Alvin and the Chipmunks, later renamed The Chipmunks, was an American animated television featuring The Chipmunks produced by Bagdasarian Productions (formally known as Bagdasarian Film Corporation) in association with Ruby Spears Enterprises from 1983-1987 and DIC Entertainment from 1988-1990.The show, airing on NBC, lasted eight production seasons. It also introduces the Chipmunks’ Distaff Counterparts, The Chipettes:
Brittany, vainer than Alvin,
Jeanette, smart like Simon,
And Eleanor, shy and kind (and a Big Eater) like Theodore.
Then in season four, their own human guardian, the myopic Miss Beatrice Miller, was introduced.
Adult Fear: In the episode “Help Wanted: Mommy,” having siblings being split up into different foster houses is something a lot of parents don’t want to happen.
All Just a Dream: There were some episodes, like when Alvin had a fever or when Dave thought he’d shrunk where’s he able to stand in someone’s a palm.
Always Someone Better: Alvin encountered one of these in the person of a boy named Apollo Jones, who kept beating him at everything. It turned out that Apollo genuinely envied Alvin because Alvin had one thing he himself lacked - a family that could be bothered with him. Apollo's parents were rarely home and sent him extremely generic postcards from wherever they went.
Art Evolution: The Ruby-Spears episodes have the characters go through several subtle design changes over the seasons. It's most notable with Dave, who becomes less cartoony-looking and more realistic as the seasons go on, but the Chipmunks and Chipettes also look markedly different in the fifth season compared to the first; they get a more rounded, cuter look — which would be further developed in The Chipmunk Adventure and the DiC/Mukarumi-Wolf-Swenson episodes, but by this time we've crossed into...
Ironically however, it seems more effort was put into the animation of the Ruby-Spears episodes, the supporting and one-shot characters look more human, and more detail was put into the backgrounds and layouts, while the Mukarumi-Wolf-Swenson and DiC episodes have that standard half-assed Saturday Morning look to them. The character designs did improve with the MWS episodes, and the animation was pretty decent, but the backgrounds and layout were really simplistic; the DiC episodes are pretty awful... a lot of lazy Off Model animations, the backgrounds continue to be simplistic, and unlike the Ruby-Spears episodes, the human characters have a less human, more cartoony look to them.
Compare them all to the original cartoon designs of the 1961 series, from Format Films (an L.A. studio started up by Herbert Klynn and Jules Engel and various other UPA expatriates). The Chuck Jones special, A Chipmunk Christmas is a very notable bridge between the two very different styles.
Lampshaded in the Alvin and the Chipmunks episode "Back to Alvin's Future," where the 80s Chipmunks return to their home circa The Alvin Show, where Simon comments, "Everything looks so flat," to which Alvin adds, "Yeah, who painted this place? The Flintstones?" They even comment on how 60s Dave doesn't look right.
Attack of the Political Ad: The episode "May the Best Chipmunk Win." at one point, Alvin rides around the playground in a wagon pulled by a donkey, while Simon and Theodore proclaim, "Don't be a donkey, vote for Alvin!" THEN, in comes Brittany, riding on the back of a elephant asking for votes.
Auction: In one of the '80s episodes, Alvin gets in over his head bidding on expensive items to impress a rich girl he likes.
Be Yourself: Basically, the Aesop for aforementioned episode "My Fair Chipette."
Bigger Than Jesus: One cartoon formatted as a documentary on the rise and popularity of the group shows one segment where Alvin shocks everyone at a press conference, including Simon and Theodore, by shouting, "We're bigger than Mickey Mouse!" People start destroying their Chipmunks merchandise as Alvin is forced to make an apology to the press soon after.
Crossover: With Mr. T! Both their cartoons premiered simultaneously and are made by the same production company.
And the 80s chipmunks with their 60's incarnation
Celebrity Star: The '80s installment "Urban Chipmunk" has a guest appearance by Dolly Parton, unusual for Saturday morning cartoons of the time.
The City vs. the Country: Played with in both episodes featuring The Chipmunks' mother Vinny. "Vinny's Visit" especially puts this into perspective, as she basically still tries to carry on with her woodland lifestyle, despite being a guest at the Seville house.
