One of the longest-running franchises in music and animation history is reportedly up for sale. Bagdasarian Productions, who control the rights to Alvin and the Chipmunks, are looking for someone to buy the property. And the concept is not exactly priced to move.
According to CNBC, “Bagdasarian Productions is working with a financial advisor and has been looking for a price of about $300 million” to buy the rights to the world’s premiere singing rodents. While that might sound like an astronomical fee — $100 per chipmunk! — they point out that the price is not that out of line with what some libraries of characters have sold for in recent years…
Streaming services such as ViacomCBS’ Paramount+, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, and Netflix have been on the hunt for intellectual property to bulk up their subscription offerings. Netflix said in September it acquired the catalog of Roald Dahl, author of children’s books including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda.” Bloomberg reported the deal cost more than $700 million.
The Chipmunks were created by Ross Bagdasarian Sr. back in 1958. They started out as a novelty record gimmick; Bagdasarian performed the voices of the three singing chipmunks at normal speed then sped up the voices to give the characters their distinctive high pitch. The characters got their first television show in 1962, called The Alvin Show; their 1980s animated series, Alvin and the Chipmunks, lasted for eight seasons and became a staple of Saturday mornings, syndication, and cable for decades. By that point, Bagdasarian had passed away and his son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr., had taken over the vocal duties for the Chipmunks. (Bagdasrian Jr. now runs the production company that controls Alvin and company.)
More recently, the characters starred in a series of four movies where the human characters were portrayed by live-action actors (including Jason Lee as the chipmunks’ adoptive dad, Dave) while Alvin, Simon, and Theodore themselves were CGI. Though the films were not critically acclaimed — and the title of the second movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, has become a punchline — the franchise was mostly a big financial success. Even the last film, 2015’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, still grossed over $200 million worldwide. So maybe that $300 million asking price isn’t that far-fetched…
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