Alvin and the Chipmunks, originally David Seville and the Chipmunks or simply the Chipmunks, are an American animated virtual band created by Ross Bagdasarian Sr. for a novelty record in 1958. The group consists of three singing animated anthropomorphic chipmunks: Alvin, the mischievous troublemaker; Simon, the tall, bespectacled intellectual; and Theodore, the chubby, shy one. The trio is managed by their human adoptive father, David (Dave) 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 squeaky 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 Bagdasarian's death in 1972, the characters' voices were performed by his son Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and the latter's wife Janice Karman in the subsequent incarnations of the 1980s and 1990s.
In the 2007 CGI/live-action film adaptation and its 2009, 2011, and 2015 sequels, they were voiced in dialogue by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney. 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 three Kids' Choice Awards, and has been nominated for three Emmy awards.
Through the continued success of the franchise, the Chipmunks have become the most successful children's artists of all time while garnering two number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, winning five Grammy Awards, having four Top 10 albums on the Billboard200, three certified platinum albums and the song "The Chipmunk Song" became one of the best-selling singles of all time with 5 million physical copies sold.
History with the Macy's Parade
The Chipmunks first appeared as costumed characters back in 1961 to promote their short-lived cartoon, "The Alvin Show", which was running on CBS at the time. The walk-arounds only appeared in the aforementioned year and were retired shortly afterwards.
However, the Chipmunks would continue to appear as walk-arounds throughout the early 80s. In 1981, guest star Donny Osmond mentioned the upcoming animated special, "A Chipmunk Christmas", which was set to air on NBC the following month. In 1982, one year before the their next cartoon debuted, they appeared on the Showboat float along with the "Show of Hands U.S.A" performence group. In 1983, they appeared once again as part of a pre-Parade show, singing a Christmas song.
The Chipmunks' biggest role in the Parade by far came in the 1986 parade, when The Samuel Goldwyn Company sponsored a float based on "The Chipmunks Adventure" movie. The falloon featured a sphere hot air balloon floating above (recycled from the 1971 Smile balloon), with the Chipmunks and Chipettes was walk-around characters scattered around it. The falloon was retired that same year and the hot air balloon would be recycled yet again into Babar the Elephant in 1991. Their final known appearence would be in the 1992 Parade, where they appeared on the Stagecoach float as guest stars. Since then, the Parade has been without an Alvin and the Chipmunks-themed unit.