saturday Night Live," where they created such hits as "Lazy Sunday" and "D*** in a Box." Since then, they've also teamed up to make cult favorite films such as "Hot Rod" and "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping." Needless to say, their work has never really been geared towards kids, which made it rather surprising that Schaffer took the helm of "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers," the new Disney+ original film (now available) based on the '90s animated series of the same name. 

Even though the movie fell firmly outside of Akiva Schaffer's typical wheelhouse, "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" is an absolute triumph that manages to follow in the innovative footsteps of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." With a live-action animated hybrid style that finds all kinds of animated characters living among humans in the real world, "Chip 'n Dale" provides a clever Hollywood satire that is something the whole family will enjoy.

Before the release of the film, we spoke to Schaffer about all the hard work that went into the movie, especially when it comes to securing a plethora of animated cameos. Plus, we found out about a cameo from the co-creator of "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" and some of the logistical rules they had to figure out regarding animated characters in a real world setting. 

Beware of potential spoilers from here on out!

'The legal team at Disney really just embraced what this movie was going for'

All right. So how did you get Ugly Sonic into this movie? It is such a fantastic gag. I can't believe you got Paramount to agree to it. Was there a backup plan if it didn't work?

We don't talk about that here. Let me answer that with, the legal team at Disney really just embraced what this movie was going for. They had to probably work harder on this movie than all their other movies put together, is my guess, in terms of billable hours or however they do it. The amount of hours this movie must have set them back compared to every other movie must have been — I can't even imagine. They really are the heroes of this movie, that department. I direct all questions like that to them, but I could say that, well, yeah, I think I should really have to leave it at that. Also, please don't spoil it before the movie comes out.

Oh no, absolutely.

It'll be so hard. The moment it comes out, it's just going to be out there and then it'll be like, if you're not in the first two hours of watching the movie, it's going to get ruined for you, which is like the multiple Spider-Mans or whatever.

For sure.

But it is so nice in this day and age to have a secret, to have one secret.

'Some of them are so difficult to even find'

Were there any characters that you just couldn't get permission to use, even though you really wanted to?

There was a lot of them. Some were Disney, some were third party. It wasn't even necessarily that it was... Sometimes it would be surprisingly easy to get a third party. "My Little Pony," for whatever reason, I asked about it one day, and a few days later the lawyers came back and went, "Oh yeah, so 'My Little Pony,' they're cool with it." And it was just like, "Well, great." Other ones took a lot of convincing, but ultimately got there.

Other ones, the rights are so hard to even track down, especially if it's like an '80s or '90s cartoon that maybe originated in a different country and then let's say Fox made the cartoon, but it was financed by a European company, but the toy rights were in Japan. And you're like, "Which version of it are you trying to use? Who even owns it?"

Some of them are so difficult to even find. And then there were characters with Disney where it was like, even with them, where they're like, "Eh, we don't want that in the movie," for whatever reason. Or don't mess with the Fab Five — Mickey, Goofy, Donald [etc.] — don't even do anything with them. I don't want to give away any of the ones... There's a few really good answers to what you're saying that I don't want to say, because I'm hoping that if we ever get to do more, that I'm going to reapproach them and try to get it again.

'That is Tad Stones, the creator of Rescue Rangers'

Fair enough. I did hear that there was a "Star Wars" gag that got turned down by Lucasfilm. Can you talk about that at all?

That's actually the one that was in my brain right now when I said that.

Oh, okay.

To be honest, you can probably think of who the most fun character in that universe is and you'll probably be right.

Of course.

An animated character.

Yeah, yeah. A certain infamous one maybe?


What's your personal favorite obscure background detail that people might miss?

There's a bunch. [One] that I've mentioned today, so I feel fine spoiling, is Tad Stones, who created "Rescue Rangers," or was the co-creator of "Rescue Rangers," the original show. He was nice enough to come and do a voice. In the movie, when they're in the old Hollywood times trying to make it, and they get the phone call with the giant phone from Disney, or from somebody, and a voice on the phone says, "Chip, Dale, how would you like your own show?" That is Tad Stones, the creator of "Rescue Rangers."

That's great.

One that only really tickles me is, there's the 3D reporter who is a woman, and she's like, "3D In Your Face News," and holds the mic. It's the gag of blue and offset blue and red. But because it was being made by MPC, who has done hundreds of 3D movies, our VFX compositor was like, "Oh, no, no, it really works. I made it 3D." So if you have red and blue glasses at home, and you just threw them on for [those] two shots, that character ... it actually works.

That's so cool.

It actually is in 3D. And it's Paula Abdul's voice for no reason.

Oh, wow. So she has two cameos, essentially.

Exactly. Well, she was just there. So I was like, "Hey, do this voice." She was just game to do stuff. So for no reason, a reporter is Paula Abdul.

'You're just setting up your own rules and living by them'

How did you figure out which items to make Chip and Dale sized and which to make human sized? Because I love how, in the '90s, you have the big old cell phone that Dale answers, but then he also has his own small iPhone in the present day that is smaller than a real iPhone.

Well, it's modern. Technology's come a long way. They figured out how to make it. You're just setting up your own rules and living by them. The scale stuff is all kind of loosely based on character and just what's fun. So you have, like the cell phone's a perfect example. You're like, "Well, if it was 1990, they had just invented cell phones. They probably didn't have any other one than that main one we all remember or think of," the big block, Motorola one. And then you're like, "Well, now, maybe they could probably make a cell phone that big." But it's the same sort of thing.

Like Chip lives in a house that fits him because he is living a more modest lifestyle, so of course he would buy the house that fits. He wouldn't be ridiculous and ostentatious in some giant human house. He'd have a house that fits him. But within that house, if you look at the wood grain on the cabinetry in the kitchen, that wood grain is human scale wood grain. Because it's not like they have mini trees. And the flowers outside his house that kind of almost look like bushes, if you look up close, you're like, oh no, the flower petals are human scale and the leaves are human scale and the grass blades are human scale, because it's our world. It's not a world with mini grass. It's a world with human grass.

So every detail was kind of thought about between those two things, even down to the clothes. You're like, "Does Chip shop at a store that sells cartoon clothes and Dale shops at a store that sells real doll-size clothes?" That's why, when Chip puts on the plumber outfit, it's real clothes. Because it's not his stuff, it's Dale's stuff. Or when he's in the "Indiana Jones" booth and throws on the jacket, it's not the old one from the TV show because he wasn't intending it. But there's no real logic to that. It's just like, it's individual. It's just the kind of questions that came up of just, how would Dale drive a car? It would have all the aftermarket stuff put on to the Mercedes.

I love that. Well, that's my time, Akiva. Thanks a lot. I love this movie so much and I hope you get to do a sequel of some sort because it's so much fun.

That's awesome. Thank you so much, man. I appreciate the love that SlashFilm has given it today.

"Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" is streaming now on Disney+.