Chip 'n' Dale: Park Life Review: A Gorgeous, But Underwhelming New Adventure

To an extent, we might currently be in the Golden Age of streaming animation, with new series [...]

To an extent, we might currently be in the Golden Age of streaming animation, with new series being available to fans across an array of platforms. From Masters of the Universe to Transformers to Monsters Inc., a number of beloved properties have found their way into that fold — and one of the latest to do so will be Chip 'n' Dale. The beloved Disney chipmunks have been fixtures of their own animated series or shorts for decades now, ranging from the serials of years past to the '90s cult classic Chip 'n' Dale: Rescue Rangers. Chip 'n' Dale: Park Life, which arrives weekly on Disney+ beginning this Wednesday, sets out to add to that canon — but if the first two episodes are any indication, its impact remains to be seen. Chip 'n' Dale: Park Life is a visually gorgeous — but narratively simplified — take on the iconic duo, one that never seems to be sure whether it wants to be a comforting throwback or an inventive trailblazer.

As the name would suggest, Chip 'n' Dale: Park Life follows the two titular chipmunks in their home in a big city park, and all of the everyday hijinks that ensue. While the pair overcomes obstacles or gets into trouble that wouldn't feel out of place in the original Chip 'n' Dale shorts of the '40s and '50s (in part thanks to the series almost entirely consisting of nonverbal dialogue), there are elements that feel inherently modern, including cooking videos, online delivery, and the like.

That dichotomy could lend itself to some interesting storytelling — and based on the episodes I've seen, it gets dangerously close to doing so, as there is an inherent charm to seeing the pair get into these wacky modernized scenarios. If anything, the decision to go with nonverbal dialogue might be Park Life's boldest, as it has a profound impact on how those narratives are enjoyed. The decision undeniably calls back to some of the earlier entries involving the duo (and also helps the series, which is produced by French studio Xilam Animation, have the opportunity to resonate with a larger audience), but after sitting through an episode or two of vignettes, the flurry of squeaks and other animal sounds starts to get a little grating. That hopefully won't be the case for some of the series' younger viewers, but even then, the plots of the episodes only go so far to consistently keep a viewer's attention.

What is the most attention-grabbing aspect of Park Life is its visuals, which are rendered in a gorgeous and colorful 2D style. There are no shortage of eye-catching elements just within the amount of episodes I saw, with even the most mundane of sequences or shots feeling like it was ripped out of a lost Little Golden Book. At the same time, the color story feels inherently modern, with approaches to shading and aesthetic that might not have been possible even five or ten years ago. That blend between timeless and modern really lends itself well to the series, and creates some adorably expressive moments — which is especially useful when the episode plots get a little underwhelming.

All of that being said, the portrayals of the series' characters are well executed, especially when it comes to the series' titular duo, who are voiced by Matthew Geczy and Kaycie Chase. The supporting cast and guest stars, including Disney icon Bill Farmer as Pluto, also bring their A-game, but not in a way that is going to revolutionize how anyone views the characters. Another surprisingly integral part of the series is the score from composer Vincent Artaud, which keeps the momentum of the episodes consistently on pace.

Is Chip 'n' Dale: Park Life must-watch television? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But what it might lack in narrative complexities or binge-ability, it makes up for in a beautiful aesthetic and an endearing sense of personality. This might not be the most overwhelmingly compelling way that Chip and Dale could be reintroduced to a new generation, but it still has a number of positive qualities — which fans of all ages will hopefully be able to appreciate on some level.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Chip 'n' Dale: Park Life will debut on Wednesday, July 28th, exclusively on Disney+. New episodes will be released weekly.