Hip-Hop Meets the Chipmunks (and Chipettes)

 

I could write that this winter, my students dragged me to movie theaters to see the latest Chipmunk movie--but that would be a lie. The truth: After viewing a preview in which the Chipettes (girl chipmunks) perform to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” I practically ran to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

     Squeakquel choreographer Rosero McCoy began working in Los Angeles with Marguerite Derricks. Since then, McCoy has choreographed for artists including Usher, Celine Dion and Gloria Estefan; and movies like Step Up, Hairspray, Garfield and the first Alvin and the Chipmunks. Currently, he works as supervising choreographer for MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew,” alongside Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo.

    Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment released the movie for Blu-ray Disc and DVD this Tuesday, March 30. I caught up with McCoy to discuss the choreographic process from human to chipmunk.

 

Avatar dancers had special motion sensors connected to computers. Was this similar to your process?

There were no motion sensors--animators watched the dancers, and worked directly from their movements. We performed each routine so many times for the animators to make sure they could see every step. When working on the first movie, the director explained that extremely defined and precise movements read best. If the chipmunks pointed, dancers had to exaggerate pointing, so even with paws and little arms it would read to the audience.

     I also had to consider that chipmunks cannot move like humans. If I wanted arms completely stretched, we had to keep them bent in a bit, because a paw would never reach so far. In the “Single Ladies” routine, there is a moment when the girls lean back and thrust their hands forward. I instructed them to keep their arms and hands bent, just like paws, and lean farther backwards to give the illusion that their hands were completely forward.

 

Who were the dancers?

We auditioned and cast three young adults/teenagers to match the chipmunks. Our human Eleanor was a very cute, chubby girl who could really dance—just like Chipette Eleanor. Our Britney was a sassy blond with the same attitude as her character. If you were to line up the dancers’ rehearsal footage next to the animation, clips would be exactly the same. The dancers had to perform the routines with their characters’ styles and attitudes. At one point in the film, Eleanor dances in heels that don’t fit, and she trips all over the place. In rehearsal, we made our Eleanor dance in heels that were too large so the animators could see how they affected her performance.

 

Were any movements in the routines lost because of animation?

No! I really appreciated the extent to which the animators paid attention to detail on this film, more so than the first. Even though the first movie was extremely well done, some of the chipmunks’ moves were lost; it could have been a bit more detailed, movement-wise. But for the Squeakquel, they were right on!

 

If Twentieth Century Fox asked you to choreograph another Squeakquel, you would say...

I’m so there! Let’s do it. When do we get started?

 

 

 

Photo: Film producer Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., director Betty Thomas, Chipettes founder Janice Karman, and choreographer Rosero McCoy celebrate the March 30th Blu-ray Disc and DVD release of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel at the Fox Lot in Los Angeles.

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