Disney Child Star’s Tragic Life Comes to Light in the New Film “Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers”

Kathryn Vlaanderen, News Editor

While studying for midterms and enjoying Homecoming week, I sat down to watch Disney’s new 2022 movie “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers.”   

The film is filled to the brim with nostalgic cliches, references to all types of animations and inhabits a loosely written plot.  

The film carries similarities to the 1988 film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” by Jeffery Price and Peter S. Seaman. The new film modernizes this kind of story for a newer generation of fans. The film follows the rise and downfall from fame of Chip (voiced by John Mulaney) and Dale (voiced by Andy Samberg) who lives in a world inhabited by both humans and animated characters.  

The events of the film take place after the run of Chip and Dale’s television series: “Rescue Rangers.” While trying to mend their broken friendship, the duo investigates the disappearance of one of their Rescue Rangers’ castmates, Monterrey Jack, and the disappearance of numerous cartoons that is being carried out by a notorious bootleg film studio in the valley led by an unlikely villain.  

Instead of a power-hungry studio executive, the villain of this film turns out to be Peter Pan, nicknamed “Sweet Pete” who is voiced by Will Arnett. The film portrays Sweet Pete as a washed up, unkempt child actor who seeking revenge, after being fired for growing up, something he couldn’t control.  

The backstory of his character reminds hard core Disney fans of the tragic story of Bobby Driscoll. The child actor who voiced and modeled Peter Pan for Disney’s 1953 adaptation of Peter Pan. Driscoll’s story isn’t well-known to the public, but the “Rescue Rangers” film brought a new light to his story in the 20th century.  

According to a Screen Rant article entitled, “Who is Bobby Driscoll? Rescue Rangers Controversy Explained,” Bobby Driscoll was the first child actor to be contracted by the Walt Disney Co. in the 1940s and 1950s.  

For the Walt Disney Co. Driscoll is credited for his lead roles in “Peter Pan,” “Treasure Island” and his first appearance in the “Song of the South.” According to a Vanity Fair article titled, “Tragic Child Star Gets Spotlight in Chip and Dale movie,” Driscoll received the prestigious Juvenile Academy Award at the age of 9 years when he signed on as the first human child star for the Walt Disney Co. According to the same Vanity Fair article, the company fired him a couple of weeks after “Peter Pan” was released in 1953 because he no longer looked like a cute, adorable child star anymore due to a case of bad acne. 

 After being fired from the Walt Disney Co. at the age of 16, Driscoll struggled to fit in and began experimenting with heroine and getting arrested countless times. According to the previous Vanity Fair article, in 1961, Driscoll found himself on the front page of the Los Angeles Times with the headline, “Bobby Driscoll, Film Star at 6 Addict at 17, Sent to Chino” after he enrolled in a rehab facility to work on his addiction.  

 After several attempts at trying to clean up his act and pursue his acting career as an adult, Driscoll found himself a part of Andy Warhol’s “The Factory.”  

On March 30, 1968, Driscoll was discovered dead, surrounded by alcohol bottles and religious pamphlets at the age of 31, in an abandoned building, by three neighborhood kids, in Greenwich Village in New York. His death was ruled as a heart failure and the promising lost boy was buried in a pauper’s grave on Hart Island in New York.  

According to the Vanity Fair article, Driscoll’s own mother didn’t learn of his death until two years after it happened. The public didn’t hear about until Disney rereleased, “The Song of the South” and many asked where the once happy young star was during the time. 

“Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers” provides a negative light on the character of Peter Pan and Bobby Driscoll. Sweet Pete’s backstory is undeniably Bobby Driscoll’s story. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am as much a huge Disney fan as much as anyone could be, but to evoke his life story to earn a couple of bucks is too far and disrespectful to  Driscoll in my opinion.