The theme song is still indelibly etched in the minds of late ‘80s and early ‘90s kids raised on a steady diet of the Disney Afternoon.
Ch-ch-ch-chip and Dale. Rescue Rangers.
Debuting in 1989, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers re-imagined Disney’s long-running chipmunk troublemakers as a detective duo, joined by a couple of mice — cheese-loving adventurer Monterey Jack and spunky inventor Gadget — and a surprisingly helpful housefly named Zipper. The show was one of Disney’s many syndicated animated hits of that era; running for 65 episodes, spawning a couple of NES games and getting 19 issues of a comic from Disney’s short-lived comic book publishing division.
Twenty years later, BOOM! Studios is following up on the success of their Darkwing Duck comic and debuting a new Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers ongoing series this December, from Darkwing writer Ian Brill and with Leonel Castellani (Super Hero Squad) on art. Newsarama contacted Brill to find out if there’s still no case too big, no case too small.
Newsarama: Ian, this Rescue Rangers ongoing is coming on the heels of your Darkwing Duck ongoing — which begs the question, just how big of a Disney Afternoon fan are you?
Ian Brill: A pretty big fan. After all, I got two hours of great cartoons every day after school. Obviously Darkwing Duck and now Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers hold a place in my heart now. I also loved Gummi Bears, TaleSpin, Goof Troop and DuckTales (and you can find DuckTales stories in Uncle Scrooge, published by BOOM Kids! every month). These shows had stand-out characters and inventive situations. It was a great time to be a kid, soaking up these stories that fired up the imagination.
Nrama: The new Darkwing Duck series, while it's absolutely appropriate for all audiences, seems to be aimed with an eye towards people who grew up with the cartoon and are now adult comic readers. Which works for Darkwing — it was always satirical, always a little subversive. Rescue Rangers, as a concept, doesn't seem like it would necessarily lend itself to the same kind of treatment — it's a little more earnest by nature. What approach are you taking with the comic?
Brill: There’s a sweet spot you can hit where, with enough craft and care, you can tell a story that appeals to a universal audience. All types of people, all types of ages. The Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge stories did it. The Pixar films do it now. I look at those works as inspirations. Hopefully when people pick up this book they get captivated by the characters, either for the first time or all over again, and are into this globe-trotting adventure they embark on. The original show brought the appeal of Chip and Dale to a new generation. I want to show the appeal of Chip, Dale and all the Rescue Rangers to multiple generations.
Nrama: When the Darkwing comic began, Darkwing the character had been away for a year, mirroring how the Darkwing property was dormant for a while. Where do we find the Rescue Rangers when their new title opens up?
Brill: The Rescue Rangers are still together when we open up the book. For this story I needed them to jump into adventure so the team is still active, still protecting the small creatures of this world. Also, I didn’t want to repeat myself!
Nrama: Let's get your take on each of the main characters — starting with Chip, natch. He's the leader, and pretty much a chipmunk Indiana Jones. A lot to like there — so what do you personally like about Chip?
Brill: After seeing so much of the show it really seems to me that Chip and Dale are like two parts of the same person. Chip is the serious side, but because Dale’s always around him some of that silly side shines through. He’s the leader but he’s not domineering. He knows he’s a team with great people and trusts them to do the job and complete their part of the mission with style.
Nrama: Dale is the comic relief to Chip's straight man — must be fun to write, no?
Brill: Yeah, there’s a lot you can do with Dale. He’s the other side of Chip, silly but still an effective sleuth in his own right. With Chip and Dale you have to keep in mind they’re so similar and so different. It’s why they fight and make up in the space of a minute.
Nrama: Gadget is certainly a fan favorite. What is it about Gadget that's appealing?
Brill: A big part of the appeal and style of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers is that Gadget is always coming up with these inventions that turn household items into artifacts of adventure. It is fun to write a character who is so intelligent when it comes to certain things, and then clueless when about other things (like Chip and Dale’s dueling affections for her).
Nrama: Monterey Jack is the veteran adventurer of the group. And he certainly likes cheese. What kind of role will he play in your series?
Brill: Monterey Jack is a big part of the story, how can he not be? His experience as a world traveler plays a major role here. The appeal is a character who usually acts before he thinks. That can be both an asset and a challenge for the rest of the team.
Nrama: Zipper, well, Zipper probably isn't the easiest character to write, since he communicates solely in buzzes. Or maybe that makes him the easiest. Hmm. Which is it for you?
Brill: I think it’s cool. There might be a Zipper solo scene or two that allow me to tell stories without dialogue, which is something all writers need to do.
Nrama: What kind of capers will the Rescue Rangers get involved with in the series? Obviously Fat Cat was the main recurring villain — will we be seeing him in the first few issues?
Brill: This is a big mission for the Rescue Rangers, where they will face a lot of new dangers in exciting locales. Animals are going wild all over the world, and now it’s time for the Rescue Rangers to get to the bottom of it and save the day. This is an adventure that will challenge our characters on both an external and internal level.
As for Fat Cat, I can only tell you this: I have specific plans for him and how he will affect the Rescue Rangers’ lives. You will see how in due time.
Nrama: One of the cool things of Rescue Rangers, design-wise, was all of the devices and vehicles made out of tiny household objects like buttons and thimbles. Is that something that will be incorporated into the series?
Brill: Leonel Castellani is doing the art, who has done issues of Marvel’s Super Hero Squad. He’s got the style of these characters down pat. As soon as you read the book your memories of Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers will be back, thanks to Leonel. And of course we’ll see fantastic inventions from Gadgets. How can this be a Rescue Rangers story otherwise?
Nrama: So we've got a Darkwing Duck ongoing, now a Rescue Rangers ongoing, and Duck Tales stories in the Uncle Scrooge book. Not to get too speculative about it, but what other Disney animated properties do you think could work as a comic in the current day? TaleSpin sure seems like a natural next step.
Brill: There are lots of great shows and stories from the Disney Afternoon, all the stuff I listed above in my first answer. BOOM! is certainly paying attention to how these books do and considering what options to take. Darkwing Duck did well and now we have Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. If this book does well … who knows!
Nrama: Obligatory question: have you ever ridden "Gadget's Go-Coaster" at Toontown in Disneyland? I think most people at this point unfortunately have no idea what inspired the ride.
Brill: I remember going to Toontown pretty soon after it opened in 1994 and going on the ride. That would make me 11 at the time. I was both a huge Disney Adventures and Roger Rabbit fan so you can imagine how into the idea of an actual Toontown I was. Doesn’t Gadget still talk to you when the ride starts? If someone thinks of a comic book I wrote while they’re zooming around a roller coaster then this will all be worth it.
Sometimes some crimes go slippin' through the cracks...