Alvin and the Chipmunks is an American animated music group created by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. for a novelty record in 1958. The group consists of three singing animated anthropomorphic chipmunks: Alvin, the mischievous troublemaker, who quickly became the star of the group; Simon, the tall, bespectacled intellectual; and Theodore, the chubby, impressionable one. The trio is managed by their human adoptive father, David Seville. In reality, "David Seville" was Bagdasarian's stage name, and the Chipmunks themselves are named after the executives of their original record label. The characters became a success, and the singing Chipmunks and their manager were given life in several animated cartoon productions, using redrawn, anthropomorphic chipmunks, and eventually films.

The voices of the group were all performed by Bagdasarian, who sped up the playback to create high-pitched voices. This oft-used process was not entirely new to Bagdasarian, who had also used it for two previous novelty songs, including "Witch Doctor", but it was so unusual and well-executed it earned the record two Grammy Awards for engineering. Bagdasarian, performing as the Chipmunks, released a long line of albums and singles, with "The Chipmunk Song" becoming a number-one single in the United States. After the death of Bagdasarian in 1972, the characters' voices were performed by his son Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. and his wife Janice Karman in the subsequent incarnations of the 1980s and 1990s.

In the 2007 CGI/live-action movie adaptation and its 2009 sequel, they were voiced in dialogue by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney, respectively. Bagdasarian, Jr. and Karman continue to perform the singing voices for Alvin, Theodore and the Chipettes, but Steve Vining does Simon's singing voice. The project has earned five Grammy awards, an American Music Award, a Golden Reel Award, and two Kids' Choice Awards, and has been nominated for three Emmy awards.

A third movie installment, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, was released in theaters on December 16, 2011.


edit "Witch Doctor":

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In 1958, Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. released a novelty song (as David Seville) about being unsuccessful at love until he found a witch doctor who told him how to woo his woman. The song was done by Bagdasarian in his normal voice, except for the "magic" words, done first in Bagdasarian's pitched-up, pre-Chipmunk voice, then in a duet between his pitched-up voice and his normal voice. The words are nonsense: "Oo-ee, oo-ah-ah, ting-tang, walla-walla, bing-bang". The "walla walla" part of the song was thrown in as a reference to Bagdasarian's uncle who lived in Walla Walla, Washington.

The song was a hit, holding number one for three weeks in the Billboard Top 100 chart. Nothing makes any reference to chipmunks, but the song is sometimes included on Chipmunk compilations, as if the Chipmunks had provided the voice of the Witch Doctor. Bagdasarian did record a "Chipmunks" version of "Witch Doctor", which appeared on the second Chipmunks album, Sing Again with The Chipmunks, in 1960.

Bagdasarian (again as Seville) recorded a follow-up song, "The Bird on My Head", singing a duet with his own sped-up voice as the bird. It also reached the Top 40, peaking at #34.

"Witch Doctor" has been featured in numerous TV shows and movies.

The Chipmunk Song:

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The Chipmunks first officially appeared on the scene in a novelty record released in late fall 1958 by Bagdasarian. The song, originally listed on the record label (Liberty F-55168) as "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)", featured the singing skills of the chipmunk trio. One phrase in the chorus has Alvin wishing for a hula hoop, which was that year's hot new toy. The novelty record was highly successful, selling more than 4 million copies in seven weeks, and it launched the careers of its chipmunk stars. It spent four weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from December 22, 1958 to January 12, 1959. It also earned three Grammy Awards and a nomination for Record of the Year. At the height of its popularity, Bagdasarian and 3 chipmunk hand-puppets appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, lip-synching the song. "The Chipmunk Song" appeared on the Chipmunks' debut album, Let's All Sing with the Chipmunks, in 1959, and was repeated on Christmas with the Chipmunks, released in 1962. The song also has been included on several compilation albums.

