All Dogs Go to Heaven

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For the television series, see All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series. For the Supernatural episode, see All Dogs Go to Heaven (Supernatural).
All Dogs Go to Heaven
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Bluth
Dan Kuenster and Gary Goldman (co-directors)
Produced by Don Bluth
Gary Goldman
John Pomeroy
George A. Walker and Morris F. Sullivan (executive producers)
Screenplay by David N. Weiss
Story by Don Bluth
Ken Cromar
Gary Goldman
Larry Leker
Linda Miller
Monica Parker
John Pomeroy
Guy Shulman
David Steinberg
David N. Weiss
Music by Score: Ralph Burns
Songs: Charles Strouse
T.J. Kuenster
Edited by John K. Carr
Distributed by United Artists (US)
Rank Organisation (UK)
Release dates
  • November 17, 1989 (1989-11-17)
Running time
85 minutes
Country Ireland
United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $13.8 million[1]
Box office $27,100,027 (USA)[2]

All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 AmericanIrish animated musical adventure comedy film directed and produced by Don Bluth and released by United Artists and Goldcrest Films.[3] The film tells the story of Charlie B. Barkin (Burt Reynolds), a German Shepherd who is murdered, but forsakes his place in Heaven to return to earth where he and his best friend, Itchy Itchiford (Dom DeLuise), team up with a young orphan girl, Anne-Marie (Judith Barsi), 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 day 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 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, without special features except the original theatrical trailer.


In 1939 New Orleans, a roguish German Shepherd mix named Charlie B. Barkin escapes a dog pound with the help of his friend, a dachshund named Itchy Itchiford. Together they return to a casino in a tanker on the shore of the bayou, run by Charlie and his partner Carface Caruthers a bulldog who, unbeknownst to Charlie, was actually responsible for his imprisonment at the pound. Angered by Charlie's appearance, Carface and his henchman Killer trick him into thinking he would be sent away to a sanctuary to hide from the pound, but he instead gets Charlie drunk and runs him down with a car. Charlie is sent to Heaven by default, despite his moral character and a whippet angel shows him a pocket watch, representing his life. Wanting revenge against Carface, Charlie steals the watch and winds it, returning to Earth and thus forsaking his place in Heaven. He reunites with Itchy and they investigate Carface, only to find a little girl in his "care" named Anne-Marie who has the ability to talk to animals, and in the case of racing animals; she gains a knowledge of the outcome of races before they happen, revealing the reason Carface tried to get Charlie out of the picture. They "rescue" Anne-Marie in order to fund the means of setting up a rival casino. While unknowingly stealing 'seed' money for their first race, Anne-Marie meets a couple who become concerned for her ragged appearance.

After a winning streak, Charlie and Itchy attempt to garner Anne-Marie's cooperation with clothing and promises of finding her a family. After the casino is established however, Anne-Marie calls Charlie out for exploiting her for selfish reasons. In repentance, Charlie takes pizza and cake to a litter of homeless puppies and their mother who live in an abandoned church. Anne-Marie discovers that Charlie stole money to pay for the first race and she leaves him upset. That night, Charlie has a nightmare in which he is sent to Hell and when he awakens he discovers Anne-Marie went to take the wallet back to its rightful owners. Having met Harold and Kate, Anne-Marie seems contented to stay with them, but Charlie tricks her into running away again. Carface, furious at the loss of Anne-Marie and revelation that Charlie is alive tries to kill him with the aid of Killer, but find Charlie is impervious to harm as long as his watch still ticks. While hiding, Charlie and Anne-Marie fall into the den of a massive, music-loving alligator who finds a kindred spirit in Charlie and spares their lives, but the encounter leaves Anne-Marie very ill with pneumonia. Meanwhile, Carface and his thugs attack Itchy at their casino and then destroy the place. Itchy confronts Charlie that he cares about Anne-Marie more than their business, or getting back at Carface for his crimes. Anne-Marie overhears Charlie exclaiming that he is only using her and that he will give her to an orphanage when they are done. Heartbroken, Anne-Marie calls Charlie a "bad dog" and runs away, only to be captured by Carface moments later.

