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Review: “Chip ‘n’ Dale: Park Life”: Chipmunk Chaos

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From the Walt Disney Company France and Xilam Animation comes Chip ‘n’ Dale: Park Life, a modern take on the two classic Disney chipmunk characters. The main characters are now living inside a treehouse in the middle of a park, hence the title of the show. Technological advancements that were not invented yet during their classic animated shorts are used here, for example a smartphone they use as their TV set. Here, Matthew Geczy and Kaycie Chase are credited as the voices for Chip and Dale, respectively but they talk in a high pitched squeaky voice that is unintelligible. In a way, it both stays true to their older cartoons, while also fitting in with other works from Xilam Animation (i.e. Oggy and the Cockroaches). Also present in the cast are other inhabitants of the park,¬†including Clarice (a tougher version of the female chipmunk present in some classic cartoons), Pluto (sometimes accompanied by his pups) or a squirrel that is in reality a mob boss and causes trouble for the other characters. Donald Duck and other members of his extended family, also occasionally appear in various roles.

Directed by Jean Cayrol, and Frederic Martin and Khalil Ben Namaane (during the second season), the show debuted on Disney+ in July 2021 and has released batches of episodes every few months, with the newest set of episodes premiering last month. The following review will try to focus mostly on these newer episodes, but will still address some of the main takeaways from the series as a whole. This new batch of episodes consists of five half-hour shows, meaning fifteen new 7 minutes long segments. Of note, one of the segments is in fact the second part and conclusion to a story that was included in the previous batch of episodes released last summer. Titled “Time Traveller”, the story features Gyro Gearloose traveling through time and the two chipmunks getting in on the fun as well. There are some other sub-plots as well, such as Dale believing Chip is very, very old given he sees an old picture of him in his current age alongside baby versions of some old animals that live in the park. The two also get separated in different timelines, which is where the first part of the story ended. This second part now has Chip stuck in the past, with Dale on a quest to find him, while also being chased by Gyro’s Little Helper robot. I thought it was a fun idea to try out a slightly longer story on the show, even if it took a few months to see it’s conclusion. Considering there usually isn’t much, if any continuity between the episodes, having a two-part story feels more special.

Pluto guest-stars in three of these new segments, with his most notable role being in “The Bell”. Using special training methods, the sound of a ringing bell makes both Pluto and the chipmunks act all tough and not be afraid of anything, which leads to some amusing situations. Pluto also appears in “Puppy Papas” (where he’s too tired to take care of his pups, resulting in Chip & Dale having to deal with them at the beach), and has a cameo in “Sleepless Symphony”, with an homage to The Lady and the Tramp‘s spaghetti eating scene. Donald Duck appears twice, in very minor roles, such as operating a leaf blower in “Goodbye Park Life” or as the owner of two hamsters the chipmunks set free and trained to survive in the great outdoors (“Hamster Paradise”).

Other stories featured in these new episodes include Chip and Dale trying to retrieve a nut they dropped in the sewers, racing crows through the park, Dale trying to become a famous candlemaker, the park animals trying to break into a house to steal some cat food, Chip & Dale having to spend the night at a run down motel where Chip has to keep his blood pressure under control, Chip trying to actually eat Dale thinking he’s delicious, the duo discovering the moles’ secret swimming pool, getting mixed up with some cute but kind of evil animals in a petting zoo, or being framed by the squirrel mob boss for stealing things from the park. As usual spoilers will be kept to a minimum in this review, but I will note that the stories have some kind of unexpected twists to them, some becoming a bit too weird by the end (most notably, “The Candlemaker” in my opinion). There are also some amusing and sometimes unexpected scenes, such as an homage to the bike slide scene from the classic anime Akira, in “The Grand Crow Prix”.

The humor works for the most part and while there are some modern sensitivities to be found here when compared to the classic shorts, the show rarely resorts to using gross out humor. There are some instances but more often than not the stories are just bizarre (in a fun way), rather than gross. The interactions between Chip and Dale are handled pretty well and it’s fun seeing them both getting along as well as fighting each other. Their¬†friendship usually shines through most of their adventures. There might be more subtext one can read into their relationship, if they could be considered a couple living together, but I personally have no comment on all of that.

The supporting cast also works and provides more story opportunities than relying only on Donald or Pluto. As far as the animation goes, I think it is “good enough”, it’s pretty in line with other modern animated series based on classic cartoon characters. Taking into account the lack of dialogue, there’s really nothing to comment on the voice acting though of note I will mention Bill Farmer is usually credited as Pluto, and is notable for being the only current English voice cast member to reprise his role as the character from a few other cartoons over the years. Additionally, the show having little to no dialogue, could also make the show more accessible internationally. Personally I find it charming, though perhaps not exceptional, and I would recommend it to others. I think it should provide some entertainment to viewers of all ages.

Chip ‘n’ Dale: Park Life is currently streaming on Disney+.

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