The Three Chipmunks (1959):

The Chipmunks first appeared in comic book form on Dell's Four Color Comics series, issue #1042 (cover-dated Dec. 1959). Alvin, Theodore and Simon were depicted as somewhat realistic, nearly identical anthropomorphic rodents with almond-shaped eyes. When Herb Klynn's Format Films made a deal to develop the Three Chipmunks for animation, the old designs were rejected and new versions of the characters were created. Liberty Records eventually re-issued the early albums with the "new" Chipmunks and it was this new version of the Chipmunks that was used when Alvin's own title was released by Dell in 1962.

The Alvin Show (1961-1962):

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The first television series to feature the characters was The Alvin Show. The cartoon gave more distinctive looks and personalities to the three chipmunks than just their voices, and an animated portrayal of Seville was a reasonable caricature of Bagdasarian himself. The series ran from 1961 to 1962, and was one of a small number of animated series to be shown in prime time on CBS. Unfortunately, it was never an immediate success in prime time and was canceled after one season, only to find new life in syndication.

In addition to Alvin cartoons, the series also featured the scientist Clyde Crashcup and his assistant Leonardo. Those characters did not feature prominently on any of the later series. Crashcup made a single cameo appearance in A Chipmunk Christmas, and in an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks. The television series was produced by Format Films for Bagdasarian Film Corporation. Although the series was broadcast in black and white, it was produced and later re-run in color. 26 episodes each were produced for the Alvin and the Chipmunks and Clyde Crashcup segments, along with 52 musical segments.

New albums and A Chipmunk Christmas (1969-1982):

The final Chipmunks album in the project's original incarnation, The Chipmunks Go to the Movies, was released in 1969. After the death of Ross Bagdasarian in 1972 from a heart attack, the Chipmunks' careers stalled until NBC showed interest in the original show (the network carried Saturday morning reruns of The Alvin Show as a midseason replacement in 1979) and the following year, Excelsior Records released a new album of contemporary songs performed by the Chipmunks. That album, Chipmunk Punk, featured Bagdasarian's son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., doing the voices of the characters. That album and the continued reruns of the series proved to be popular enough to warrant further new records as well as a new television production, and in 1981, the Chipmunks and Seville returned to television in the Christmas special A Chipmunk Christmas, produced by Chuck Jones, which was first broadcast on NBC on December 14 of that year. Next year, two more albums were released (Chipmunk Rock and The Chipmunks Go Hollywood).

Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983-1990):

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The group's name changed from The Chipmunks to Alvin and The Chipmunks. In 1983, a second animated television series for the group, produced by Ruby-Spears Productions, was released. Titled simply Alvin and the Chipmunks, the outline of the show closely paralleled the original Alvin Show. The series lasted eight production seasons, until 1990. In the first season, the show introduced The Chipettes, three female versions of the Chipmunks -- Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor, who each paralleled the original Chipmunks in personality except for Brittany being vainer than Alvin, with Jeanette smart like Simon, and Eleanor shy and kind like Theodore, with their own human guardian, the myopic Miss Beatrice Miller (who arrived for the 1983 season).

The Chipmunks even walked a variation of NBC's "Let's All Be There" campaign for its Saturday-morning lineup in 1984 (shows included The Smurfs, Snorks, Going Bananas, Pink Panther and Sons, Kidd Video, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Mister T, etc.). After 1988, the show was renamed just The Chipmunks to indicate that there were now two groups of them. Also introduced was the boys' "Uncle" Harry, who may or may not have actually been a relative. The show reflected contemporaneous trends popular culture; the Chipmunks sang recent hits, and wore contemporary clothing. One "documentary" episode spoofed John Lennon's 1966 infamous comment that The Beatles had become "more popular than Jesus", by recalling how the Chipmunks had fallen in popularity after Alvin boasted they were "bigger than Mickey Mouse!". In 1985, the Chipmunks, along with the Chipettes, were featured in the live stage show, Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Amazing Computer. In 1987, during the fifth season of the show on television, the Chipmunks had their first animated feature film, The Chipmunk Adventure, directed by Janice Karman and Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., and released to theaters by The Samuel Goldwyn Company. The film featured the Chipmunks and the Chipettes in a contest traveling around the world.

