All Dogs Go to Heaven
|All Dogs Go to Heaven|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Don Bluth
Dan Kuenster and Gary Goldman (co-directors)
|Produced by||Don Bluth
George A. Walker and Morris F. Sullivan (executive producers)
|Screenplay by||David N. Weiss|
|Story by||Don Bluth
David N. Weiss
|Music by||Score: Ralph Burns
Songs: Charles Strouse
|Edited by||John K. Carr|
|Distributed by||United Artists (US)
Rank Organisation (UK)
|Running time||85 minutes|
|Box office||$27,100,027 (USA)|
All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 American–Irish animated musical action-adventure film directed and produced by Don Bluth and released by United Artists & Goldcrest Films. The film tells the story of two dogs, Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds) and his loyal best friend Itchy Itchiford (voiced by Dom DeLuise). Charlie is murdered, but he forsakes his place in Heaven to return to earth where he and Itchy team up with a young orphan girl, Anne-Marie (voiced by Judith Barsi in her final role), who teaches them an important lesson about honesty, loyalty, and love.
The film was produced at Sullivan Bluth Studios in Dublin, Ireland, funded by UK-based investors Goldcrest Films. On its cinema release it competed directly with an animated feature released on November 17, 1989, the same time as Walt Disney Pictures animated motion picture The Little Mermaid. While it did not repeat the box-office success of Sullivan Bluth's previous feature films (The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, and The Land Before Time) it was very successful on home video, becoming one of the biggest-selling VHS releases ever. The film inspired a theatrical sequel, a television series, and a holiday direct-to-video film. The film was released on VHS and DVD November 17, 1998, and as an MGM Kids edition on March 6, 2001, and for the first time rendered in high definition on Blu-ray on March 29, 2011, with no special features except the original theatrical trailer.
In 1939 New Orleans, a roguish German Shepherd mix named Charlie B. Barkin escapes from a dog pound and death row with the help of his sidekick, a perpetually nervous Dachshund named Itchy Itchiford. Charlie returns to his business partner, Carface Caruthers, who unknown to Charlie had him imprisoned in the first place in order to take over their casino. Angered by Charlie's escape, Carface tricks Charlie into believing he will be sent to a sanctuary, then gets him drunk, and murders him by running him down with a car. Charlie goes to heaven by default, despite being of poor moral character. There a whippet angel presents him his "life watch"- a pocket watch representing his lifespan. Charlie steals the watch and winds it up, sending him back to earth. He is told that if the watch stops ticking he will immediately die and go to hell - since by returning to earth, he has forsaken his place in Heaven.
Back on earth, Charlie reunites with Itchy and plots his revenge against Carface by setting up a rival business, in which they discover Carface is imprisoning an orphaned girl named Anne-Marie for her ability to communicate with animals, giving him an advantage when betting on races fixed so that those who speak the racing animals' language know in advance of the outcome. Charlie rescues her from Carface, promising to find adoptive parents for her. Instead, Charlie obtains a large profit using Anne-Marie's ability; and when she accuses him of exploiting her, he purchases pizza and cake for orphan puppies in an abandoned church. There, Anne-Marie discovers a wallet stolen by Charlie, and accuses him of taking it. That night, Charlie has a nightmare in which his life watch runs out of time and he is banished to hell and tormented by a Hellhound and lesser monsters.
The next day, Anne-Marie returns the wallet to its owners, a married couple named Harold and Kate, who plan to adopt her. Desperately, Charlie tricks Anne-Marie into leaving by pretending to be sick. They narrowly escape an assassination attempt by Carface, which fails due to Charlie's watch keeping him immortal. Charlie and Anne-Marie fall into an underground sewer, where they are nearly eaten by King Gator, a giant alligator who befriends them in admiration of Charlie's singing voice. Itchy is ambushed by Carface and his thugs, who destroy Charlie's casino. Itchy returns to Charlie (after bringing Anne-Marie home sick) and accuses him of caring more for Anne-Marie than for their business. Frustrated and angered by his words, Charlie blurts out that he does not actually care about her. Anne-Marie overhears the conversation, realizes that Charlie is a fraud, calls him a bad dog, and runs away in tears. However, she is recaptured by Carface.
Realizing he has been foolish, Charlie goes to rescue Anne-Marie, only to find himself in a trap set by Carface. Meanwhile Itchy and other neighborhood dogs alert the wallet's owners, and Carface's minions prepare to execute Charlie. King Gator suddenly hears Charlie howling for help, and frees him from the trap. In the fray, an unconscious Anne-Marie falls into the water. Charlie tries to save her, but is attacked by Carface and drops his watch. During the struggle, King Gator knocks Carface into the water, where Carface is chased off by the alligator. With Carface out of his way, Charlie finally jumps into the water to save Anne-Marie. He pulls her to safety, but fails to retrieve his watch in time. Upon hitting the bottom of the lake, the waterlogged watch stops ticking, as Killer swims Anne-Marie to shore, where Itchy and the other Dogs are grieving over Charlie's death.
