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Halloween Don’t Be Late: Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein

Screenshot courtesy of Universal Animation Studios

Every year around the holidays, there’s a good bit of people who just can’t get enough of “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late).” When Ross Bagdasarian’s (aka David “Dave” Seville) cartoon virtual band Alvin and the Chipmunks released the song in 1958, it became the first Christmas record to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. (And it was the only one to do so until the 2019 resurgence of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” decades later.) Clearly, people loved it, and personally, I still love the song. But Alvin and the Chipmunks are too often swept up in the Christmas season—and more recently in the summertime spirit, too, with movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011).

It’s really the spooky season when the Chipmunks sing, dance, and live their best life. And the proof lies in a little, old 1999 direct-to-video film by Universal Animation Studios called Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein.

It builds upon Mary Shelley’s classic Gothic novel, Frankenstein, about an unorthodox scientist and his creature ostracized by society for being different and misunderstood. The twist, of course, in this film is that three rodent-ish boys befriend this monster and teach him the value of friendship, compassion, and homemade lasagna. 

Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein begins with a black-and-white scene showing Doctor Victor Frankenstein (Michael Bell) and his monster (Frank Welker) being run off by an angry mob with pitchforks and torches. The rainy weather, booming thunder, and flashes of lighting heighten the movie’s haunted energy. Complimented by Mark Watters’ film score, it really feels and sounds like a classic Hollywood Universal Studios horror-thriller with its shuddering strings and grandiose force behind the brass and wind instruments.

Frankenstein's monster overlooks an angry mob in a black and white scene.
Frankenstein’s monster overlooks an angry mob. (Screenshot courtesy of Universal Animation Studios)

There are plenty of traditional elements in the movie that give it a sense of familiarity and nostalgia. However, it still has this refreshing, bright energy that’s inseparable from the identity of the Chipmunks themselves.

As part-time pop stars and full-time children, the Chipmunks spend their days at the playground or at Majestic Movie Studios amusement park and their nights performing concerts and attending red-carpet premieres. Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein packs a ton of action in 78 minutes and moves very quickly without ever feeling rushed. 

The Universal Studios spoof, "Majestic Movie Studio Park," where the Chipmunks play and perform. Children and families walk around the entrance of the theme park. The park's mascot, Sammy Squirrel, sits on top of the entrance as a giant, golden statue.
The Universal Studios spoof, “Majestic Movie Studio Park,” where the Chipmunks play and perform. (Screenshot courtesy of Universal Animation Studios)

In the first 20 minutes, we meet the infamous, grouchy Doctor Frankenstein, watch the chipmunks sing a Van Halen-type opening number called “Things Out There,” hijack a movie studio bus tour, and get chased through the theme park by the green giant nick-named “Frankie.” There’s even a clever scene during the chase where the Chipmunks are riding the Dragonland roller coaster, going so fast that they morph into past animation styles of their characters.

Alvin, Simon, and Theodore ride down a roller coaster so fast that their morph into their past character designs.
The Chipmunks’ faces are distorted by the roller coaster g-forces, morphing them into how they looked in “The Alvin Show” and on their first album covers. (Screenshots courtesy of Universal Animation Studios)

Despite being a dark comedy-horror movie, the animation is full of warmth and delight, best exemplified by the contrast of bright colors and intense shadows and shading. Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein was animated by the Tokyo-based Tama Productions, also known for contributing to The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1988-1991), Darkwing Duck (1991-1992), Goof Troop (1992-1993), and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers (1989-1990).

Frankie tries to grab the Chipmunks out of their cart on the DragonLand roller coaster.
Frankie attempting to capture the Chipmunks at Dragonland. (Screenshot courtesy of Universal Animation Studios)

Each character was drawn with extreme attention focused on the smallest but most telling detail—expression. Doctor Frankenstein gets into almost as much trouble as the Chipmunks do, and he has a wide range of facial expressions to show it, from focused, furrowed eyebrows to mischievous smirks and face-contorting terror. 

In a word, the animation is charming, and it feels just like a children’s picture book come to life.

Doctor Frankenstein mischievously looks at the theme park director, Mr. Yesman, thinking about how he might use his body parts for science.
Doctor Frankenstein determining how he might use the theme park director, Mr. Yesman’s body parts for “science.” (Screenshot courtesy of Universal Animation Studios)

Near the end of the movie, Doctor Frankenstein gets a hold of Alvin and hooks him up to some lab equipment. When Alvin is force-fed a bubbling concoction, he turns into a literal wild animal, allowing for a bit of fun to be poked at the cartoon stereotypes of Roger Rabbit and the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil.

A wacky, "monster" version of Alvin stands on the buffet table, holding chainsaw and scaring people around him.
“Monster Alvin” takes over the buffet with a chainsaw. (Screenshot courtesy of Universal Animation Studios)

Once Simon and Theodore turn Alvin back from monster to normal, Frankie—the perceived “real” monster—makes a reappearance, scaring and angering crowds of people. Like most family movies, you’re not going to get away without a moral lesson. Theodore stands up for Frankie in a “don’t judge a book by its cover” speech, and everybody leaves happily ever after. 

Theodore defends Frankie in front of a crowd of people.
Theodore’s “don’t judge a book by its cover” speech. (Screenshot courtesy of Universal Animation Studios)

Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein is undoubtedly of its time. Every other character in this movie has a Nick Carter-style haircut, wears some combination of athleisure clothing, or uses an outdated device like a bulky camcorder. Plus, the three other musical numbers—“If a Monster Came In,” “If You Wanna Have Friends,” and “Dem Bones”—evoke a textbook late ‘80s, early ‘90s boyband sound. (“New Edition Beastie Chipmunks on the Block,” if you will.)

The Chipmunks, wearing Halloween costumes, perform in front of a crowd of fans. Simon, dressed as a vampire, plays the keyboard. Alvin, dressed as a mummy, plays the electric guitar. Theodore, dressed as himself, plays the drums.
The Chipmunks performing at Majestic Movie Studio Park. (Screenshot courtesy of Universal Animation Studios)

The film is very much a snapshot of its era, but its music and entertainment value have a timeless quality. For those who can’t get past the high-frequency singing and shouting, it really isn’t all that bad after a while and is well worth sitting through to get to the film’s genuine emotional resonance and heartfelt humor lying under the surface of the story.

Following the success of Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein, Universal Animation Studios released a standalone sequel, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman, the following year, in 2000. Similar to the first movie’s Gothic classic-inspired plot, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman builds upon Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But that’s another deep dive for another time.

Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein is not yet available to watch on major streaming services as it was released direct-to-video almost 25 years ago, but thanks to the Internet Archive, it’s free to view online at

Written by Piper Starnes

PIPER STARNES is a recent graduate of Syracuse University's Arts Journalism and Communications master's program and is currently based in Los Angeles as a creative copywriter for the LA Phil. She’s a 3D and 4DX movie enthusiast and loves whodunits, stop-motion animation, and anything with a great film score.

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