Childhood memories are fragile things that require the sort of delicate touch that the Hollwood machine generally lacks, with its emphasis on the bottom line. How else does one account for the fact that Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 is already in development?

Flesh and bone actor Jason Lee appeared alongside the titular CGI critters in the first two Chipmunks movies and will do it again in a third big screen venture. Does it even need saying that this time moviegoers will “get” to see Alvin, Simon, and Theodore in 3D?

Lee broke the news about his involvement with Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 at a press conference to promote his appearance on the show Raising Hope this week. January 2011 will mark the start of filming on the threequel, which could be under the direction of Shrek Forever After helmer Mike Mitchell – a fellow who was responsible for the surprisingly decent superhero family adventure, Sky High (think X-Men: First Class, as done by the Disney Channel).

The titular, musically-inclined rodents – cocky Alvin, nerdy Simon, and fat innocent Theodore – were the creation of Ross Bagdasarian, Sr. back in 1958. Bagdasarian sped up the playback of his own vocals to create the high-pitched intonations of his creations, which ended up releasing a number of hit singles and albums through the 1960s- in addition to inspiring cartoon TV show and movie spinoffs during the 80s and 90s.

Fast forward to the year 2007 as a CGI/live-action Alvin and the Chipmunks movie hits theaters, with Lee starring as David Seville, the critter’s much put-upon manager and father figure. That film was a financial hit and spawned a follow-up bearing the wince-inducing title Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, which sold lots of tickets at the box office during the 2009 holiday season and introduced the world to the CGI versions of “The Chipettes” (see below).

L to R: Eleanor, Brittany, and Jeanette, a.k.a. "The Chipettes"

We know that movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks, Yogi Bear, or The Smurfs are strictly for the kids and no one who goes to see them expects thought-provoking plot mechanics or Mametian dialogue (as hilarious as that would be). Is it too much to ask for some originality or a kid’s film that offers younger moviegoers a more substantial experience than that which they could get by staring at a shiny pair of keys for an hour and a half?

Pixar films are in general both fun for the little ones and deal with real-life issues that don’t go entirely over their heads either – the same goes for Dreamworks’ best works like How to Train Your Dragon or Kung Fu Panda. Those movies alone make it quite difficult to not be cynical about a project like Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 and dismiss those who defend it for pandering to the under-10 crowd.

"Kids' movie" is not synonymous with junk - case in point.

Production on Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 could finish in time for the film to hit 2D and 3D theaters by Winter 2011. Will you be going to see this one?