All Dogs Go to Heaven

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All Dogs Go to Heaven
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDon Bluth
Screenplay byDavid N. Weiss
Story by
Produced by
  • Don Bluth
  • Gary Goldman
  • John Pomeroy
Edited byJohn K. Carr
Music byRalph Burns
Distributed byUnited Artists/MGM/UA Communications Co. (United States)
Rank Film Distributors (United Kingdom/Ireland)
Release dates
  • November 17, 1989 (1989-11-17) (United States)
  • February 8, 1990 (1990-02-08) (United Kingdom)
  • April 6, 1990 (1990-04-06) (Ireland)
Running time
84 minutes[1]
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$13 million[1]
Box office$27.1 million [2]

All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 animated musical fantasy adventure comedy-drama film directed by Don Bluth and co-directed by Gary Goldman (his directorial debut) and Dan Kuenster.[3] It tells the story of Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds), a German Shepherd that is murdered by his former friend, Carface Carruthers (voiced by Vic Tayback, in his penultimate film role). Charlie withdraws from his place in Heaven to return to Earth where his best friend, Itchy Itchiford (voiced by Dom DeLuise), still lives, in order to take revenge on Carface. Instead, he ends up befriending a young orphan girl named Anne-Marie (voiced by Judith Barsi in her final film role; posthumously). In the process, Charlie learns an important lesson about kindness, friendship and love.

The film is an Irish, British and American venture, produced by Goldcrest Films and Sullivan Bluth Studios Ireland Ltd. On its cinema release, it competed directly with Walt Disney Feature Animation's The Little Mermaid, released on the same day. While it did not repeat the box-office success of Sullivan Bluth's previous features, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, it was successful on home video, becoming one of the biggest-selling VHS releases ever. It inspired a theatrical sequel, a television series, and a holiday direct-to-video film.


In 1939 New Orleans, slightly good-natured but generally scheming Charles B. "Charlie" Barkin escapes from the dog pound where he was to be put down with the help of his best friend Itchy Itchiford and returns to their casino riverboat on the bayou, formerly run by Charlie himself and his business partner, Carface Caruthers. Refusing to share the profits with Charlie, Carface had been responsible for Charlie getting committed to the pound and persuades Charlie to leave town with half of the casino's earnings. Charlie agrees, but is later intoxicated during Mardi Gras and killed by a car pushed downhill by Carface and his assistant, Killer. Charlie is sent to Heaven by default despite not having done any good deeds in his life; a whippet angel explains to him that because dogs are inherently good and loyal, all dogs go to Heaven and are entitled to paradise. Charlie cheats death by stealing a gold pocket watch representing his life and winding it back. As Charlie descends back to Earth, the whippet angel tells him that he can never return to Heaven; when the watch stops again, he will be sent to Hell instead. However, as long as the watch continues to run, Charlie will be immortal.

After Charlie reunites with Itchy and plots revenge in the form of a rivaling business, they discover that Carface has kidnapped a young orphan girl named Anne-Marie for her ability to talk to animals, which proves advantageous when betting on races. Charlie rescues her and promises to feed the poor and help her find a family. The next day at the race track, Charlie steals a wallet from a couple as they talk to Anne-Marie and become alarmed by her ragged appearance. Charlie and Itchy use their winnings to build a successful casino in the junkyard where they live. Anne-Marie, upon realizing that she has been used, threatens to leave. To persuade her to stay, Charlie brings pizza to a family of poor puppies and their mother, Flo, at an abandoned church. While there, Anne-Marie becomes angry at Charlie for stealing the wallet. As Charlie has a nightmare in which he is condemned to Hell, Anne-Marie returns the wallet to the couple, Kate and Harold. While they privately discuss adopting her, Charlie arrives and tricks her into leaving with him. Charlie and Anne-Marie narrowly escape an ambush by Carface and Killer and hide in an abandoned building, but the ground breaks and they fall into the lair of King Gator, a giant effeminate alligator. He and Charlie bond over a love of music and he lets them go, but Anne-Marie contracts pneumonia.

Carface and his thugs destroy Charlie's casino and attack Itchy. Injured, Itchy limps back to the church and confronts Charlie about his relationship with Anne-Marie, who Itchy thinks matters more than him. In his exasperation, Charlie loudly proclaims that he is using her and will eventually "dump her in an orphanage". A heartbroken Anne-Marie overhears the conversation and tearfully runs away before she is kidnapped by Carface. Charlie follows them to Carface's casino, where he is ambushed by Carface and his thugs. They fight with Charlie, inadvertently setting an oil fire that soon engulfs the whole structure. Charlie's pained howls from their bites summon King Gator, who chases down and devours Carface. In the chaos, both Anne-Marie and the watch fall into the water. Unable to rescue both at the same time, Charlie rescues Anne-Marie, places her onto some driftwood and pushes her toward safety; however, the watch stops before he can reach it, ending his life, so Killer finishes pushing her to shore, where Kate and Harold are waiting with police and medical personnel.

