Show of the Week: Alvin and the Chipmunks

There has been no shortage of classic toon brands making their way back to television under new guises in recent years, the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Peter Rabbit to name but two. At MIPJunior this year, PGS Entertainment debuted the latest name to the canon.

Alvin and the Chipmunks is latest reworking of the classic US brand about three school-age rodent brothers and their adopted dad, David Seville.

The new show comes more than 20 years after the previous iteration ended on NBC after eight years and 102 episodes. That version was based on CBS’s 1961 show, which itself was based on Ross Bagdasarian’s 1958 Christmas hit The Chipmunk Song.

Bagdasarian’s son, Ross Jr., and daughter-in-law Janice Karman are behind the 2013 vintage, just as they were with the Eighties show following Ross Sr.’s passing in 1972, and the more recent Fox-distributed movie franchise, which will get a fourth outing in 2015.

But while the movies have been successful, Karman says television offers the opportunity to create a more in-depth world. “With the movies, you’re telling just one story, and you just don’t have the time to get involved with the other characters. There were all these characters and topics we wanted to approach that we couldn’t with film.”

The comedy show is set in the modern day and will include The Chipettes, female chipmunk characters first introduced in the Eighties. “We’re setting it in the modern day, with a new look and modern vernacular,” says Bagdasarian Jr.

“It’s a different style of animation. My dad created a look in the Sixties and Janice redesigned it beautifully for the Eighties with a very classic look, less stylised, and then redesigned it again for the movies. This is the next iteration; fresh and new but with the essence of the characters, both in look and story.”

Karman is penning the scripts and has focused on things such as dad Seville’s issues with modern technology, bullying at school and generational problems between parents and children as they come of age.

France’s Genao Productions is handling the animation and half the storyboarding, and Bagdasarian Jr. and Karman are providing all voices and original music. The 52x11mins animated sitcom is fully financed, which means distributor PGS Entertainment “can be very selective about finding the right partners”, Bagdasarian Jr. says.

PGS will target channels seeking “safe family entertainment” for 6-10s, PGS managing director Philippe Soutter says. “You have a brand for three generations: the grandparents who saw it in the Fifties and Sixties, the parents who were there in the Eighties and now the children who’ve seen the movies in theatres will be able to see a TV series for the first time. This is a unique perspective in terms of co-viewing,” he adds.

The show: Alvin and the Chipmunks

The producer: Bagdasarian Productions, Genao Productions

The broadcaster: n/a

The distributor: PGS Entertainment

The concept: A modern reworking of Ross Bagdasarian’s classic human-and-rodent family animated story

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