The Short Answer

The filmmakers went through hell getting it made. They either have or have not done tests with focus groups to measure interest in making it available on iTunes or reprinting DVDs of it, but suffice it to say, they want to focus on the present and future of The Chipmunks and Chipettes. They may revisit releasing the 1987 movie, but for now they are focused on the now. It’s very costly to have your movie available digitally and physically on DVD. If the estimated ROI isn’t there, then you’ll only be able to find what your looking for on sites like eBay, but because of their sarcity you’ll see that those hard-to-ger movies will be priced quite high. That’s because they have reached collector’s item level. 

So Here’s The History

Ross Bagdasarian Jr. (son of the creator of The Chipmunks) blogged about the nightmare he and his wife Janice Karman (the movie’s director) went through to get 1987’s The Chipmunk Adventure made. The blog is long gone, but I stumbled upon it on YouTube, archived in video form by a fan: The Making Of The Chipmunk Adventure (30th Anniversary Special): The Agony And The Agony.

Here are the facts that I found—Janice and Ross decided to finance the project themselves, having generated so much revenue from the Alvin and the Chipmunks TV series. Their decision to work with several overseas studios led to major production delays. By late 1986, production had fallen far behind schedule, and a shortage of time and money resulted in major cuts being made to the film. They wouldn’t start making money back until years later.

“It did well, but we didn’t, at least in that initial time, we didn’t get our money back in those days, ’cause unfortunately we had signed on with a distributor that was going to put ‘X’ number of dollars into marketing and distribution. They spent less than $900,000 marketing the movie and including the prints and advertising. So it did okay, but it did not remotely get us our money back until many DVD sales later.” 

In an interview with NPR 2017 reveals that there was actually much potential for the Chipmunks to overtake Mickey Mouse; imagine that!
Interviewer: Here’s what I’m curious about because the show airs on NBC and you are doing original new episodes until 1990 and then, I guess, it’s in syndication. And then you guys decided to move on, you basically leave NBC and cut a deal with Universal to bring the show back, so what was that about?
Ross: So, one of the things they wanted to do was create their own Mickey Mouse, and they had had Woody Woodpecker for years, but Woody didn’t have the sort of resonance for generations the way Alvin did, and certainly didn’t the way Mickey Mouse did. And they had seen that when we had gone head-to-head with Mickey Mouse, whether it was an album or a TV show, or what have you, that The Chipmunks not only held their own, but did very, very well and usually came out on top. So Universal loved that, “Gee, Alvin could be our Mickey Mouse.” So the idea then was they were gonna create an animation unit for us and Janice and I were gonna run that, and we would of course not only do more Chipmunk stuff, but a lot of other things that we had showed them that we could do.
INTERESTING FACT: Many of the animators on The Chipmunk Adventure were Disney animators who left during the big exodus after The Black Cauldron happened. Others followed former Disney animator Don Bluth who would go on to form his own animation studio and reach a modest level of success with films like Anastasia(1997) and The Land Before Time (1988). 

Frustratingly the 1980s tv series is also unavailable for digital streaming and download), but I was lucky to find a 1998 issue of the original movie soundtrack on eBay for only $31, as well as the movie in mint DVD packaging for like $15 at Half Price Books in Orland Park. I wasn’t even looking for the movie..I just happen to be skimming through the Children’s section for a DVD or two for our daughter. And then, like deux ex machina, the DVD shown itself amongst the other DVDs. I would later find out that the same DVD is being sold on eBay for $100. This was a great example of how life is so much dependant on chance. 

Is The Movie Even Good?

And I’m happy to say that our 2 year old daughter loves it. She was addicted to watching The Chipmunk Adventure for a couple months this past summer. As a parent, the movie still keeps my attention and I love it just as much as when I was little. It’s a really great movie, you’ll see why if you watch it. It has realism, fantasy, and pzazz. And there’s this one song that’s a real tear-jerker. 

If you’d like to learn more about the 1980s aniamtion scene (it has a lot of drama and changes), check these documentaries out:

Waking Sleeping Beauty




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