Writers Doug Mand and Dan Gregor never thought their offbeat comedy mystery 'comeback' film would get made, but when Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and John Mulaney came aboard, the 2D/CG/live-action hybrid film suddenly didn’t seem so crazy.
Up until today, writers Doug Mand and Dan Gregor did not believe their “weird, offbeat, comedy mystery” comeback film Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers would get made.
“I feel like there’s going to be a legal injunction in the next 48 hours” noted Gregor during an interview with AWN on Tuesday. Mand added, “We still don't believe that this is going to be real. Until it's up on the platform, I don’t buy it.”
But, much to the delight of Gregor, Mand and everyone on the production team, Rescue Rangers is, in fact, a reality, as the film releases on Disney+ today, May 20. It’s been a seven-year journey bringing this dream to fruition for the frequent collaborators, known for their work on How I Met Your Mother, Dolittle and Most Likely to Murder. But, truthfully, the duo says their believing the film - a hybrid mix of 2D, CG and live-action - would never see the light of day, was likely the very reason so many people were determined to get it in front of an audience.
“Dan and I sat down to write this seven years ago, for the most part thinking, ‘There's no chance in hell they're going to make this movie, so what are the things that make us laugh?’” says Mand. “It allowed us to just try to write the best thing we could. For something like this to get made, you need people other than the writers to believe in it. Louie Provost at Disney did believe in it. Alex Young and Todd Lieberman at Mandeville did believe in it. They never stopped.”
“It was a real out-of-left-field labor of love that we never thought Disney would say yes to,” continues Gregor. “But, to our great shock, they did.”
Produced by Mandeville Films - Beauty and the Beast (2017) and The Muppets (2011) - with Walt Disney Pictures, and directed by Akiva Schaffer (who doesn’t hum his “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie), Rescue Rangers takes place 30 years after the cancellation of the 1989 television series of the same name. Chip and Dale are now living among cartoons and humans in modern-day Los Angeles with Chip (John Mulaney) trying to make ends meet as an insurance salesman. Meanwhile, Dale (Andy Samberg) is desperate to relive the glory days and works the nostalgia convention circuit after undergoing CGI surgery.
The two estranged friends come together again after former castmate Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) calls the chipmunks in a panic and tells his friends of the disappearing ‘toons indebted to the infamous Valley Gang, run by a badly aged and evil Peter Pan (Will Arnett), now going by “Sweet Pete.” When Monty himself vanishes, and the number of missing ‘toons begin to rise, Chip and Dale must repair their broken friendship and take on their Rescue Rangers detective personas to help solve the case and save their friend’s life.
With animation from Mercury Filmworks, the film features 2D characters from 80s and 90s Disney classics like Beauty and the Beast’s Lumiere (Jeff Bennett) and The Little Mermaid’s Flounder (Rachel Bloom), as well as CGI remake characters like Pumbaa (Seth Rogan) from 2019’s The Lion King and even new clay stop-motion creations like Captain Putty (J.K. Simmons). Also featured is Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant), “Ugly Sonic” (Tim Robinson), He-Man (Alan Oppenheimer), and others. Rescue Rangers is not only a collage of animated styles from decades of creativity, it’s also a story that questions reboots and remakes as a whole.
“Disney initially approached us, saying, ‘Do you guys want to do something with the Rescue Rangers?’ and honestly, our first response was ‘Eh, no,’” remembers Gregor. “We were big fans of the Rescue Rangers growing up, but in a world where there are plenty of reboots, plenty of sequels, prequels, all that stuff, a central question to us was, ‘Do we really need another one of these?’ But once we started asking those questions about reboot culture, and toxic nostalgia, and started putting those questions into the mouths of the characters themselves, all of a sudden, it started being a lot of fun to conceive a movie and a world like this.”
Mand adds, “We want more reboot people to ask, ‘Why do this movie?’ And to get meta with that question, within the world, was our way of having the discussion, by having our characters talk about reboots, talk about a world where they were wanting to get back on top and having the conversations of, ‘Who really wants this?’ and ‘Is it over?’ and ‘Should you just let go?’”
Ironically enough, to tackle these questions within Rescue Rangers, Mand and Gregor sought inspiration from one of their own favorite Disney films, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which also mixes 2D cartoons with live-action characters. The Academy Award-winning 1988 Touchstone Pictures detective comedy, in Gregor’s words and with no pun intended, was “a true ‘touchstone’” for Rescue Rangers.
“Something that Roger Rabbit does so well is just playing to the height of its intelligence,” says Mand. “Bob Hoskins plays that so real and so dramatic. And there are these characters with a dark past and regret and sadness that is very real to them. In a world where a lot of hybrids talk down to children and dumb down messages, we thought, ‘Let's play this real. Let's play these characters as if they are out-of-work actors.’ The funny parts of it, the sad parts of it, the aspirational parts of it -- let's not sell these characters out. Let's play them to the top of their intelligence, where their feelings are very real and we want to care about those feelings.”
Though the script initially sat in a “deep sleep state of long-term development,” as Gregor notes, due to a limited number of release windows amidst the influx of Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar films, Mandeville decided to bring in director Schaffer, well versed in comedy from his time on Saturday Night Live, who brought the project back from Hollywood purgatory.
“Akiva was into it and jumped in about three years ago and brought in Andy Samberg John Mulaney and [Rescue Rangers] just took on a new life,” says Gregor. “It was really amazing. Disney+ had also just launched, or was about to launch, and we could start conceiving movies for a little less money that were a bit more out of the box; stuff that isn't completely in the same mold as we've traditionally done.”
Having so many stars of comedy in one project supported Mand’s and Gregor’s goal to show that it’s possible to both love and laugh at the things we deeply cherish.
“We want to respect the past and also be able to laugh at who we were and who we are,” says Mand. “The big approach to it, and Akiva was so good at this, was not treating the subject so reverential that it's put up on a pedestal and therefore can’t be laughed at. I don't think any piece of art should be that way, especially a reboot in the animated world.”
But, despite its obvious pokes at reboots, Rescue Rangers is also proof that there is a place for nostalgia, if approached with a well-rounded view.
“We wanted to be able to laugh at that and comment on it, but we also wanted to come out on the side of, ‘It's not all bad’ because there is a place for this,” says Mand. “And we hopefully achieve that through the friendship of Chip and Dale, the messaging of which is that some things are really worth saving and worth revisiting. The emotional backbone of the movie, hopefully, allows it to not get too cynical because there's something wonderful about celebrating the past and revisiting those things we love and preserving them and showing the new version of them.”
Gregor adds, “Our hope, honestly, is that people start feeling like it's okay to not be so precious with these old properties. We all have nostalgia and we all have a warm place in our hearts for the things we loved growing up. But they're not sacred. Let's mess around a little bit.”
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers is now playing on Disney+.