Jul 15th 2009 By Nick Prueher
Ever since a man named David Seville taught three chipmunks to sing a Christmas song in 1958, mankind has sought to tame the adorable little woodland creatures. But the full potential of human-chipmunk relations wasn't realized until Chris McVeigh
, a graphic designer from Canada, convinced the chipmunks in his parents' backyard to interact with his old action figures.
Now McVeigh's amazing photographs of the interactions are making a big splash online by combining two of the Internet's favorite subjects: Star Wars and cute animals.
After the jump, find out how he does it, why chipmunks are the perfect subjects and why he'll never work with squirrels
How did this project get started? Chris McVeigh:
It wasn't something that was planned. I had just become friendly with one of the chipmunks in my parents' backyard -- so friendly that she would actually jump up on my lap. At this point I had started learning photography and most of the stuff I was taking pictures of was abstracts and landscapes. Then I spotted an AT-AT walker toy in my old bedroom -- luckily, I wouldn't let my folks get rid of anything -- and I thought I might be able to interject some humor by combining Star Wars with the chipmunks. The first photo I took was the chipmunk I call Buddi with the AT-AT. She had no problem with any of it. I think she sensed that it wasn't a threat. How does one befriend a chipmunk? McVeigh:
When I see them in the backyard, I leave almonds in the area. My goal at first is to keep them coming back to get the almonds. I stand closer and closer to them until they get used to me. It takes about a week of regular interaction with the chipmunks before they learn that you are something that brings them food. Once they get used to me being there, I'll take the pictures while they come to collect the almonds. Do you have a favorite photo? McVeigh:
I think my favorite is the one of the action figure on the chipmunk's back, because it seemed to be such a technical feat at the time. I took an old scout trooper that was pre-posed for speeder bike and put it on the back of a male chipmunk called Billy as a proof-of-concept shot. The action figure's feet were kicking him in the ribs and it wouldn't stay upright, so I knew this wouldn't work. But I got my sister involved and bought a new scout trooper whose limbs were more articulated. I hooked him up to thread and had my sister use strings to lower him onto the chipmunk's back and keep him upright. None of this bothered Billy in the least. Why chipmunks?
McVeigh: For somebody looking at pictures, they're quite cute and, in terms of toys, they match up quite nicely. What makes them ideal subjects is that they're incredibly focused and predictable. If they know you have almonds and know where you store them, they'll come back to get them over and over. You can't get that with a squirrel. They're erratic. If you present them with food, they eat it right away or run. Squirrels, by comparison, have ADD.