Q&A: The Chipmunk Detectives Are Back on the Case

Breakout Actress KiKi Layne Shares Her Experience on Being Part of the Disney+ Original Movie Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers
Actress KiKi Layne plays Detective Ellie Steckler in Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, which premieres exclusively on Disney+ on May 20, 2022. Photo Credit: Christopher Patey / Contour by Getty Images.

Arturo Hilario
El Observador

The chipmunks are back, but this isn’t a reboot.

The loveable pint-sized detectives known as Chip and Dale first appeared on screen in 1943 in a Disney short cartoon called “Private Pluto”, though they are most known for their 1989 show Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, which ran for 65 episodes and whose reruns made the show a 90’s childhood staple.

Thirty years later, they are back in a Disney+ Original Movie, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. In modern-day Los Angeles, the two detective chipmunks are older, no longer acting in a detective show, and no longer friends. Yet when a new case pops up which has authorities stumped and threatens the life of an old cartoon castmate, the two ex-partners must reunite to solve the case with the help of a die-hard fan, Detective Ellie Steckler.

Behind the scenes of this new movie, creators say this is a comedy that breathes in new life and updates the characters in a unique way. This is definitely helped with the voice cast, which includes comedian John Mulaney voicing Chip, and actor and SNL alumni Andy Samberg voicing Dale. Their new detective friend is played by breakout star KiKi Layne, whose performance as one of the leads in Barry Jenkins’ award nominated, If Beale Street Could Talk captivated audiences and earned Layne rave reviews.

Layne recently chatted with us about the movie, from what it was like to step into the mixture of live action and CGI animation while interacting with maquettes of the titular characters, as well as what people will love about this celebration of nostalgia.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers premieres exclusively on Disney+ on May 20, 2022.

Hello KiKi, thanks for your time. Could you tell me a little bit about your character, Ellie and what she’s all about in this film?

So Ellie is a young detective who I guess is lucky enough to be invited to solve the latest mystery with her idols, Chip and Dale. She’s like Chip and Dale’s biggest fan, but also really trying to establish herself as a detective as well.

What did you find most fascinating about working on something like this that involves animated things you can’t really see until its finished?

I mean, I quickly discovered that I underestimated the challenge that I had signed up for because basically I never had a real scene partner. I would just be looking at a puppet or a piece of tape for my eyeline and then, “action! Go for it.”

But Thankfully, Akiva Schaffer, our director, was just so clear about everything that he needed. So much clarity about what character was there, what they were doing. So it helped me to ground my imagination a bit so that the circumstances felt a bit more real. And so I didn’t have to think so much about like, “Oh, I’m talking to a Chipmunk.” It’s like, “No, I’m talking to a friend. I’m talking to someone that I’m trying to help.”

Can you tell us a about the story in Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers?

So this film takes place thirty years after the original series aired, and we’re kind of getting to know the real Chip and Dale, not the Chip and Dale that we met in the series. It takes place in Hollywood. They’re struggling actors, which I really connected with [laughs]. And so it’s kind of an exploration of friendship.

[That’s] a big central theme of this film and how friendships grow, how we let friends down, how we come back together, but still highlighting those essential “Rescue Rangers” themes of, “there’s a crime to solve and Chip’s this way, but Dale is kind of like this.”

So all of that nostalgia, anyone who loved the original series is still going to get a lot of that same feeling from watching the film.

I was looking at your castmates, a lot of funny people. I was wondering, what is it like collaborating with John Mulaney and Andy Samberg?

I still don’t know what it’s like working with them because I didn’t actually get to work with them which is kind of funny about being able to be a part of a film and make a film and not meet any of my cast.

But one of these days I hope you’ll get to talk to them in real life.

I hope so!

Thanks again KiKi. For my final question, why would you recommend people check out Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers on May 20?

I think that everyone should watch Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers because it is a celebration of animation and if there is any animated film series character that you love and adore, you are going to connect to something in this film because we are celebrating that.