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Akiva Schaffer On Directing Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers And His Favorite SNL Memory — Exclusive Interview

As one-third of the comedy trio The Lonely Island, Akiva Schaffer has had a hand in some of pop-culture's most memorable touchstones, including the Saturday Night Live digital short "Dick in a Box" and the song "Everything Is Awesome" from "The Lego Movie." Along with his collaborative partners Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone, Schaffer got his start on "SNL" in 2005, writing for the weekly late-night program for six years.

Since then, Schaffer has gone on to direct a few films, such as "Hot Rod," "The Watch," and "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping." His latest endeavor, "Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers," is his first foray into kids' films, outside of penning "Everything Is Awesome." The movie, which premieres exclusively on Disney+ today, is a combination live-action and animated action-adventure comedy based on the beloved Disney characters and their subsequent animated TV series of the same name from the late 1980s.

Starring Samberg and John Mulaney, "Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers" picks up 30 years after the original short-lived animated series was canceled. Chip is now an insurance salesman, while Dale works the convention circuit in hopes of reliving his glory days. When an old friend mysteriously disappears, the pair reunites to solve the case and rebuild their relationship.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Schaffer discussed why "Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers" was the right fit for him and how the film has something for everyone — including a kid-friendly nod to the provocative Chippendales dancers.

Schaffer was 'excited' to make a kids' film parents could enjoy

When people think of you and The Lonely Island, some of the first things that pop into their heads are Not Suitable For Work-type projects, like "Dick in a Box" and "I Just Had Sex." How do you go from "Dick in a Box" to "Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers"? Did you ever think a Disney movie was in your future?

That's a fair question, but it has been quite a few years since those — although "Popstar" was six years ago, so it's not that far back. I'm a parent of a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old, so I've watched every kid program and movie from the last ten years, as well as stuff from before then. I was excited to make something that they could see. Also, you watch the kids' stuff with them and there's the things you want to watch with them, and then there's the things that they can watch on their own. I was excited to try to make one that had stuff for the grownups as well as the kids.

That takes me to ... was there any internal controversy around referencing the Chippendales dancers in the film?

I wouldn't call it controversy, but it was, in my opinion, right on the line of what would be acceptable. It was the thing where I was like, "I know it's funny and I know it's truthful." In the real world, when I'd say I was working on a "Chip 'N Dale" movie, half the people would assume I meant the dancers. I knew that there was a truth to it, and really, they're just men wearing pants with no shirts, which is pretty kid friendly. I put it in there at a test screening to see what happened and everybody seemed fine with it.

Most of the voiceover sessions happened over Zoom

You and Andy go way back, but was anything different about working with him on this project?

Only in so much as it was over the pandemic and we did it all over Zoom, all the voiceover sessions. It worked out pretty well doing voiceover over Zoom anyways, because you're talking through a mic. It's, in some ways, more intimate than being in the studio with people because, even when you're in the studio recording, you don't want your voice to go into their microphone, so you end up behind glass far away, even when you're in the same building. In some ways, being on Zoom, I'm at least able to look right at your eyes and see you better.

Was there anything Andy did as Dale that really made you crack up?

Oh, there were plenty of things. There's one laugh he does during the car ride scene — this will only make sense to people once they've seen the movie — but he did a laugh that I don't even know if it was really intended by him. I think it was Andy messing around with me. He does a very goofy laugh that cracks me up, so I put it in there.

His favorite SNL memory involves Dick in a Box

"Rescue Rangers" has a huge cast. Andy, John, Will Arnett, Eric Bana, Seth Rogen, J.K. Simmons ... the list goes on. Was there someone in there that you haven't worked with before that you were excited to team up with? What was it like to finally work with them?

I'll be honest, the most exciting people to me were the legacy animation voice actors who we were able to be in it. For instance, when Dale is using his high-pitched voice or when Zipper is doing his weird little fly sounds, it's Corey Burton. It's Tress MacNeille whenever it's Gadget, or whenever Chip has a high-pitched voice. There's another good one — Charles Fleischer, who's the voice of Roger Rabbit, and he's the real voice of Roger Rabbit. For people like us, who grew up watching Roger Rabbit and loved it, it's pretty exciting to be in a virtual room with the voice of Roger Rabbit and have him start doing Roger Rabbit.

Outside of bringing Chip 'N Dale back to life, is there a dream Disney project you hope might be in your future?

I had a very good experience making this with them, so I'd be open to any ideas, but I don't have a specific thing.

You worked as a writer on "Saturday Night Live" for many years. Any great backstage memories from that show that really stand out?

There were so many, working on it for six years and making so many things. Whenever we'd air our shorts, we'd go down to the floor, where all the stages are being flung around to make room for the next sketch, and we would watch the audience. There was a monitor just below the audience for us to see that's facing the opposite way so we could watch. There's a photo that was taken, and it's of us three [The Lonely Island] watching when "Dick in a Box" first aired live, and you can see all our faces, us watching the audience enjoying it. We always went down there, and some weeks were fine and some weeks weren't, but the weeks where we made a short that the audience loved, and we watched the audience, those were my favorite moments.

"Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers" is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.