Character Development: Very, very rare for an animated children's series. Simon, especially, is more of a well-rounded character as the series progresses.
Clip Show: The episodes "Chipmunkmania" and "Alvin in Analysis."
Clumsy Copyright Censorship: As of this writing, at least three episodes had their original respective songs replaced on DVD collections: The Clovers' "Love Potion No. 9" (From "Theodore and Juliet"), The Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA (from "The Curse of Lontiki"), and The Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" (from "The Picture of Health).
Courtroom Episode: "Tell it to the Judge" from Season Five, in which Alvin sues Brittany, claiming she totalled Dave's new bicycle; Brittany counter sues, claiming Alvin ruined her new pair of roller skates.
A Halloween special in the mid-90s features a boy named Michael who has a deformity that other kids ridicule him for, but Theodore quickly becomes good friends with him and realizes he's really no different from other kids.
Some episodes from the last season (The Chipmunks Go to the Movies) are only slightly more mature than the rest of the series, probably considering they did parody some more "grown-up" movies.
Don't Split Us Up: The first episode of season four that introduces Miss Miller did this with the Chipettes.
Doorstop Baby: The Chipmunks, when left by their mother, Vinnie, in Dave's forest cabin.
Early Installment Weirdness: Actually, it's more like Later Installment Weirdess. Since the DiC episodes (including The Chipmunks Go to the Movies) were not seen in reruns for a long period of time, and have had limited episodes released on DVD, it can be a rather disorienting experience for those who are most accustomed to the Ruby-Spears, and even the Murakumi-Wolf-Swenson episodes. Also considering the storylines by the DiC era were becoming far more over-the-top cartoony and less believable ("Dear Diary" is a good example). The Chipmunks Go to the Movies especially are just Plain Weird Installment Weirdness.
Edited for Syndication: 65 episodes were syndicated by Lorimar-Telepictures in 1988. They were the first five seasons, both Valentines and Reunion primetime specials, and the 11 Murakami-Wolf-Swenson episodes from season 6. In most markets, almost every episode from the first three seasons, as well as a handful from the fourth are sped up (similar to PAL) to conserve time for longer commercial breaks. Some season 3 episodes left the speed alone, but trimmed certain scenes out. In U.S. markets, the individual episode title cards from every Ruby-Spears episode has been removed, though international markets retain them.
Evil Uncle: Charlatan "Uncle" Harry, who pretended to be the brother of their mother so he could scam them.
Imaginary Love Triangle: An episode had one involving a Girl of the Week, Simon, and a biker boy. Alvin convinced Simon to try out for a bike competition to impress the girl, only to find out that the biker was her cousin.
Played with VERY briefly at one point where both Alvin and Simon try to impress a Girl of the Week (Alvin with his athletic abilities, Simon with his manners and chivalry).
Incredible Shrinking Man: The Alvin And The Chipmunks episode "Funny We Shrunk the Adults," is one where Dave and Miss Miller are shrunken by Simon's "matter compacting" ray. At the same time, the Chipmunks and some neighbor kids who they are trying to impress are wrecking the house with their rowdy playing and bringing in things like a circus, including the animals. In fact, it was the rowdy playing that made the shrink ray turn on and zap Dave in the first place.
Inverted in an earlier episode with Dave waking up from a dream about him shrinking.
Inter-Species Romance: The whole show was full of this, considering the Chipmunks (and Chipettes) interacted with humans. More so Alvin with his constant flirting. In one episode, Brittany wants to ask the most popular boy in school to the dance.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: Bagdasarian Productions literally keep re-releasing the exact same compilation DVDs (with maybe an additional entry or two with certain releases) year after year, under different titles.
Different episodes, in different forms, continually pop up on various different video sharing sites, such as YouTube, or Dailymotion, though they do suffer from being pulled for copyright, whether from Bagdasarian Productions, or other companies such as Warner Bros. (particularly uploads from Cartoon Network recordings).
Long Runners: While most Saturday Morning cartoons lasted a season or two at best, this cartoon lasted for eight seasons, with over 100 episodes, and spawning a number of TV specials associated with it.