In the 1988-89 season, the show switched production companies to DIC Entertainment, by which time the Chipmunks had truly become anthropomorphized. In 1990, the show switched titles again to The Chipmunks Go to the Movies. Each episode in this season was a spoof of a Hollywood film, such as Back to the Future, King Kong, and others. In addition, several television specials featuring the characters were also released. At the conclusion of the eighth season, the show was canceled again. In 1990, a documentary was produced about the show entitled Alvin and the Chipmunks/Five Decades with the Chipmunks. In that year, the Chipmunks also teamed up for the only time with other famous cartoon stars (such as Bugs Bunny, Garfield, etc.) for the drug abuse-prevention special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.

Direct-to-video films from Universal:

In 1996, the rights to the characters were purchased by Universal Studios. This resulted in The Chipmunks' 1999 reappearance in the form of the direct-to-video film Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein. The film was successful enough to spark interest in a sequel, and in 2000, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman appeared. Both films featured the original cast of the second series reprising their roles and the tone of the films is very similar to the series. These film titles reflect earlier horror spoofs by Abbott and Costello.

Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks:

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A live-action film called Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks was released on April 27, 2004. It features puppetry used for the Chipmunks and Chipettes. In this film, when Dave (Ross Bagdasarian, Jr.) goes out of town, he leaves the young Chipmunks and the Chipettes in the care of Lalu (Janice Karman), a friend who is happy to have six preschoolers stay with her. Lalu lives in a magic cottage with Gilda (a talking cockatoo), and PC (a talking frog who believes he is one kiss away from being Prince Charming).

Lawsuits, album and CGI animated/live action movies (2007-2011):

In 2000, Bagdasarian Productions sued Universal Studios for breach of contract after its direct-to-video film contract went sour, in order to recoup monetary damages and to regain control of the Alvin and the Chipmunks characters. Bagdasarian won the lawsuit in 2002. In 2004, 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises and Bagdasarian Productions announced a CGI/live action film adaptation of the popular musical group and animated series. The new film Alvin and the Chipmunks, directed by Tim Hill and starring Jason Lee as Dave Seville, was released on December 14, 2007. With Justin Long as Alvin, Matthew Gray Gubler as Simon, and Jesse McCartney as Theodore, it marks the first motion picture in which nobody related to Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. has performed as David or the Chipmunks. Though the critics gave it harsh reviews, audiences consisting of children and their baby boomer parents flocked to the theaters. In its first weekend, it grossed $44,307,417, second behind I Am Legend. The film closed on June 5, 2008, grossing $217,326,974 in North America and $144,004,149 overseas for a total of $361,331,123 worldwide.

In 2006, Bagdasarian Productions sued Thomas Lee, the creator of Chipmunkz Gangsta Rap, a parody created by Bentframe and featured on Atom Films. Also, The Chipmunk Adventure was released on DVD by Paramount Home Entertainment, then later Trick or Treason, A Chipmunk Christmas: 25th Anniversary and A Chipmunk Valentine. The Chipmunks Go To The Movies was released on May 22, 2007. The Chipmunks' album Undeniable, was released in November 2008.

A sequel to the first film, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, was released on December 23, 2009. Justin Long (Alvin), Matthew Gray Gubler (Simon), and Jesse McCartney (Theodore) reprised their roles. In the film, The Chipettes are featured, with Christina Applegate as Brittany, Anna Faris as Jeanette, and Amy Poehler as Eleanor. It marks as the first picture in which Janice Karman does not voice The Chipettes. Though critically panned like its predecessor, The Squeakquel opened to $48,875,415 in its first weekend and $75,589,048 in its first five days, third at the North American box office behind Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. The film closed on May 20, 2010, having garnered $219,614,612 in North America and $223,524,187 overseas for a grand total of $443,138,799 worldwide.

20th Century Fox announced that Alvin and the Chipmunks 3D would be released worldwide on December 16, 2011. The announcement was made despite Janice Karman suing the studio for lost royalties and intellectual property theft, a move seconded by Ross Bagdasarian Jr., who had canceled the Bagdasarian/Fox licensing deal over the studio's unwillingness to consider the Chipmunks a real band during the postproduction of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

However, by October 26, 2010, director Mike Mitchell, was in negotiations with Fox to direct the new installment in the live-action/animated franchise, now entitled Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, though 20th Century Fox was wavering on whether shoot in 3-D.

