How Disney has sold a feature take on a popular animated series.
Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers hits Disney+ today as a meta follow-up to the series of the same name from the late 1980s. In this version, Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) and Dale (voiced by Andy Samberg), meet and become friends in school before going on to star in the “Rescue Ranger” series. When professional ambitions pull Dale into a solo career, he and Chip part ways. 30 years later they are forced to reunite and put aside their differences to help their old friend Monterey Jack (voiced by Eric Bana), who was kidnapped as part of a toon bootlegging operation.
The movie also features cameos – either live action or in voice form – from Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Rachel Bloom and a host of others. It’s directed by Samberg’s fellow Lonely Island member Akiva Schaffer, who convinced Disney to include animated characters from Warner Bros. Nickelodeon, Sony and other companies and then convinced those others to lend their characters for the film.
announcements and casting
The movie was one of several announced by Disney during its 2020 investors presentation, though it had been in development for six years or so at that point. In 2019 Schaffer was brought on as the film’s director with Dan Gregor and Doug Mand writing the script.
That December 2020 announcement included the casting of Samberg and Mulaney, though it was later confirmed Tress MacNeille and Corey Burton, who voiced Chip and Dale (respectively) in the original series, would also return.
the marketing campaign
Things kicked off in mid-February with the release of a teaser trailer (3.2m YouTube views) that immediately communicates what kind of story the audience can expect. Presented as an “E! True Hollywood Story” type show, we see Chip and Dale rise in popularity thanks to their show before it all comes crashing down. 30 years later they have to put their differences aside to help their friend, with lots of hijinks along the way. It manages to explain why they two are animated in different styles and show off some of the animated cameos that will provide much of the appeal.
The partners are back-to-back on the poster released at the same time, which promises “It’s not a reboot. It’s a comeback.”
The full trailer (3.6m YouTube views) then came out in late April. It offers more of the same, with a few more cameos, a bit more explanation of the story and so on, but the message to the audience hasn’t changed here.
Similarly the next poster shows the two chipmunks striding toward the camera with an explosion behind them but otherwise is sending the same message as the first one-sheet.
A half-dozen character posters came out earlier this month with the same messaging as the other one-sheets, just featuring closer looks at some of the key people and animated characters.
A clip was released a week before the movie debuted that offers an extended look at Dale explaining the CGI surgery he had to revitalize his look for the modern age.
The cast and crew came out for the red carpet premiere in Hollywood earlier this week.
Two more posters were released that poke fun at the kinds of designs frequently featured on the one-sheets for action movies.
Both Samberg and Mulaney filled in for Jimmy Kimmel when he had Covid (again), interviewing each other about this movie and generally goofing around.
Chip and Dale narrate a tongue-in-cheek making-of featurette that has a few more cameos but is basically a way to continue the self-aware nature of the movie. Another video offers a look at some of the voice cast recording their lines alongside the finished footage.
Banner ads like this drove people to the Disney+ site to find out more about how they could watch the film. Audio ads on Spotify in the last week have also promoted the film’s streaming debut.
First off, I kind of called this back in 2016.
That out of the way, the largely positive reviews – it currently has a 79% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – have compared it favorably to Who Framed Roger Rabbit for its self-aware story and ability to bring together a number of different animated franchises.
But the key is likely going to be whether people enjoy the kind of riffing Samberg and Mulaney are known for. That’s a big part of the campaign and will either make people definitely seek it out or avoid it at all cost.