CHIP 'N DALE: RESCUE RANGERS Interview With Director Akiva Schaffer On Disney Jokes & Crazy Cameos (Exclusive)
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers director Akiva Schaffer talks to us about getting to poke fun at Disney's rich legacy, pulling off some crazy cameos, and the challenges presented by animated characters...
In Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Chip and Dale are living amongst cartoons and humans in modern-day Los Angeles, but their lives are quite different now. It has been decades since their successful television series was cancelled, but when a former castmate mysteriously disappears, Chip and Dale must repair their broken friendship and take on their Rescue Rangers detective personas once again to save their old friend's life...all while crossing paths with some unexpected familiar (animated) faces.
Earlier this week, we caught up with director Akiva Schaffer to get some insights into making the movie - which has received positive reviews ahead of its Disney+ debut on Friday - and how he made those wild cameos a reality. We're not going to spoil anything here, but trust us when we say there are some big surprises, and the filmmaker clearly had a blast finding out exactly who he could include.
We also hear from Akiva about the unique challenges presented by including a vast array of differently animated characters in a live-action setting and why he cast Seth Rogen as a bad CG Viking dwarf.
This movie is a tonne of fun, and not to be missed when it arrives on the streaming service later this week. It's far from a typical reboot and even has some major Roger Rabbit vibes. Throw in a stellar cast that includes names like John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, and KiKi Layne, and we're definitely anxious to see the Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping helmer return for a sequel.
Check out our full video interview with Schaffer about Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers below:
I had a blast watching this movie. It’s always fun to see a movie studio make fun of itself, but you really don’t hold back on Disney at times in this film. Were they always on board with some of the crazier ideas you had, like what becomes of Peter Pan? How did they respond to that?
I don’t know what their internal conversations were once we would present it to them and they were like, ‘We’ll get back to you,’ but I was as surprised as you are that they let us get away with everything they let us get away with. It was very exciting. The whole time, from the script phase, we were saying, ‘Are they really going to let us do this?’ [and that continued] all the way to the very end. Of course, I don’t want to give any examples or sell anyone out, but there were things we weren’t allowed to do as well. We would just keep trying new ones until one got the okay. We’d wear ‘em down until they’d said ‘no’ so many times, they felt like they had to say ‘yes’ to something! That would be the one in.
There are some crazy cameos in the film, but with characters from non-Disney studios, how did you go about making those a reality with rights issues and just getting permission to use some of them?
It was super important to me to get characters from outside of the Disney Universe. If this thing is going to feel like a celebration of animation, it should feel like it’s all of animation and not just Disney. You don’t want people to get cynical and think it’s just a big ad for Disney+ and the other shows on there. In terms of getting the stuff…first off, you’ve got to thank the lawyers. I’m sure almost every interview you do with filmmakers, the main thing they want to talk about is the lawyers and what a great job they did [Laughs]. In this case, it is actually true. It was a huge headache and I’m sure way more work than almost any other movie they’ve ever worked on. Like with My Little Pony, we’d go, ‘What if it’s a bunch of My Little Pony characters?’ those lawyers have to look into it and figure out who owns it, and that version of it. Either they get me back on to pitch to those people and promise we’re not making fun of it, showing them the context and what the movie is, but it’s a big process to lock some of that stuff down. There were a lot of letters being written by me directly to creators of certain things to try and talk them into it.
Without giving anything away, there’s an “ugly” character in the film I cannot believe you guys pulled off. It must have been great to get stuff like that in there.
It certainly was a great moment for me, yes!
With all those cameos and even the two leads, we’re seeing a lot of different animation styles in this live-action setting. As a filmmaker, was that really challenging to get all the visuals to work together combined with the live-action content?
It was part of the exciting thing about doing the movie. Doing the live-action hybrid is really cool, but not necessarily new. Roger Rabbit is the gold standard and then before that you had Mary Poppins and, even now, there’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu. Even beyond that, every Avengers and Marvel movie is an example of that. When there’s the little raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, that’s no different on a filmmaking level to having Dale there. It’s kind of what modern moviemaking is in these big scale projects. These combinations of cartoon and animated creatures and characters and CG environments and real environments coming together. We had this company, MPC, out of Montreal that was doing all the heavy lifting in that regard, so I was just excited to learn that stuff. As opposed to there being one specific part that was difficult, there were certainly different characters that were harder to integrate than others and then certain ones who came together beautifully. We had a limited budget compared to what you think of with a Pixar movie or an Avengers movie. Ours was much more modest. Within all those, I think they did an incredible job putting it all together, but I was excited to learn how those movies are made.
It came together amazingly as did the cast. You’ve assembled such a talented group of actors, but casting Seth Rogen as a bad CG dwarf was just peak casting. How did you sell him on playing a CG character who, instead of looking like Rocket Raccoon, looks terrible?
[Laughs] Well, Seth has a very good sense of humour as you might guess. It was not actually very difficult to talk him into that. He wasn’t very vain in terms of how his character needed to look. That was actually the one piece of casting that was in the script. You know, sometimes you’ll read a script and to give you a shorthand for the reader, it will say, ‘Imagine Aubrey Plaza’ or something like that. It almost never becomes the person in the script, but when I first read the script written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, it was late 2018. The date on the script was 2016, so it had been in there forever.
Just before we got greenlit, we had to make this two-minute proof of concept video to show off what the movie would be to prove it to ourselves and Disney. What would it look like to have all these different characters and styles in the real world interacting and touching? The scene we chose is that first scene with Seth Rogen with the Viking in the doorway. It was a version of that in a warehouse rather than the one in the movie, but we had to make that test, so I actually got Seth to come on and do that as a favour. I went to his office with a mic and recorded his lines. He did it script unseen, so when the movie came, I don’t know if he even read the whole thing [Laughs]. He did it as a pure favour to me! I hope likes it when he sees it.
Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers premieres on Disney+ on May 20.