Why The Lonely Island's Akiva Schaffer Wanted to Direct 'Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers'

This story about “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” director Akiva Schaffer first appeared in the Down to the Wire: Drama issue of The Wrap’s awards magazine.

“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” the Disney animated series and cornerstone of the Disney Afternoon syndicated programming block, is probably not the kind of property you imagine the company resurrecting as a splashy live-action/animation hybrid. And it’s certainly not the type of movie that’s usually nominated in the Emmys’ Outstanding Television Movie category, which has always recognized nothing but totally live-action and usually serious films. And yet here we are, with the new Disney+ original not only succeeding as an audience favorite but as an esteemed accomplishment worthy of the nomination.

Director Akiva Schaffer, one-third of the influential comedy troupe The Lonely Island, is just as shocked by the acclaim, which came on a morning when he didn’t even know the nominations were being announced. “I got a text from one of the writers with a screen cap, and I couldn’t tell if it was a bit or not, and I wasn’t sure if I should respond sarcastically or not,” Schaffer said. Only after more texts came through did he realize it was real.

In Schaffer’s take on “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” Chip (John Mulaney) and Dale (Andy Samberg) are former stars of the original show, now estranged in modern day Los Angeles. Dale has undergone “CGI surgery;” he’s now 3D, while Chip has retained his old look from him. And together—wouldn’t you know it? — they’re drawn into a mystery that only they can solve. It’s full of knowing humor and cameos from animated characters across the entertainment industry, calling to mind that other animated/live-action hybrid detective story Disney released back in 1988, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” (Roger makes an appearance in “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” voiced once again by Charles Fleischer.)

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Schaffer is heartened by how many people saw and responded to the movie: “Everybody you know has Disney+, so it’s nice to put something out there and everybody has access to it and you get all of that instant feedback,” he said. But he’d love to add some bonus features to the presentation. Before the movie finished, Schaffer cobbled together supplemental material, including animatics of scenes that were deleted or reworked and the original proof-of-concept video from 2019 that got the movie into production, and sent the material to Disney. “None of the Disney+ originals have anything besides a trailer,” he said. “But I think that they should, why not? It can sit there forever for the legacy and for people like me who like that stuff.”

The 6 Best Jokes Disney's 'Chip N Dale: Rescue Rangers' Makes About Disney Itself

And while Schaffer has only had a few cursory meetings about a sequel, he knows who its star should be: Ugly Sonic (voiced by fellow Emmy nominee Tim Robinson), the eleven-star of the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie who in the “ Rescue Rangers” world is now working with the FBI. “I love that character,” Schaffer said. “I’m going to put this out there right now: the ‘LEGO Batman’-style spin-off movie for this movie? Give Ugly Sonic a whole movie.” And if they make that movie (and Schaffer is behind it once again), it’ll probably pick up another Emmy nomination. Only this time, nobody will be as surprised.

Read more from the Down to the Wire: Drama issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine here.

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Photograph by Irvin Rivera for TheWrap


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