My Hollywood Playdate with Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Some pretty amazing opportunities have come my way from tinkering on this little blog. The most recent – and probably one of the most exciting – was my trip to last week’s press junket for the new ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED, in theaters December 16.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED in theaters December 16th

A quick synopsis of the movie:

The vacationing Chipmunks and Chipettes are turning a luxury cruise liner into their personal playground, until they become ‘chipwrecked’ on a remote island.  As the ‘Munks and Chipettes scheme to find their way home, they accidentally discover their new turf is not as deserted as it seems. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is in theaters nationwide December 16.

A small group of bloggers – about 10 of us – came from all around the country to attend this event. We watched a screening of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and prepared to join dozens of members of the press in an opportunity to interview talent from the film the next day.

This was my first press junket, and as such, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I admit, I was very nervous – after all, I knew we’d be meeting with Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked Director Mike Mitchell, Producers Ross Bagdasarian & Janice Karman, and actor Jason Lee.

We were given a thick packet of press information about the movie, a history of the Chipmunks, and biographies of each person we were going to meet. I read through it all and prepared some questions ahead of time.

interview notes

{My interview notes. Is this how the "real" press does it? Who knows!}

The junket was hosted by 20th Century Fox at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. There were several large suites set up for different press groups – the “mom bloggers” (as we were constantly referred to, never mind that some of the women were not moms and several of the sites were larger entertainment website rather than a blog like mine) were in one room, and I saw a room full of “kid reporters” in another room (they were darling!).

Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

There were also smaller suites set up for those coordinating this massive junket, a “green room” to watch the on-camera interviews between actor Jason Lee and various morning/entertainment/web series show hosts*, a lovely hospitality suite where they fed all of us, and some rooms where we could film interactive videos with the virtual Chipmunks.

Our panel of bloggers was stationed in a suite where Mitchell, Bagdasarian & Karman, and Lee all rotated through in 20 minute sessions to meet with and talk to us. I cannot stress enough how totally normal they all were! Gracious and funny and enthusiastic about this film, they were easy to talk to and I was surprised about the insights they gave into the making of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

Some highlights from each conversation:

MIKE MITCHELL:

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED in theaters December 16th, director Mike Mitchell

{Mike Mitchell - who also directed Shrek Forever After, Sky High, and Surviving Christmas - was so genuinely nice! He has a great sense of humor and was so much fun to talk to. ps: I'm back row, 2nd from the left.}

[One of my questions to him]: What’s the value to you of having these big names [voice the Chipmunks and Chipettes] when your audience can’t even tell who it is? I mean, do they add something in the full piece?

[His answer]I’ll just say the girls. They’re so funny and they bring so much to the character. And since they’ve done this as a sequel they really know their characters [the Chipettes]. And so, Amy Poehler comes up with a lot of funny stuff on her own, and Anna Faris and Christian Applegate. And even though you can’t tell that it’s them, they really bring something to that character, and you can tell the characters apart from each other. And that’s the skill of an actor, because these could sound all the same. 

…so, not only do they bring who the character is to it, but those three girls are so funny and they come up with stuff. And they say, “What if she says this?” Or, “What if she does that?” And the animators love that, too, when it sounds like something that’s organic or like, “Oh, that wasn’t scripted.” And just within their laughs, too, each of those girls brought a different laugh to every one of those characters.

So, it makes my job easy with really professional, funny actresses…they really do bring something to those characters.

ROSS BAGDASARIAN & JANICE KARMAN:

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED in theaters December 16th, producers Ross and Janice Bagdasarian

{Ross and Janice Bagdasarian have devoted their lives to bringing the Chipmunks to children around the world. Their love for the characters is obvious, as is their love for each other. They were an incredibly sweet couple, often finishing each other's sentences and lavishing each other with praise.}

[Ross Bagdasarian, speaking about his father’s vision for the Chipmunks and the character of Alvin]: …it was important to my dad that the Chipmunks not be mean spirited, because he was making the Alvin shows in 1961 at a time when, as he called it, there was a lot of “hurt animation.” The Warner Brothers stuff was the banging over the head or the whatever. And he said, “You know, I don’t want to make a show like that. I want to do something that’s musical and entertaining and that shows a kind of a family life, but it’s not about being banged over the head with an anvil or whatever. I don’t find that funny.”

So, we have definitely continued that. For us, it’s really important that, while Alvin maybe misdirected at times…but, he can’t be mean spirited and he can’t become bratty, because all of a sudden there is then not a character that you…like.

…we never wanted Alvin to be the perfect kid, because then no kids relate to that…we wanted him to be able to make mistakes, get into trouble, all of that. But, as Janice says, it’s never an intent. 

JASON LEE:

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED in theaters December 16th, actor Jason Lee

{Actor Jason Lee was incredibly mellow, with a very relaxed energy that was at times a little awkward, but was mostly just very "chill."}

[Talking about his experience in this 3rd Chipmunks movie]This one, I think it’s the best one personally. I think it’s very focused. It’s sharp. It’s tight. I think Mike Mitchell did a great job as a director.

Certainly I had the most fun. The second one [Alvin and the Chipmunks The Squeakquel] I could only do a little bit in the movie. The first one [Alvin and the Chipmunks] was great. Now, the relationships are solid with the boys and Dave and everything’s just kind of tight and in. And it’s been years of doing this now, so everything just worked for this third one, I think, in a slightly elevated way.

*About the on-camera interviews with Jason Lee: it was so interesting to watch this process from the green room! Jason Lee sat in that one hotel suite for HOURS while different people came through in 8-minute segments to interview him on camera. He was so gracious as nearly each and every one of them asked him the SAME questions. How was it to reunite with the Chipmunks? Can you do the “Alvin!” yell for me? Over and over, for hours. But he answered each time like it was the first time! 

The whole experience was a whirlwind, but lots of fun, and I’m very pleased with how calmly and professionally I conducted myself. I wasn’t too shy or scared to speak up and ask questions, and once the conversations got rolling, it was easy to just be myself! And, again, I cannot stress enough how entirely genuine everyone was. For being right there in Hollywood, each of them – Mitchell, the Bagdasarians, and Lee – were just like you and me, talking about their kids, about being parents, and about just doing their job. Ok, maybe their “job” happens to be something everyone knows about and is in the public space, but what I discovered is that each of them really does look at this as a profession, it’s just something they “do.”

Next week I’ll share my review of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, but for now, if you’d like more information, check out:

Disclosure: I was flown to Los Angeles and accomodated at Four Seasons Los Angeles as a guest of 20th Century Fox. I attended a pre-screening of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked and the corresponding press junket. No other compensation was received. All opinions expressed are honest and my own. And for the record, if you’re ever flying in to Los Angeles and the airport…say…closes because of high winds and a power outage, and your pilot says they are re-routing you to Ontario, don’t freak out. He doesn’t mean Canada. He means Ontario, California, which is about 50 miles from LA. From personal experience on my flight in to LA, I know that now.

  • Sherry

    I laughed out loud about the Ontario comment.  I’m still so glad I wasn’t the only one thinking Canada. 

    It was so much fun to meet you!  Small groups like that are great for REALLY having the chance to chat with each other. 

  • I am REALLY hoping I get to take my kids to the press screening of the movie this weekend. Trying to win tickets on someone’s blog b/c someone I never get on those blogger PR lists. 

  • Great post! It was good to meet you, and I was happy to experience Ontario with you as well 🙂