Back near the end of the 1980s, there was one program I could always look forward to coming home from school to see, and it was Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers. And perhaps I'm just getting too sentimental, but I don't think children's cartoons today can compare. The shame is that because this program is so hard to find today, it's not easy to take a trip down nostalgia way, or for new audiences to become exposed to this program. This show was never captured on DVD for some reason (despite the monumental popularity of the main characters, Chip and Dale), and it doesn't exactly have a prime television slot (on at 4:30 a.m. on Toon Disney).
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So in honor of a show which every child should see when they're growing up but probably never will, I thought I'd write this epinion to pay tribute to the good 'ol rescue rangers. For those who've never seen the show, there's five main characters. Clearly you've got Chip and Dale, but the character development and writing was so good on this cartoon that for the first time, they really had very distinguishable personalities (not to mention appearances). Previously, the only way I saw to tell them apart was that Chip has a black nose, while Dale has a red nose (now Dale also wears a Hawaian shirt and has a more goofy voice that doesn't sound like Chip, who has the classic high-pitched chipmunk voice). Chip is the natural leader of the show, with a surprisingly sarcastic attitude throughout this show that usually gets directed at Dale. And Dale is not very brainy, but perhaps more relatably, preferring to sit around watching what else but cartoons, and reading comic books. Then there's the brauny mouse Monterey Jack (apparently the name Swiss or Cheddar was taken), who's named after a piece of chese with good cause, he's prone to having cheese attacks where he loses control whenever he smells the scent of cheese. There's Zipper the fly, an old friend of Monterey Jack, whose small size and ability to fly always gets the Rescue Rangers out of trouble. Finally, there's perhaps the most interesting new character, Gadget, a female mouse inventor whose beauty captivates Chip and Dale (who are in constant competition for her affections, not that she notices), but who is also the most intelligent member of the group, constantly inventing things to save the day, like the Ranger plane (often out of objects that we humans throw away in the trash and would take for granted, with surprisingly clever results).
And of course there's a host of recurring villians for the Rescue Rangers to deal with as well. The equivalent of The Joker for Batman is on this show in the form of Fat Cat, who is what he sounds like, a fat cat, except one who wears a business suit, and oddly enough sounds a bit like The Joker from The Batman animated series. His plans often include things like trying to frame a dog for crimes or stealing a famous fish for a good meal, whatever kind of trouble a cat could be expected to get into. But the show is more clever than it might sound, and works on another level, as Fat Cat has his own gang of animal thugs working for him, to parallel his master's own gang (his master is a human crime boss introduced on the first few episodes, showing that pets take after their owners). Another common enemy is Dr. Nimnul, a mad scientist who's actually a human, always providing a challenge for the writers who create this universe where every animal speaks english and can understand each other, but never in front of humans (sort of like in the movie Babe).
The first few episodes of the show reveal how Chip and Dale got to be "Rescue Rangers" and met up with their new friends. The interesting thing about those episodes is that if you ever watched old Chip and Dale cartoons, the characters begin Rescue Rangers much like they used to be, just goofing around and getting into trouble. Their translation into crimefighters actually feels like a natural character development that stays true to the characters' older cartoons, as they start out fighting criminals the same way they would have kept, say, Donald Duck as a lumberjack from cutting down their tree in a classic Disney cartoon, by causing mischief.
The show also has some astonishingly subtle jokes and references for the older viewers, such as newscasters designed to spoof Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite. To call this just a kid's show is not to do justice to it. Another prime example is that when I was younger, I hardly noticed all the tension between Chip and Dale over Gadget, which older audiences will find one of the most amusing aspects about the show (the two chipmunks even blush when they get near her). And often out of nowhere the show throws out something so unexpectedly random that it cracks you up. My personal favorite moment is when Chip dresses up as the fat lady from an opera and starts singing her part in his trademark high-pitched voice, after a croccodile (named Sewernose of course) tries to take over the opera (about the only funnier moment I've ever seen with Chip and Dale might be from the Disney cartoon "The House of Mouse" when Chip and Dale did a stripper dance for the ladies like Chippendale dancers).
If you've never seen the show before, the only thing that will seem dated is the theme song. I personally love it, because it takes me back to the days when things were more simple, but it's as 80's a song as you can get ("Ch-ch-ch-ch-Chip and Dale!") And the animation does not feel stale, as it was fairly ahead of its time, even though it clearly wasn't computer generated like so many cartoons today. While older audiences probably won't appreciate the show if they didn't grow up watching it, and will wonder why I'm even writing this review (and yes, I am an adult and a lawyer, even if I am the only one who still likes to watch this show), I strongly recommend anyone with kids who is able to find this program expose their kids to it, because it's something that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
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Type of Program: Cartoon or Animated
Program Quality: Thought-provoking, original material
Best Suited For: Whole Family