Realizing that he cares for Anne-Marie, Charlie goes to find her at Carface's casino and ends up in a trap set up by him while Itchy takes Anne-Marie's doll to Kate and Harold to alert them of the situation. During the fight between Charlie and Carface's men an oil fire starts, setting the interior ablaze as it begins to sink into the bayou. King Gator arrives and chases Carface off, as Charlie's watch falls into the water, forcing him to choose between saving Anne-Marie or saving the watch and sparing himself. He chooses Anne-Marie and pushes her to safety on a hunk of debris, he goes down for his watch, but it fills with water and stops before he can reach it. Anne-Marie and Killer wash up on shore just as police and Kate and Harold arrive. The couple takes Anne-Marie home, apparently deciding to adopt her.

As Anne-Marie is recovering, it is discovered that Kate and Harold had also adopted Itchy, who watches over her. Charlie returns one night, after briefly escaping hell and expresses his regrets for his actions. Just then, the angel from heaven appears to Charlie, telling him he has redeemed himself and has earned his place in heaven. She grants him the ability to talk to Anne-Marie one last time and he tells her he is going on a trip, and to take care of Itchy. As she goes to sleep, Charlie ascends into heaven, where he breaks the fourth wall and changes the ending music to something a little more upbeat. In heaven, Carface is winding a clock to return and take revenge on the gator who killed him when he is warned (more aggressively) by the angel that if he touches the clock, he will never return to heaven to which Charlie assures the audience that Carface will be back.


Main characters
Supporting characters


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.[4][5] 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).[6] 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.[7]

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".[8] 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.

Release and reaction[edit]

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;[7] 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.[9]

All Dogs Go to Heaven opened in North America on November 17, 1989, the same day 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,[7] 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.[10] Some also found the darker subject material objectionable in a family film,[11][12] featuring as it does depictions of death, violence, drinking, smoking, gambling, murder, demons and images of Hell. But other reviews were mostly positive, with critics praising the film's emotional qualities, humor and vibrant color palette.[13][14] 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.[15] 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,[16] selling over 3 million copies in its first month.

Sequels and spin-off[edit]

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.[17] 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
  1. "Love Survives" - Irene Cara and Freddie Jackson - Length: 3:25
  2. "Mardi Gras" - Music Score - Length: 1:17
  3. "You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down" - Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise - Length: 2:30
  4. "Hellhound" - Music Score - Length: 2:09
  5. "What's Mine Is Yours" - Burt Reynolds - Length: 1:48
  6. "At the Race Track" - Music Score - Length: 1:49
  7. "Let Me Be Surprised" - Melba Moore and Burt Reynolds - Length: 4:54
  8. "Soon You'll Come Home" (Anne-Marie's Theme) - Lana Beeson - Length: 2:38
  9. "Money Montage" - Music Score - Length: 3:43
  10. "Dogs to the Rescue" - Music Score - Length: 3:10
  11. "Let's Make Music Together" - Ken Page and Burt Reynolds - Length: 2:24
  12. "Goodbye Anne-Marie" - Music Score - Length: 2:10
  13. "Hallelujah" - Candy Devine - 1:21


  1. ^ Ask Us Questions at []
  2. ^ Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989)". Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  4. ^ Cawley, An American Tail
  5. ^ Cawley, The Land Before Time
  6. ^ Cawley, At Home in Ireland
  7. ^ a b c Cawley, All Dogs Go to Heaven
  8. ^ Beck, The Animated Movie Guide p.14
  9. ^ "Retro Junk - Wendy's All Dogs Go to Heaven Toys". 
  10. ^ Rainer, Peter (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". L.A. Times.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ Kempley, Rita (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". New York Times.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Carr, Jay (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Boston Globe.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Chicago Sun-Times.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ Kehr, Dave (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Chicago Tribune.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ "Don Bluth - Box Office Data". 
  16. ^ Lenburg, p.32
  17. ^ 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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