As I expect is true for many of my generation, my first exposure to Chip and Dale was via the TV series Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, where the chipmunk duo leads a detective agency/crime-fighting squad. But the characters have been around since the 1940s, sans the crime element. Debuting in a Pluto-centric cartoon in 1943 (and appearing in one more Mickey/Pluto short), the pair of chipmunks received names and distinctive character traits in 1947’s Chip an’ Dale, where they were also paired with their most common antagonist for the rest of their 23 short film appearances, Donald Duck. The high energy chipmunks were a perfect match for Donald’s mania, playing off each other much the way Tom and Jerry did at MGM or Sylvester and Tweety did at Warners. One of their best shorts is Working for Peanuts, which sees the pair attempting to get peanuts from a zoo, but the peanuts are closely defended by Dolores the Elephant, in cahoots with Donald the zookeeper. Though in their earliest appearances the chipmunks aren’t differentiated in personality or looks, by this time Chip is clearly portrayed as the smarter of the two, the one who comes up with the schemes and ridicules Dale when his unthinking bravado gets him into trouble. Physically, you can tell them apart by Dale’s larger, red nose, which is easily distinguished from Chip’s smaller, back nose.
the recovering academic