In Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers, animated characters live alongside live-action humans — and not just Disney characters. The movie follows the two cartoon chipmunks, voiced by John Mulaney and Andy Samberg, as they reunite years after their show Rescue Rangers was canceled. As they search for a missing co-star from the show, their adventure takes them across Hollywood, where they meet cartoon characters from throughout animation history. Practically every screenshot of Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers is packed with Easter eggs and visual references, from Seth Rogen’s Pumbaa from the “live-action” CG Lion King remake to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic’s Mane Six running across a convention floor.
But one of the director’s favorite cameos — and certainly the one he’s proudest of — is a smaller hat-tip that might get lost amid the bigger, flashier references. It also pays homage to one of the original creators of the Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers television show, Tad Stones.
“He co-created with another guy named Alan Zaslove back in the ’90s,” explains director and Lonely Island member Akiva Schaffer. “Alan was much older, like the mentor, and he has since passed away at an old age. Tad is still alive and well. And I got to Zoom with him a bunch and ask tons of questions.”
In addition to creating Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Stones also wrote and produced Darkwing Duck and produced other Disney shows, like Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and the Hercules and Aladdin animated TV spinoffs. He’s worked on a number of direct-to-video Disney sequels, such as Aladdin 2: The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
Stones doesn’t make a physical appearance in the movie. Instead, his cameo comes in the form of a phone call, a tiny little reference that might go unnoticed unless you’re intimately familiar with the voices of late-1980s and early-1990s animators.
“In the movie, there’s a moment when [Chip and Dale] are in [their] young Hollywood times and they’re trying to get their career started, and they get the phone call,” Schaffer tells Polygon. “And there’s a voice on the other end that’s like a Disney executive saying Chip, Dale, how would you like your own show? And that’s Tad [Stones]’s voice.”
Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers is out on Disney Plus on May 20.