Medium Awareness: "Quick! Cut to a commercial!" in the 80s cartoon episode "Food for Thought."
The entire episode of “Back to our Future” was practically this trope personified, from the Chipmunks talking about the year they were created (not born, as in previous episodes) to them meeting their original designs, to the dramatic shift in animation, which both the 60's and 80's Dave notices. They even complain about how flat everything is in the 60's, a time when cartoon backgrounds were as simple as possible and things like proper perspective were not established as a standard.
Never Say "Die": Subverted rather often. One episode even has a frustrated Eleanor shout in anger, "I swear, if we don't get to New Orleans soon, I'm going to KILL her!" as she was sick of Brittany's constant whining. ELEANOR of all people!
New Transfer Student: When The Chipettes join the Chipmunks at their school in "May the Best Chipmunk Win."
Orphanage of Fear: The Chipettes and their original human caretaker, Olivia, lived in one of these in Australia, as seen in their backstory episode.
Parental Abandonment: Alvin felt this way when he wonders why their mother, Vinnie, left them with "a stranger." Vinnie revealed that during the great winter migration, there wasn't enough food to feed her children; she gave them up to David Seville, whom she knew was friendly to the animals. She later tried to come back for them, but she sees how happy they are with him. Alvin feels guilty for thinking otherwise.
Pretty in Mink: Given that the Chipmunks and Chipettes frequently try mingle with, or get into, high society, quite a few furs appear, usually by Socialites.
The show "This is Your Father" in the episode "Some Entrancing Evening."
Rashomon-Style: The episodes "Every Chipmunk Tells A Story" and "Once Upon a Crime."
The episode "Miss Miller's Big Gamble" established Miss Miller's first name as Beatrice, but the animated movie says her name was Rebecca.
"A Dog's Best Friend Is His Chipmunk" shows that Dave is allergic to dogs, but in "Cookie Chomper III," he only starts developing an allergy to dogs once the Chipmunks brought Lilly in at the end.
Dave's parents are established as farm people in "Grandpa and Grandma Seville," but "Back to Dave's Future" showed that they lived in the city when Dave was a kid, and his father was an accountant.
Throughout the first season of the series, The Chipmunks are regarded as well-known celebrities who are almost instantly recognized by the public wherever they go. Afterwards, they are depicted as your average and ordinary school-aged kids who just happen to also be rockstars. In fact, some episodes have them, particularly Alvin, having trouble convincing someone that they are, indeed, celebrities.
Sibling Seniority Squabble: It's mentioned a couple of times during the series (probably as a reminder to somewhat confused viewers) that Alvin and Brittany are the oldest of their litters. It's also confirmed that there's a five minute difference between Alvin, Simon, and Theodore; while not confirmed, the common idea is that the same applies to The Chipettes, except for a ten minute difference between Brittany and Jeanette, which makes the age order: Brittany, Alvin, Simon, Jeanette, Theodore, and Eleanor.
Stand-In Parents: Played straight in the Season Four opener, where Brittany decided to pose as the mother parents day at school, to keep school officials from finding out the girls are orphans and live by themselves.
Both "A Chipmunk Valentine" and "A Chipmunk Reunion" were exactly this, though they were also produced specifically for inclusion with the series itself (and are therefore included in the syndication package, whereas other specials, like "Trick or Treason" or "Alvin's Thanksgiving Celebration" for example, are separate specials from the series).
"Back to Alvin's Future" was intended to be the 100th episode of the series, but since a lot of networks have a tendency to broadcast episodes out of order, it ended up being the 92nd episode to be aired during the series' first run.
What Happened to the Mouse?: In their debut episode, The Chipettes don matching pleated yellow dresses for concerts and public appearances. It was the only episode of the series to feature them in these dresses, however, when The Chipmunks Posable Play Pals line was released, figures of The Chipettes wearing the dresses were released.
Write Who You Know: In Cookie Chomper III, the dog the Chipmunks adopted is named Lilly. Lilly the puppy was named after Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and Janice Karman’s dog, Tiger Lily, who served as the real-life inspiration for this episode. Like Cookie Chomper III, Tiger Lily was also run over by a car and died.