Production for the third film began January 22, 2011. Some parts of the film were shot aboard the Carnival Dream cruise ship. On the day before the film's premiere in the United States (December 15, 2011), it was announced that the producers decided that the film will not be in 3-D. The film premiered in American theaters on December 16, 2011.

Main characters

Alvin Seville:

Alvin is the protagonist of Alvin and the Chipmunks. His enthusiasm is boundless and his despair bottomless. The term look before you leap does not usually apply to Alvin, who is impulsive, charming, and musical. The character always seems to make up hare-brained schemes to get what his goal is at the time, whether it be trying to help his brothers, keeping Dave from figuring something out, or getting out of a sticky situation. However, Alvin seems to refer to his often illogical or crazy plans as "challenging the ordinary". Alvin's signature color is red, and he has blue eyes. On July 30, 2002, Alvin was #44 on TV Guide's list of top 50 best cartoon characters of all time.

Like his brothers, he was originally voiced by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. In the animated series and film, he was voiced by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. Justin Long voiced Alvin in the live-action/animated film series trilogy of "Alvin and the Chipmunks".

Simon Seville:

In addition to having an IQ just north of Einstein, Simon possesses a very dry sense of humor as well as a keen wit. Alvin exploits Simon for his crazy schemes because he is smart enough to carry them out. In the end, Simon loves Alvin, although he secretly worries that they share the same gene pool. His signature color is blue, and he has blue eyes. He wears glasses. He also has brown fur in the film. He plays the bass, bass clarinet, saxophone, bagpipes, tuba, and drums, among others. He is shown playing the keyboard in the original open for the 1980s series.. He was also shown playing guitar in a 1980s Hardee's commercial.

Like his brothers, he was originally voiced by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. In the animated series and film, he was voiced by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr. Matthew Gray Gubler voiced Simon in the live-action/animated film series trilogy of "Alvin and the Chipmunks".

Theodore Seville:

Theodore is the child of innocence. He is shy, loving, sensitive, chubby, gullible, trusting, and naïve. In short, he is an easy target for Alvin's manipulations. In fact, Theodore often holds the swing vote between his two brothers' choices of action. Simon appeals to Theodore's better nature while Alvin goes straight to bribery. He is constantly craving snacks and in one episode, tried to eat Alvin's hand because of his hunger.

Theodore's signature color is green, and also has green eyes. He also has blond/tan fur in the film. He plays the drums, the guitar, and others. He is the baby of the group. He is fragile yet unpredictable. At times, he is childish and Alvin's follower. He is the glue that binds his brothers' despite Alvin and Simon's differences and regular disagreements.

Like his brothers, he was originally voiced by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. In the animated series and film, his voice was provided by Janice Karman, Ross Bagdasarian Jr.'s wife and the voice of all three Chipettes. Jesse McCartney voiced Theodore in the live-action/animated film series trilogy of "Alvin and the Chipmunks".

David Seville:

David "Dave" Seville is the quick-tempered songwriter for the musical trio and Chipmunks' adoptive father and confidant. While Dave struggles to remain calm and objective, Alvin often irritates him, causing Dave to yell "Alvin!", to which Alvin responds with "Okay!" Dave plays piano and the guitar. He has black hair and brown eyes. In the 1983 animated series, it is revealed that Dave first found the Chipmunks as infants abandoned on the door step of his old cottage, at first he grows to like them but had trouble keeping them from misbehaving as he had important songs to write or else he'd lose his job, however he eventually hears their amazing singing voices and records them, making their song a hit and with the money they earn they manage to move into a large house and live happily together as one big family. In the 2007 film Alvin and the Chipmunks, he is played by Jason Lee, the star of My Name is Earl. In the film, he first discovers the boys eating food in his cabinets and he panics and throws them out. He later changes his mind and welcomes them into his home, and eventually he starts to love them like his own children. However, in the 2009 sequel Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Dave plays a minor role in the film, mainly due to him being in the hospital in Paris. This happened due to Alvin causing a billboard to crash into him and he is sent flying across the room and is severely injured, so he is placed in intensive care. He is rarely seen in the film. His cousin Toby acts as both a main character and the Chipmunks' temporary guardian. Dave has a larger role in Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, in which he's on a quest to find his boys and the Chipettes.