Anne-Marie is taken home by Harold and Kate. Charlie, in ghost form, comes to visit Anne-Marie one last time before his descent into Hell, to apologize for everything he was before his change of heart as the Hellhound waits for him. Then the Angel appears and destroys the Hellhound. She tells Charlie that for giving up his life for Anne-Marie's, he has finally gotten his place in Heaven once again, and Anne-Marie is now living with Harold and Kate and has kept Itchy as a pet. Charlie says a heartfelt goodbye to Anne-Marie and Itchy, and enters the afterlife.
During the post-credits, it is revealed Carface had eventually been eaten by King Gator, and as a result - he is automatically sent to Heaven; he is last seen attempting to steal his life watch only to be caught and scolded by the whippet angel.
- Main characters
- Burt Reynolds as Charlie B. Barkin, a roguish German Shepherd mix. The character was designed specifically with Reynolds in mind for the role, and the animators mimicked some of his mannerisms.
- Dom DeLuise as Itchy Itchiford, a paranoid, nervous, and cowardly Dachshund.
- Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie, a young human orphan girl with the ability to talk to and understand animals. Her singing voice was performed by Lana Beeson. This was Judith Barsi's final film role before her death in 1988. The end credits song "Love Survives" was dedicated in Barsi's memory.
- Vic Tayback as Carface Caruthers, a shifty, psychotic mixed American Pit Bull Terrier/Bulldog gangster. This was Tayback's last role before his death next year in 1990.
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Killer, a misnamed, cowardly, neurotic, spectacles-wearing Schnauzer/poodle hybrid.
- Supporting characters
- Loni Anderson as Flo, a female Rough Collie and girlfriend of Charlie.
- Melba Moore as a Whippet angel, who welcomes deceased dogs into Heaven. She was named "Anabelle" in the sequel.
- Ken Page as King Gator, an American alligator and voodoo witch doctor, living below the streets of New Orleans.
- Rob Fuller and Earleen Carey as Harold and Kate, a married couple who later become Anne-Marie's adoptive parents.
- Godfrey Quigley as Terrier a dog who appears when Itchy tells everyone Anne-Marie's in danger
- Anna Manahan as Stella Dallas a horse who appears when Anne-Marie, Charlie, and Itchy is at the derby.
- Candy Devine as Vera a dog who appears in the movie.
The earliest idea for All Dogs Go to Heaven was conceived by Don Bluth after finishing work on The Secret of NIMH. The treatment was originally about a canine private eye, and one of three short stories making up an anthology film. The character of a shaggy German Shepherd Dog was designed specifically with Burt Reynolds in mind for the role. However, Bluth's first studio, Don Bluth Productions, was going through a period of financial difficulty, ultimately having to declare bankruptcy, and the idea never made it beyond rough storyboards. The concept was revived by Bluth, John Pomeroy, and Gary Goldman and rewritten by David N. Weiss, collaborating with the producers from October through December 1987. They built around the title All Dogs Go to Heaven, and drew inspiration from films such as It's a Wonderful Life, Little Miss Marker and A Guy Named Joe. The film's title came from a book read to Bluth's fourth grade class in school, and he resisted suggestions to change it, stating he liked how "provocative" it sounded, and how people reacted to the title alone.
During the production of their previous feature film, Sullivan Bluth Studios had moved from Van Nuys, California to a state-of-the-art studio facility in Dublin, Ireland, and All Dogs Go to Heaven was their first to begin production wholly at the Irish studio. It was also their first to be funded from sources outside of Hollywood; the previous two feature films, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, had been backed by Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures, and executive producers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had exercised a degree of control over the content of the films, a situation Bluth found disagreeable. The studio found investment from UK-based Goldcrest Films in a US$70m deal to produce three animated feature films (though only two, All Dogs Go to Heaven and Rock-a-Doodle, would be completed under the deal). The three founding members of the studio, Bluth, Pomeroy, and Goldman, had all moved to Ireland to set up the new facility, but during the production of All Dogs Go to Heaven, John Pomeroy returned to the U.S. to head up a satellite studio which provided some of the animation for the film. Pomeroy also used his presence in the U.S. to generate early publicity for the film, including a presentation at the 1987 San Diego Comic-Con.
The film's lead voices, Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, had previously appeared together in a number of films, including The Cannonball Run. For All Dogs Go to Heaven, they requested they be allowed to record their parts in the studio together (in American animation it is more common for each actor to record their part solo). Bluth agreed, and allowed Reynolds and DeLuise to ad-lib extensively; Bluth later commented "their ad-libs were often better than the original script". However, Reynolds was more complimentary of the draft, warmly quipping, "Great script, kid," as he left the studio. Another pair of voices, those of Carface and Killer (Vic Tayback and Charles Nelson Reilly, respectively) also recorded together.
