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Alvin & The Chipmunks: "The Alvin Show" (1961) Blu-ray/DVD Review

Marshall Fish is a remote trivia writer for Hasbro, Screenlife Games, and other pop culture websites.


Alvin and the Chipmunks Debut

One of the earliest American primetime animated television productions made its debut in 1961. It was CBS’s The Alvin Show. Starring the singing rodent trio known as The Chipmunks and their manager/guardian David Seville, the program was broadcast for just one season. Now, ANConnect (Anderson Merchandise) has released a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of the series.

What's in the DVD Version?

Three main Alvin episodes are featured in the discs: “Stanley the Eagle,” “The Ostrich That Hatched Dave’s Car,” and “Overworked Alvin.” “Stanley” is one bird of prey who’s afraid to fly, but the Chipmunks aim to change that. “The Ostrich” won’t move from the top of a vehicle at a used car lot, thinking it’s a giant egg about to hatch. Alvin and a car salesman trick Seville into buying the auto, with the accompanying ostrich included. “Overworked Alvin” finds the title character contacting a local reporter to complain how Seville has made The Chipmunks mow the lawn, wash the car, etc. The Chipmunks think they're too famous now to do their chores. Next thing you know, they’ll want personal assistants.

"The Alvin Show" record soundtrack, 1961

"The Alvin Show" record soundtrack, 1961

Disc Cover and Animation

The picture is very clear on both The Alvin Show Blu-ray and DVD. The animation by Format Films, while very limited, doesn't take away from the show’s enjoyment. Each episode includes an Alvin cartoon, two more Chipmunks musical segments, and a cartoon starring inventor Clyde Crashcup. In between bumper segments are also featured.

Charming Moments

The shows display much charm. Most notable is the musical segment “I Wish I Could Speak French” in which Alvin croons a song as if he was singer/actor Maurice Chevalier. Alvin’s audience is a trio of girls, all with missing noses, including a blonde having her hair covering one eye. In “The Ostrich” episode, Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian Sr. pokes fun at himself as his cartoon alter ego, Seville, is recognized by different characters as “The guy who writes those nutty records.” The clip for “Witch Doctor” finds Seville showing the Chipmunks his collection of Yaqui, Iroquois, and Peruvian Indian tribal masks, which leads to the whole group singing the song.

The Alvin Show: The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)

Other Parts

The Clyde Crashcup segments are fun too, in particular one in which he “invents” the game of baseball. There to help him is his assistant, Leonardo, who never speaks out loud, just whispers in his boss’s ear. But, Crashcup has to work out the nuances of the sport. In one scene, in fact, instead of pitching the baseball, Leonardo pitches the bat at Clyde!

Missing Parts

It’s a bit disappointing that only three Alvin Show episodes, with a total running time of 74 minutes, are included in this set. 26 half-hour Alvin broadcasts aired during its only TV season. It would have been nice to have them all together here in the combo pack. The only bonus footage included is a clip from the new 2015 TV series ALVINNN!!! and The Chipmunks.

Unfortunately, the ending credits of the show are missing too. So, we don’t see that Bagdasarian provided the voices for all three Chipmunks, and that Shepard Menken was the voice of Clyde Crashcup. Legendary voiceover artist June Foray (Rocky and Bullwinkle) supplied the voices for some of the female characters in the series, including the reporter in the "Overworked Alvin" episode.

There’s also no booklet included with the chapters listed. A brief history of Bagdasarian and The Chipmunks would have been nice, as the story is an interesting one. He created the characters following the success of his 1958 number one U.S. novelty single, “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late).” The Chipmunk vocals were made by recording his singing voice at half speed, to be played back at normal speed. On a side note, Bagdasarian and his cousin, American dramatist and author William Saroyan, previously wrote the 1951 Rosemary Clooney number one U.S. hit, “Come-On A My House”. The three chipmunks were named after Liberty label record executives Simon "Sy" Waronker, Theodore "Ted" Keep, and Alvin "Al" Bennett.

Bagdasarian’s son, Ross Jr., took over the franchise in 1980 with the album “Chipmunk Punk,” which led to a new NBC Alvin and the Chipmunks series airing on NBC from 1983 to 1990. Three Alvin and the Chipmunks live-action films were released from 2007 to 2011, with CGI animated Chipmunks and Jason Lee playing Seville.

Closing Thoughts

If you're only familiar with The Chipmunks from their recent feature films, or the Ruby-Spears cartoon series, you'll enjoy checking out this release. Fans who watched The Alvin Show in the 1960s and 1970s, or during its Nickelodeon airings in the mid 1990s, will like seeing the episodes again. Hopefully, a more lengthier Alvin Show disc can be released in the future.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Marshall Fish