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Chip 'N Dale's Director Dishes On The Hilarious Cameo That Has The Internet Buzzing

The prospect of a "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" Disney+ original film in 2022, and a partly live-action one at that, wasn't exactly leaving the world waiting with bated breath. But then that first trailer came out, and it turned out that there was a reason this project had the involvement of the ever-savvy funnymen at The Lonely Island. A spiritual successor to the likes of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," with the titular chipmunk brothers as actors in a world populated by cartoon characters living alongside humans, the Akiva Schaffer-directed "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" has just arrived on Disney+ boosted by enthusiastic reviews and sizable internet buzz.

Among the film's many clever turns and amusing satirical ideas, one particular bit of meta-fun has been setting social media ablaze. That would be the appearance of the original, scrapped design of Sonic for the 2020 "Sonic the Hedgehog" live-action film. In this movie, Sonic is portrayed as a separate character in his own right, a would-be actor clinging to relevance, aptly named "Ugly Sonic" — after the nickname the internet originally came up with for him.

His appearance in the movie is a shocker for a lot of reasons. In addition to the sheer I-can't-believe-it crossover factor, there is, of course, the fact that Chip and Dale are a Disney property, while Sonic's cinematic iteration belongs to Paramount. And, unsurprisingly, Schaffer has revealed that nabbing Ugly Sonic took a lot of behind-the-scenes legal grunt work.

Akiva Schaffer is excited about how Ugly Sonic was worked in

Ugly Sonic's participation in "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" has been by far one of the most talked-about character appearances of the year in film so far, with his nickname/name shooting quickly into the top U.S. Twitter trends as soon as the movie premiered, and perching itself in the top 10 for most of the opening day. A quick scan of the "#uglysonic" hashtag reveals that Sonic's schlubbier, Tim Robinson-voiced counterpart is already inspiring lots of fan art and all manner of headcanons.

It figures, seeing as his appearance develops from what seems like a cameo during a fan convention, signing autographs and begrudgingly riding the wave of meme-dom, to an increasingly surprising and hilarious role in the film's larger plot. In a recent interview with Polygon, director Akiva Schaffer made no secret of his satisfaction with Ugly Sonic's ultimate presence in the movie, even as he refrained from discussing specifics of what must surely have been a complex licensing process.

"It's one of my favorite [cameos in the film]," Schaffer said. "I can speak to that. It's one of my favorite things in the movie. And I'm very excited for people to see it ... I don't know what I should, what I'm allowed to say [about it]. I think I will actually plead the fifth."

Schaffer thanks the Disney lawyers for their collaboration

Back in 1988, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" left audiences and critics particularly stunned at the way it brought together characters from the vaults of wildly different media conglomerates, in what seemed like a legal miracle and a refreshing display of good sportsmanship across Tinseltown. As Akiva Schaffer told Polygon, he had a similar vision in mind for "Chip 'n Dale." "It was super-important to me to get a bunch of third-party cartoons, because if this is going to be some sort of a celebration of animation, it can't just be a celebration of Disney animation," the director said. "You don't want it to feel like an ad for Disney+."

Sure enough, the filmmakers made a point of including cameos from a variety of animated characters — from Pokémon to DC heroes to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" villains to DreamWorks sidekicks to "Cats" cats. And Schaffer is especially thankful to the Disney legal team for being game in marshaling it all into being. "The [characters] you see in the movie — sometimes we had to try two or three other things before we found one that could be licensed," he related to Polygon. "It was a process ... You don't usually come out of a movie and want to thank the lawyers, but we genuinely owe the Disney lawyers for being team players. [They] super stayed optimistic about it, and really saw the value of the third-party stuff, and they had to really work hard."

It's been a long and winding road for Ugly Sonic

For those who may no longer recall, the drama faced by Ugly Sonic began all the way back in 2019. In one of the most bizarre instances ever of a movie production setback, the backlash to the design of Sonic in the original "Sonic the Hedgehog" trailer, released in April 2019, was so intense and unanimous that it prompted Paramount to delay the film's release so that Sonic could be given a brand new look, with appropriately big eyes, duly-placed gloves, and, most of all, a lot fewer visible teeth.

For the "Sonic" franchise, the rest is history. The first movie, which ultimately made it to theaters in February 2020, broke all financial records for a video game movie, and became the last big box office success story before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; its recently-released successor has kept the streak going with even bigger numbers. But for poor Ugly Sonic, it was infamy. "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" hilariously posits the design's subsequent condemnation to cautionary obscurity as a familiar riches-to-rags Hollywood story, with one performer trying hard to bounce back from being turned into an international joke. We can only be thankful that the filmmakers were able to make it happen — the redemption of Ugly Sonic may not have been in a lot of people's cards for 2022, but it's exactly the sort of perfect touch that can make a meta-comedy like "Chip 'n Dale" so uniquely fun.