When Ross Bagdasarian changed his name to David Seville, sped up his recorded voice, and released the single, “The Chipmunk Song,” he never could have fathomed the enormous popularity that would follow. Over a half-century later, his trio of Chipmunks – Alvin, Simon and Theodore – are still going strong, appearing in feature films and delighting young audiences with their squeaky voices and irrepressible charm. Let’s take a look back.
When Bagdasarian’s novelty track, “The Chipmunk Song” reached the airwaves in 1958, it quickly went to #1, where it stayed for the next four weeks. It would go on to sell over 4-million copies and win three Grammy Awards. Clearly, there was a Chipmunk market out there, and the next logical step was animation. In 1961, The Alvin Show debuted, featured the three Chipmunks, as well as the likeness of David Seville as their human father/manager. The cartoon ran for one year on CBS in prime-time, before finding new success in syndication. Sadly, Ross Bagdasarian passed away in 1972, never really seeing his cartoon cohorts achieve the fame they were destined for.
Then, in 1979, The Alvin Show returned to Saturday mornings, and the following year, his son Ross Bagdasarian Jr., took over the Chipmunk reigns and released an album of popular rock and roll songs called Chipmunk Punk. The album was a surprising success and prompted NBC to give Alvin and Friends a new Saturday morning series in 1983 called Alvin and the Chipmunks. This time, they really hit gold, with the series running for eight seasons. In the show, the Chipmunks performed covers of popular Top-40 hits, occasionally joined by caricatures of real-life celebrities such as Dolly Parton and Mr. T. (no doubt in an effort to promote his own Saturday morning series).
In 1988, the series changed its name simply to The Chipmunks, and two years to Chipmunks Go To the Movies, where they parodied movies and other pop culture. Finally, in 2008, Alvin and cohorts finally made their big-screen debut in the CGI/ live action adaptation of Alvin and the Chipmunks. The film would eventually gross over $360 million worldwide and spawn a sequel called Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel in 2009.
Only time will tell if there is more Alvin in our future, but at Retroland, we’ve always been more interested in the past anyway. If you have memories of watching this delightful trio of Chipmunks on the Saturday mornings of your youth, we welcome your recollections in our comments section.