PODCASTS

Why Disney Entrusted ‘Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers’ to the ‘Dick in a Box’ Guys

May 24, 2022

Akiva Schaffer prefers to stay behind the scenes. But that doesn’t mean he’s any less funny than his Lonely Island bandmates Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone. The three middle school best friends started shooting videos right out of college before landing a plush gig making digital shorts for Saturday Night Live, including hits like “Lazy Sunday,” “Dick in a Box,” “Jizz in My Pants,” and many others.

In this episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Schaffer talks about their unusual path to SNL and how directing outrageous movies like Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping led him to take on a meta Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers reboot for Disney+ starring Samberg and John Mulaney. He also explains why he might be single-handedly responsible for Netflix deciding to pull the trigger on I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.

When I ask Schaffer how he ended up helming such a family-friendly movie, he readily acknowledges the incongruity. “Obviously, most of the stuff we’ve done has not been child-appropriate,” he says dryly. “It’s been laden with bad words and, some would say, juvenile.”

And yet his version of the classic Disney afternoon cartoon has more in common with The Lonely Island’s previous work than might be apparent at first glance.

In fact, Schaffer actually hesitated to accept the gig because the script—which, when he received it, was cheekily titled “The Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers Reboot That Nobody Asked For”—was “playing with a lot of the same ideas” as his previous movie, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. That beloved 2016 comedy also charts the rise, fall, and eventual happy reunion of artistic partners—albeit with jokes about getting “fucked like bin Laden” instead of cute riffs on the world of Disney animation.

“The clichés are true for a reason,” Schaffer says. “Because the world starts pulling you apart, one of you starts getting offers for things that the other ones aren’t and you have to balance your responsibility and commitment to the group versus your own personal growth.” With those words, he could be describing the trajectory of The Lonely Island, Popstar’s fictional Style Boyz or Chip ‘n Dale.

“So there is a lot there,” he adds, explaining that he never intended to keep returning to this theme throughout the films he’s directed. “If I was going to write something right now, I don’t think I would sit down and go ‘OK, what’s another story about creative partnerships?’”

Once he knew he needed a “classic odd couple” pairing for Chip ‘n Dale, Schaffer instantly turned to his longtime friend and Lonely Island collaborator Samberg as the freewheeling Dale and fellow SNL writer John Mulaney as the more buttoned-up Chip. “When you get to a certain age, you have kids and then a pandemic hits, you really don’t get to see your friends unless you create an excuse to see each other,” he jokes.

Like Mulaney, Schaffer spent most of his SNL career off-camera, and aside from a few small roles here and there, he prefers to keep it that way. “I’m not a performer,” he says, revealing that he actually turned down the opportunity to audition for the cast. “It was not a hard decision at all,” he says now. “The idea of even doing the audition would have been so terrifying. And what would have been the goal? To get the show and be that terrified all the time?”

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers on Disney+.

Disney+

Ultimately, Schaffer’s Chip ‘n Dale feels like a true hybrid of the type of silly animated comedy that will capture kids’ attention and sly Hollywood satire that will entertain their nostalgic parents who grew up watching the original series after school in the ‘90s.

“If Disney+ didn’t exist, I don’t think the movie would ever have gotten made,” Schaffer says of the film’s experimental tone. Debuting on the streaming service as opposed to in theaters inherently lowers the stakes for what is easily the biggest movie of his career, something he is both aware of and thankful for.

Noting that Popstar “didn’t make any money” in theaters despite solid reviews and the embrace of obsessive comedy fans, Schaffer says, “I don’t miss worrying about the box office stuff, because we haven’t really had success in that area anyways, and so I only know the heartbreak of that. So to take that heartbreak off the table, I’m happy to go straight to streaming.”

That also means that for the first time, he has to consider what children will make of his work—a concern he dismissed when The Lonely Island first showed Lorne Michaels the “Dick in a Box” music video just before the holidays in 2006.

“Remember, kids watch the show,” the SNL producer told them, warily. “It’s the Christmas show, families will be watching.”

Listen to the episode now and subscribe to ‘The Last Laugh’ on Apple Podcasts , Spotify , Google , Stitcher , Amazon Music , or wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.

Related Posts