Come along, you belong, feel the fizz...

The Rescue Rangers--from left to right: Monterey Jack, Dale, Chip, Gadget, Zipper
Artwork by Matt Plotecher and Chip Lundsmark


[The online Rescue Rangers community is] "truly the nicest, most caring, generous and friendly group of people I could ever want to meet...the spirit of friendship and unison of the community has totally changed the way I think about things..." (Chris, survey response)

"I can honestly say the RR community has changed my life." (Natasha, survey response)

"This is the best bunch of people I've ever met in my life, and really the only true friends I've ever had." (Tom, survey response)


In "The Case of the Cola Cult," a well-loved episode of the children's cartoon program "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers," a group of mice forms a close community based on their universal love for the beverage 'Cuckoo Cola.' Their slogan is, "Come along, you belong, feel the fizz of Cuckoo Cola," which also happens to be a line in the soda's commercial. This group's members forsake all their worldly belongings in order to join the group; they dance to the commercial and take showers in soda! By the end of the episode, the whole cult is exposed as a fraud, but Gadget comforts the disillusioned group by saying, "Golly, you don't need the Cola Cult as an excuse to get together! As long as you know where you belong, that's what's important."

Almost ten years after that episode of "Rescue Rangers" first aired, there is a small but thriving online community devoted to the program, with at least 50 separate websites focused on the program and an active message board. The Rescue Rangers Internet community (often called "Rangerphiles") is generally a tight-knit group, a place where many members have forged close friendships, and a place where most Ranger fans feel they 'belong.' I theorize that this small community (certainly numbering under 150 members) is brought together not only by its love of the characters (especially Gadget), but also from common viewpoints of group members and its relatively small size. In short, I intend to analyze both fan practices of the group (as done with other, non-Internet communities in Henry Jenkins's Textual Poachers) and the attitudes of the group members towards each other. I have been an active member of this community since late 1997, and an observer since 1995, so I feel well-equipped to do an ethnographic study of it. I also use statistics gleaned from my own surveys, as well as the Rangerphile Directory (a self-selected online listing of Rangerphiles), and other sources. By combining ethnographic and statistical approaches, a detailed analysis of the community is possible.

However, before the development of the fan community and its works can be analyzed, it is important to have a basic knowledge of the program in question.

In the Spring of 1989, the show "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers" premiered on the Disney Channel. The following fall, it moved into daily afternoon syndication, and the next year, joined the Disney Afternoon, a two-hour block of animated cartoons. The program was aimed towards a young audience, but, like most Disney cartoons of the time, contained elements for all ages. 65 episodes were produced.

The basic premise of "Rescue Rangers" is that a group of small animals goes around solving crimes that are too small for the police to care about. These cases generally expand to be more far-reaching than the group had expected, however, and usually involve a supervillain's wacky plot. In "Catteries Not Included," for instance, the Rangers search for a girl's missing kitten. It turns out that the kitten--along with all the cats in the city--were stolen by the evil Professor Nimnul. Nimnul has a great machine rub all the cats, producing enough static electrictiy to wreak havoc on the city. (Of course, our heroes stop him in time, and return the girl's kitten.) There is an air of 'fun' throughout the program; slapstick comedy runs rampant. Though fans are able to pick out bits of information about their favorite characters from the program, the characters generally do not evolve throughout the show; there are only a few episodes which obviously occur before each other. This is necessary in syndication,when episodes are aired out of order all the time. The order of the episodes is so unclear that, to the best of my knowledge, no fan has even drawn up a specific order that the episodes occurred in.

Though the premise of the show is important, it is even more important to get a sense of the characters, as many fanworks overlook some major elements of the show (slapstick, mystery, action) in favor of closer character interaction. In fact, in an open-ended survey, the most common reason Rangerphiles online cited for their love of the show was the characters.

Chip and Dale were both lifted from their old Disney shorts and Donald Duck cartoons. Chip is the fedora-wearing, adventurous one of the group; he is usually referred to as the leader in fanfictions, although he is never called such on the show. Dale wears a loud Hawaiian shirt and is generally portrayed as a goof-off. He is also used as comedy relief.

Chip and Dale are joined by three new characters. Monterey Jack is an adventuresome mouse, afraid of cats, and often going off into fits called 'cheese attacks' whenever he catches a whiff of the stuff. His good friend--and a full member of the team-- is Zipper, the fly. He squeaks and uses pantomine to get his ideas across, but cannot speak, making his personality hard to analyze.

But "the most important--and the most successful creation in the series" (Grant 1993: 142) is Gadget Hackwrench, the beautiful female inventor mouse of the group. She is indisputably the most popular character of the series, and also the only specifically Disney Afternoon cartoon character to get her own ride--a short roller coaster--in Mickey's Toontown in Disneyland, California. Though she is an unstereotypical woman in many ways (she wears dresses less often than Chip and Dale in the series!), she still serves as an object of competition between Chip and Dale, who both find her very attractive.

It is also important to know Foxglove, a pretty bat who only appears in one episode, "Good Times, Bat Times." She falls in love with Dale, and, by the end of the episode, has, at least, won his friendship. She never shows up in another episode, yet a whole slew of fan fiction and fan art involving her (and her love for Dale, which is generally requited) has sprung up; many Rangerphiles consider her to be a 'sixth Ranger.'

Once a rudimentary grasp of the program has been achieved, it is useful to examine the history of the online Rescue Rangers community.


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