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Saturday Matinee

Disney Cartoon #13, CinemaScope Special: "Chips Ahoy" (February 24, 1956)

by Albert Gutierrez

At long last, I finally get a chance to cover a cartoon featuring Chip 'n' Dale!  I'm so glad I pulled the number six out of the hat, as that means in CinemaScope-Special-speak that the cartoon this week is "Chips Ahoy."  This was Donald's last confrontation with the twosome, as well as their last cartoon short.  It would be another forty-three years before the pair would face off against the irksome duck again, as "Mickey Mouse Works" reunited the three in "Donald and the Big Nut" as well as "Golf Nut Donald."  As was often the case, Donald had something that Chip 'n' Dale wanted, and the ensuing chaos that followed was always hilarious.

In this case, Chip 'n' Dale want Donald's model boat.  After they had finished their last acorn, the pair see an island across the way with acorns aplenty.  Dale attempts to run across the water, realizing that he can't exactly swim.  The two then notice Donald's model boat sitting in a glass jar, and take it out for a sail.  Strangely, among the boat's offerings are a sailor's cap, and admiral's hat and epaulettes.  Chip becomes the self-appointed captain, with Dale as the singing sailor.  As usual, rather than be a nice guy and let them take his boat, Donald decides to have fun with Chip 'n' Dale and make their seafaring adventure become perilous.  He uses his fishing line to reel them in, and proceed to create storms, harsh winds, and other problems for the two-chipmunk crew.

Donald captures Dale, but loses him soon after when Chip drops anchor on his foot.  Somehow, Dale manages to temporarily tie up Donald whilst he jumps ship...well, jumps back onto the ship.  As they sail away, Donald attempts to follow suit in his own boat.  However, Dale has managed to stop him at every turn.  He cut out the boat sails, put holes in the canoe's floor, and unscrewed the rowboat.  The piece de resistance, however, is when Donald attempts to follow in his speedboat, not realizing that Dale made a well-tied knot attaching the speedboat to the dock.  Instead, it propels Donald straight to the island, knocking the tree and causing hundreds of acorns to fall.  His ensuing fall from the tree to the ground sends a wave Chip 'n' Dale's way, sending them back to their own tree.  Later that night, as the two are enjoying their bounty, they look across to see that Donald has now cut down the tree and is desperately trying to carve a canoe out of it.  But it's no worries for them, they have more than enough acorns now!

Of the twenty-three shorts featuring Chip 'n' Dale, only three were not directed by Jack Hannah.  "Chips Ahoy" was one of the three, as it was instead directed by Jack Kinney.  In addition, it was the only CinemaScope short the pair were featured in, and the use of CinemaScope here is marginal at best.  Unlike the earlier Scope shorts that was aware of and actually made use of its wide ratio, this one seems to keep all the action in the center, perhaps to ensure that the pan-and-scan version would not lose too much of the animation.  It's still a good cartoon, although probably one that didn't need such a wide picture.

A common criticism of the Chip 'n' Dale shorts was its repetitive nature, as the lion's share generally featured some sort of food or object of desire that the pair wanted, and someone else (generally Donald, sometimes Pluto) withholding it from them.  It does make the story a little stale, but it's the delivery and the gags that eventually work in the short's favor.  That may seem a bit too forgiving to the shorts, especially as gag-centered stories generally went the way of the dodo by the 1950s, at least for Disney.  The focus became more on telling the story, and something that was gag-heavy really wasn't common anymore.

Still, there's always the charm of the characters, and Chip 'n' Dale were always enjoyable to watch for me.  After Donald, the two are among my absolute favorite characters in the Disney canon.  Sadly, "Chips Ahoy" was the last Chip 'n' Dale short from the classic era, but audiences did get to revisit their cartoons in a 1959 episode of "Disneyland", hosted by Chip 'n' Dale themselves.  "The Adventures of Chip 'n' Dale" featured the twosome taking over the hosting jobs for an hour, showcasing six of their cartoons, with "Chips Ahoy" among them.  It's not on DVD, and I don't think it ever made it to VHS either.  But I remember watching it a couple times on Disney Channel's "Vault Disney" programming block back in the day.

The only way to watch "Chips Ahoy" on DVD is through the extremely-limited "Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume Four" DVD set.  Only 39,500 sets were made, which is a frustratingly low number when you consider that Volume One had 165,000 sets.  That number continued to go down, as Volume Two had only 125,000 sets, and Volume Three (the rarest of Donald's sets) had 50,000.  Thus, at most only 39,500 people will have the complete set of Donald cartoons, quite ridiculous when you think about it.  I really wish I could tell you other legal ways to acquire this short, beyond the dubious rhymes-with-ZooChoob way. This should NOT be the way that classic Disney is experienced.  I really hope that future releases of this material is neither limited nor hard-to-find, it should have the ability to be enjoyed by anyone interested in watching it.


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