Saturday, February 2, 2013

BATMUNK (1990)

"There ain't no Batmunk, you bozo! He's just a toy!"

When Bat-Mania was in full swing during the late '80s/early 90s, thanks to Tim Burton's highly successful cinematic take on the caped crusader, everybody wanted a piece of the action. Officially-licensed Batman merchandise of all kinds could be readily found at any store, attempts were made to cross the character into even more visual media than merely comic books and film (among them, a certain ground-breaking animated series), and the movie was being parodied everywhere, in every possible way. One such parody that I can recall from those days was the Alvin and the Chipmunks TV episode, Batmunk.

The episode opens up on a foggy night in an unnamed city, where three clowns are robbing a toy store owned by billionaire Brice Wayne (Simon). As they're finishing the job, they debate the existence of Batmunk, afraid that they might be caught. Before they can make their getaway, they are chased down by a dark blue jet, piloted by the high-pitched vigilante they feared. After catching the crooks, Batmunk returns to his mansion, where he and his butler, Happy (Theodore), settle in for the night.

However, it doesn't take long before the three thieves are bailed out of prison by their boss, The Jokester (Alvin). Before they're even given a chance to express their gratitude, he expresses his outrage over how Wayne's Batmunk toys outsell his own Jokester toys. The Jokester then vows to steal Brice Wayne's newest toy idea, and to defeat Batmunk once and for all.

Despite the fact that this short was based on the first Tim Burton Batman movie, it has almost nothing in common with it, story-wise. While Burton's movie was about two flamboyant psychopaths, molded by each other's past actions, fighting over a woman, Batmunk is about two flamboyant rodents of unknown origin fighting over a toy. This has led me to believe that Batmunk wasn't so much parodying the movie, itself, as it was parodying the rampant merchandising campaign that surrounded it for the years that it was still fresh in the public's eye. Considering there were entire documentaries made that were solely about the hype generated by Hollywood leading up to the film's premiere, I don't think this is implausible.

As for the short, itself, there's not really a whole lot to it. The art and animation that don't do very much to distinguish it from other Saturday morning cartoons at the time, and there's a paper-thin plot that recycled a couple ideas from Batman without taking them in any new directions. The one thing I feel that Batmunk has going for it is a short musical montage near the beginning, where the as-of-yet unseen squeaky crusader is chasing the three clowns through the city in his jet while the Chipmunks are singing Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone". The way Batmunk is portrayed onscreen during this segment reminds me of why I originally fell in love with Batman when I was a little kid in the first place: he's a mysterious, intimidating stalker of the night who isn't afraid of anything and will do whatever it takes to snuff out evildoers.

Batmunk hasn't stood the test of time well, and a lot of what's going on will probably be lost on the younger set of Batman fans who got into the character through the newer Chris Nolan movies. However, if you're looking for a quick little trip back to that era of Bat-history, then it's probably worth the twenty minute run time.

Batmunk is the fourth episode of The Chipmunks Go to the Movies, the re-branded eighth season of Alvin and the Chipmunks.


  1. As a fan of Batman and cheesy 80s/90s kids shows this sounds like something I would enjoy. That Danger Zone scene sounds like a classic! Are the Chipettes in this one? I remember watching The Chipmunk Adventure movie as a kid and a little of the TV show in reruns. They probably don't hold up well but are still light years ahead of the recent Alvin and the Chipmunks movies!

    1. Yeah, Brittany was "Micky Male". I also agree with what you said, in that while the original Chipmunks show doesn't exactly hold up, it's still fun to watch.

  2. Great review, I watched this episode as a kid. Man they made some weird cartoons in the 90s.

    At the time I remember being really confused as to why they were singing a song from Top Gun in a Batman spoof!?!