The Chipettes:

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Film characters

Ian Hawke:

Ian is played by comedian David Cross in all three films. He is Dave's friend-turned rival and former college roommate, and serves as the CEO of JETT Records in the first film. One day, the Chipmunks sneak off to his home to audition, whereupon he automatically signs them on to the label. He rockets them to the top of music business but after seeing how much they're truly worth, he attempts to lure them away from Dave for his own profit. His plan ultimately fails, as the Chipmunks have learned of it and escaped from his grasp, thus leaving him to be ousted from his job as CEO of Jett Records. In the second film, Ian is now unemployed and in debt, and lives in the basement of Jett Records. However, he happens upon The Chipettes, who want to be famous like the Chipmunks, and cannot wait to make them famous, so he takes them in, in hopes of getting his sworn revenge on the Chipmunks. He enrolls the Chipettes into the same school as the Chipmunks, and after showing Dr. Rubin (Wendie Malick) their talent, she agrees to let them battle the Chipmunks for the right to represent the school for the district's music competition. However, in the climax, Ian decides to blow off the competition to have the Chipettes to perform at a Britney Spears concert, and takes them by force, threatening to take them to a barbecue restaurant if they will not comply. Alvin saves the Chipettes from Ian, who then tries to imitate them at the Britney Spears concert, only to get thrown into a dumpster by security guards. In the third film, Ian now works on the Carnival Dream cruise ship, dressed in a pelican suit. As a well-respected mascot, he takes his job very seriously and threatens to have Dave and the Chipmunks removed from the ship if they continue to act up. Eventually, he helps Dave find the Chipmunks after they were left being marooned in the island.

Claire Wilson:

Claire is Dave's ex-girlfriend who adores the Chipmunks after she finally gets to meet them. She becomes good friends with Dave again by the end of the movie. She is played by Cameron Richardson.

Toby Seville:

Dave's immature cousin who appeared in the second film. Toby is a slacker who loves to play video games and still lives with his grandmother and Dave's aunt, Jackie Seville, until he figures out what he wants to do with his life. Toby's immaturity keeps him from acting like an adult, and he has a crush on the Chipmunks' homeroom and music teacher, Julie Ortega, ever since he went to West Eastman High School. He is played by Chuck star Zachary Levi.


First appeared in the third film. Zoe is a deluded castaway who was found by the Chipmunks when they end up being marooned on an island that she took refuge. She claims to be on the island for 8 to 9 years. At first, she was believed to be crash-landed into the island, but it turns out that she intentionally came here to look for treasure after learning of the Chipmunks finding some treasure behind a waterfall. Taking the opportunity, Zoe kidnaps Jeanette and forces her to get all the treasure, since she is small enough to reach it. Eventually, Alvin and Dave come to the rescue, causing Zoe to lose hold of Jeaneatte and the treasure. While Alvin leads Jeanette out of harm's way, Dave trips over a log bridge due to an imminent volcanic explosion, hanging for dear life. It was then an infuriated Zoe, determined to get revenge on him for losing the treasure, forces him to let go, but luckily, Ian comes to the rescue, explaining her of his rivalry with Dave and the Chipmunks that cost him his career and that getting back at Dave won't get her what she wants. He convinces her to do the right thing, which Zoe finally does. She eventually escapes the island along with Dave, Ian, and the Chipmunks on raft as the volcano starts to erupt. As the survivors are safely ahead from the eruption, Zoe apologizes to Jeanette for kidnapping her, and in return, Jeanette hands her the gold tiara that Simon found in the waterfall. She is played by former SNL actress Jenny Slate.