Sometime later, Kate and Harold adopt Anne-Marie, who has also adopted Itchy. Charlie, having sacrificed himself to save Anne-Marie, has earned back his place in Heaven, and is allowed to return in ghost form to reconcile with Anne-Marie. Leaving Itchy in her care, Charlie returns to Heaven, where Carface finally arrives and takes his own watch, vowing revenge against King Gator. As the whippet angel chases him and warns against using it, Charlie assures the audience that "he'll be back" before retrieving his halo.

Voice cast


The earliest idea 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 was designed specifically for Burt Reynolds. 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, 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 the film 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 (for The Land Before Time only) 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, Rock-a-Doodle and it, were 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 film's production, 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 five films. For this one, they requested them to record their parts in the studio together (in American animation, actors more commonly record their parts solo). Bluth agreed and allowed the duo 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. Loni Anderson, who voices Flo, was Reynolds' then-wife.[7] Child actress Judith Barsi, who voiced Ducky in Bluth's previous film The Land Before Time, was selected to voice Anne-Marie; she was killed in an apparent murder-suicide over a year before All Dogs was released.[7]

As production neared completion, the studio held test screenings and decided that some scenes were too intense for younger viewers. Pomeroy decided to shorten Charlie's nightmare about being condemned. Goldman also agreed to the cut, recognizing that the concession needed to be made in the name of commercial appeal. Bluth owned a private 35-mm print with the excised scenes and planned to convince Goldcrest on releasing a director's cut after returning from Ireland in the mid-1990s, but the print was eventually stolen from Bluth's locked storage room, diminishing hopes of this version being released on home media.[9]


All Dogs Go to Heaven Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedJuly 1, 1989[10]
LabelCurb Records
ProducerRalph Burns
Don Bluth Music of Films chronology
The Land Before Time
All Dogs Go to Heaven

The music for All Dogs Go to Heaven was composed by Ralph Burns with lyrics by Charles Strouse, T.J. Kuenster, Joel Hirschhorn, and Al Kasha.[11] An official soundtrack was released on July 1, 1989, by Curb Records on audio cassette and CD featuring 13 tracks, including seven vocal songs performed by various cast members.[10] The track "Let Me Be Surprised" contains a swear word in a dialogue cut from the final product. "Love Survives", the end credits song and overall theme, was dedicated to Anne-Marie's voice actress Judith Barsi, who was shot by her father, József, along with her mother, Maria, before the film's release on July 25, 1988.

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic [1]


Original songs performed in the film include:

1."You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down"Charles StrouseBurt Reynolds & Dom DeLuise 
2."Let Me Be Surprised"Charles StrouseMelba Moore & Burt Reynolds 
3."What's Mine is Yours"Charles StrouseBurt Reynolds & Chorus 
4."Soon You'll Come Home"T.J. KuensterLana Beeson 
5."Let's Make Music Together"Charles StrouseKen Page & Burt Reynolds 
6."Hallelujah"T.J. KuensterCandy Devine 
7."Love Survives"Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn & Michael LloydIrene Cara & Freddie Jackson 

Reception and legacy

Critical response

All Dogs Go to Heaven received mostly mixed reviews,[7] maintaining a 44% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 17 reviews,[3] and a 50 out of 100 score from Metacritic.[12] Reviewers often drew unfavorable comparisons to The Little Mermaid, criticizing the disjointed narrative, the quality of the animation, and the songs by Charlie Strouse and T.J. Kuenster.[13] The film received a "thumbs down" from Gene Siskel and a "thumbs up" from Roger Ebert on a 1989 episode of their television program At the Movies. While Siskel found it to be "surprisingly weak" given director Don Bluth's previous works, due largely to its "confusing story" and "needlessly violent" scenes, Ebert was a huge fan of the movie's "rubbery and kind of flexible" animation, stating he felt it was a good film despite not being an "animated classic".[14]

Some also found the darker subject material objectionable in a family film,[15][16] given the film's depictions of death, violence, theft, drinking, smoking, gambling, murder, demons, and images of Hell. Other reviews were mostly positive, with critics praising the film's emotional qualities, humor, and vibrant color palette.[17][18] Roger Ebert, who was unimpressed with Bluth's previous film An American Tail, gave it three out of four stars, remarking that the animation "permits such a voluptuous use of color that the movie is an invigorating bath for the eyes," and that although he preferred The Little Mermaid, which opened on the same day, he still found Dogs to be "bright and inventive."[17] However, film critic Leonard Maltin gave it one-and-a-half out of four stars, due to "unappealing characters, confusing storytelling, and forgettable songs."[19] Common Sense Media is concerned about the depictions of illegal drug usage and excessive thematic elements plotting in a family oriented movie.[20]

