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Movie Mom

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Novelty songwriter Ross Bagdasarian noticed that speeding up the audio recordings creatd a high-pitched sound in 1958, and used that technique in his song “The Witch Doctor.” It was a hit. And so, he created the singing chipmunks, Simon, Theodore, and AAAAAlvin. Their record-breaking Christmas song sold four and a half million records in seven weeks — a record not broken until the Beatles — and won two Grammy awards. The high pitch of the voices was the novelty, but what made the record a hit was the relationship between Bagdasarian, who chose the stage name Dave Seville after the Spanish town he had been stationed in during the second World War, and the chipmunks, scholarly Simon, cheery Theodore, and especially mischievous Alvin. It became a franchise, with more records, an animated television series, product endorsements, and “appearances” with real-life rock stars. What was left? A feature-length movie, inspired by the origin story. But any charm in the original idea has been diluted and all that remains is packaging. It is 9/10 product placement, 1/10 filler.

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