Other characters

Miss Beatrice Miller:

The kindly, absent-minded adoptive mother of the Chipettes. She occasionally babysits the Chipmunks and has a crush on Dave, even though she's old enough to be his mother. In her youth, she was part of an all-girl singing group called "The Thrillers". She appeared on the TV series and was voiced by the late Dody Goodman.

Professor Clyde Crashcup:

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Clyde Crashcup - voiced by Shepard Menken - is a scientist in a white coat whose experiments invariably failed. His was the only voice heard in many of the episodes, because the other character in the series was his assistant Leonardo, who only whispered into Clyde's ear. In one episode, though, Clyde invented a wife, voiced by June Foray. Clyde had one of the four segments, and the Chipmunks starred in the other three (two of which were musical segments). In the episode "Crashcup Invents the Birthday Party", Foray provided the (all too audible) voice for the mother of Crashcup's inaudible assistant Leonardo.

Clyde Crashcup was primarily an inventor rather than a researcher, although he tended to "invent" things which had already been invented. However, in one episode, he built a functioning time machine. He typically would invent something by taking a pencil out of his lab coat's pocket and drawing a picture in midair of his conception: the picture would then become the actual object.

Recording technique

The Chipmunks' voices were recorded at half the normal tape speed onto audiotape by voice talent talking or singing at half the normal speaking rate. When the tape was played back at normal speed, they would sound a full octave higher in pitch, at normal tempo. The technique was by no means new to the Chipmunks. For example, the high and low pitched characters in The Wizard of Oz were achieved by speeding up and slowing down vocal recordings. Also, Mel Blanc's voice characterization for Daffy Duck was sped up to some extent. Now, the same effect is created digitally and in real time with a pitch shift.

However, the extensive use of this technique with the Chipmunks, coupled with their popularity, linked this technique to them. The term "chipmunk-voiced" has entered the American vernacular to describe any artificially high-pitched voice. A similar effect could be obtained in playback by merely taking an LP recorded at 33 1/3 RPM and playing it back at 45 or 78 RPM, a trick sometimes tried out by ordinary record listeners. The instrumental portions of the song are sped up as well, however, making it obvious that the music is being played at the wrong speed. Bagdasarian recorded vocals and music at different speeds to combine properly on his recording. (Guitarist and studio wizard Les Paul claimed to have visited Bagdasarian's studio in 1958 and helped with the recording.)

The technique was frequently imitated in comedy records, notably "Transistor Radio" by Benny Hill, "Bridget the Midget" by Ray Stevens, "The Laughing Gnome" by David Bowie, and on several tracks on Joe Meek and the Blue Men's album I Hear a New World. The technique also appears in the instrumental break in Bobby Lewis' 1961 US #1 hit "Tossin' and Turnin'". It was used extensively in the British puppet show Pinky and Perky. Prince has used the technique on several of his songs, as well as Frank Zappa on We're Only In It For The Money and on the instrumental album Hot Rats, among others. In the early 90's rave scene, many breakbeat hardcore productions would utilize the same studio tricks, often taking a cappella from old soul and house records and speeding them up to fit the faster tempo. Vocals in songs that used this method would typically be referred to as "chipmunk vocals".

Chipmunk Records

In 1991, Bagdasarian Productions acquired the production company offices and holdings from Arden, and reopened the record label Jet Records under the new name Chipmunk Records. There is a reference to the company in the 2007 film Alvin and the Chipmunks, in which the Chipmunk's record label is "Jett Records" (with two T's).

Guest appearance

The Chipmunks make a guest appearance on the Canned Heat song "The Chipmunk Song" (which is not the same song as the 1958 hit) that appeared on their Christmas single.

The Chipmunks also made an appearance in the spoof film Disaster Movie. They sing a Christmas song, then "Devoured by Vermin", a song by the death metal band Cannibal Corpse. During "Devoured by Vermin", instead of their trademark sped-up high pitched voices, they used deeper voices more akin to death metal vocalists.

Their third cameo appearance was on the FOX NFL Sunday intro (which premiered on December 20, 2009) with the cameo character, Digger (the mascot for NASCAR on Fox).