As production neared completion, the studio held test screenings and decided that some of the scenes were too intense for younger viewers. Writer and producer John Pomeroy decided to shorten Charlie's nightmare about being condemned. Co-director Gary Goldman also agreed to the cut, recognizing that the concession needed to be made in the name of commercial appeal. Don Bluth owns a private film print of the uncut version, which has yet to be released onto video or DVD. In the song "Let Me Be Surprised", Charlie says "Damn that Carface. I'll kill him!"
Release and reaction
Dissatisfied with the terms imposed by Universal Studios, which had distributed their previous two films, the studio found an alternative distributor in United Artists. Somewhat unusually, production investors Goldcrest Films covered the cost of the release prints and the promotional campaign, in return for a greatly reduced distribution fee from UA. This was similar to the arrangement with United Artists when they distributed Bluth's first feature film, The Secret of NIMH. Goldcrest Films invested $15 million in printing and promoting the film. Due to contractual issues, very little tie-in merchandise accompanied the film's theatrical release; a computer game adaptation for the Commodore Amiga's DOS system (with a free software package) was released, and restaurant chain Wendy's offered toys with their Kids' Meals or regular fries.
All Dogs Go to Heaven opened in North America on November 17, 1989, the same time as Walt Disney Pictures' full-length animated motion picture The Little Mermaid; once again, Sullivan Bluth Studios' latest feature would be vying for box office receipts with Disney's, just as their last two films (An American Tail and The Land Before Time) had. It received many mixed reviews from critics, drawing unfavorable comparisons to Disney's offering, criticizing the disjointed narrative, the quality of the animation, and the songs by Charlie Strouse and T.J. Kuenster. Some also found the darker subject material objectionable in a family film, featuring as it does depictions of death, violence, drinking, smoking, gambling, murder, demons and Hell. But other reviews were mostly positive, with critics praising the film's emotional qualities, humor and vibrant color palette. Roger Ebert, who was unimpressed with An American Tail, gave All Dogs Go to Heaven three out of four stars. More recent reviews of the film have generally been less harsh, with Box Office Mojo awarding it a B- rating. However, film critic Leonard Maltin gave this movie one-and-a-half out of four stars, due to "unappealing characters, confusing storytelling, and forgettable songs".
On its theatrical release, while still making its budget of $13.8 million back, All Dogs Go to Heaven's performance fell short of Sullivan Bluth Studios' previous box office successes, grossing US$27m in North America alone, just over half of what An American Tail and The Land Before Time each took. However, the film became a sleeper hit on its home video release; a strong promotional campaign helped it become one of the top-selling VHS releases of all time, selling over 3 million copies in its first month.
Sequels and Spin-off
The success of the film, particularly its performance on home video, prompted several follow-up productions. A theatrical sequel, All Dogs Go to Heaven 2; a television series, All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series; and An All Dogs Christmas Carol, a Christmas television movie based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, were made. Don Bluth and his studio had no involvement with any of them. Dom DeLuise voiced Itchy in all of them.
On July 1, 1991, a soundtrack to All Dogs Go to Heaven was released. The song "Love Survives" is dedicated in memory of Anne-Marie's voice actress, ten-year-old Judith Barsi, who was shot and killed by her father before the film's release.
- Track listing
- "Love Survives" - Irene Cara and Freddie Jackson - Length: 3:25
- "Mardi Gras" - Music Score - Length: 1:17
- "You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down" - Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise - Length: 2:30
- "Hellhound" - Music Score - Length: 2:09
- "What's Mine Is Yours" - Burt Reynolds - Length: 1:48
- "At the Race Track" - Music Score - Length: 1:49
- "Let Me Be Surprised" - Melba Moore and Burt Reynolds - Length: 4:54
- "Soon You'll Come Home" (Anne-Marie's Theme) - Lana Beeson - Length: 2:38
- "Money Montage" - Music Score - Length: 3:43
- "Dogs to the Rescue" - Music Score - Length: 3:10
- "Let's Make Music Together" - Ken Page and Burt Reynolds - Length: 2:24
- "Goodbye Anne-Marie" - Music Score - Length: 2:10
- "Hallelujah" - Candy Devine - 1:21
- Ask Us Questions at [donbluth.com]
- Box Office Mojo
- "All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989)". RottenTomatoes.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Cawley, An American Tail
- Cawley, The Land Before Time
- Cawley, At Home in Ireland
- Cawley, All Dogs Go to Heaven
- Beck, The Animated Movie Guide p.14
- "Retro Junk - Wendy's All Dogs Go to Heaven Toys".
- Rainer, Peter (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". L.A. Times.
- Kempley, Rita (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". New York Times.
- Carr, Jay (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Boston Globe.
- Ebert, Roger (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Kehr, Dave (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Chicago Tribune.
- "Don Bluth - Box Office Data".
- Lenburg, p.32
- Amazon.com: All Dogs Go to Heaven: Various Artists: Music
- Beck, Jerry (October 2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5.
- Cawley, John (October 1991). The Animated Films of Don Bluth. Image Pub of New York. ISBN 0-685-50334-8.
- Lenburg, Jeff (June 2006). Who's Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-Winning and Legendary Animators. Applause Books. p. 32. ISBN 1-55783-671-X.
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