Box office

Dissatisfied with the terms imposed by Universal Pictures, 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 print and promotion. Due to contractual issues, very little tie-in merchandise accompanied the film's theatrical release;[7] a computer game adaptation for the Commodore Amiga system (with a free software package) was released, and restaurant chain Wendy's offered toys with their Kids' Meals or regular fries.[21]

The film opened in North America on November 17, 1989, concurrent with Disney's 28th full-length animated motion picture The Little Mermaid; once again, Sullivan Bluth would be vying for box-office receipts with Disney, just as their last two films (An American Tail and The Land Before Time) had. On its theatrical release, the film's performance fell short of the studio's previous box-office successes, grossing $27 million in North America alone, just over half of what An American Tail and The Land Before Time each took.[22]

This would be Bluth's final box office hit until Anastasia was released eight years later in 1997, which ended up becoming his highest-grossing film.

Awards and honors

All Dogs Go to Heaven received a nomination for "Best Family Motion Picture: Adventure or Cartoon" at the 11th Annual Youth in Film Awards ceremony, being beaten by Disney's The Little Mermaid.[23] The home video release received an Award of Excellence from the Film Advisory Board.[24]

Award Nomination Nominee Result
Youth in Film Award Best Family Motion Picture: Adventure or Cartoon All Dogs Go to Heaven Nominated

Home media

All Dogs Go to Heaven was released on VHS, S-VHS, 8mm video and LaserDisc in both regular[25] and special CAV standard play editions[26] by MGM/UA Home Video on August 28, 1990.[27] The film became a sleeper hit due to 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.[28] The film was followed by another VHS release under the MGM/UA Family Entertainment label in 1994, which was available exclusively through Warner Home Video.

A DVD was made available for the first time on March 6, 2001, under the MGM Kids label[29] and was later released as a double feature with All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 on March 14, 2006.[30] On March 29, 2011, the film made its debut on Blu-ray,[31] which was later included as a bundle with its sequel on October 7, 2014,[32] along with a re-release of the compilation on DVD.[33] The Blu-ray version was also packaged with another Don Bluth film, The Pebble and the Penguin, on October 8, 2013,[34] and again with eight other MGM films as part of the company's 90th anniversary "Best of Family Collection" on February 4, 2014.[35]


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 (1996), a television series, All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series (1996–1998), and An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998), a Christmas television movie based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, were made. Bluth and his studio had no involvement with any of them, and Reynolds did not reprise his role as Charlie after the first film; he was replaced in the sequel film and television series by Charlie Sheen and Steven Weber, respectively. Reilly declined to return for the sequel film, but voiced Killer for the television productions. DeLuise played Itchy through the entire franchise.

See also


  1. ^ a b "All Dogs Go to Heaven". AFI Catlog. Retrieved April 23, 2022.
  2. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989)". RottenTomatoes. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  4. ^ Cawley, John. "Don Bluth American Tail". The Animated Films of Don Bluth. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  5. ^ Cawley, The Land Before Time
  6. ^ Cawley, At Home in Ireland
  7. ^ a b c d e Cawley, John. "Don Bluth All Dogs Heaven". The Animated Films of Don Bluth. Archived from the original on 2014-01-03. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  8. ^ *Beck, Jerry (October 2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5. p.14
  9. ^ Ask Us Questions at []
  10. ^ a b "All Dogs Go To Heaven: Various artists". Amazon. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  11. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  12. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven". Metacritic. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  13. ^ Rainer, Peter (November 17, 1989). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". L.A. Times.
  14. ^ "Back to the Future Part II / All Dogs Go to Heaven / Henry V (1989)". Siskel & Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  15. ^ Kempley, Rita (November 17, 1989). "'All Dogs Go to Heaven' (G)". New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  16. ^ Carr, Jay (November 17, 1989). "All Dogs Go to Heaven Review". Boston Globe.
  17. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (November 17, 1989). "All Dogs Go to Heaven Movie Review". Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  18. ^ Kehr, Dave (November 17, 1989). "All Dogs Go to Heaven Review". Chicago Tribune.
  19. ^ "Movie Detail: All Dogs Go to Heaven". The Movie Geek. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  20. ^ "All Dogs Go To Heaven". Common Sense Media. 8 September 2009.
  21. ^ "Wendy's All Dogs Go to Heaven Toys". Retro Junk. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  22. ^ "Don Bluth - Box Office". The Numbers. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  23. ^ "11th Annual Awards". Young Artist Awards. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  24. ^ "Film Advisory Board, Inc". Film Advisory Board. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  25. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven [ML101868]". LaserDisc Database. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  26. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven [ML102043]". LaserDisc Database. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  27. ^ Steven, Mary (August 24, 1990). "All Animals Go To Heaven And To Video". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  28. ^ Lenburg, p.32
  29. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven". Amazon. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  30. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven 1 and 2 (Double Feature)". Amazon. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  31. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven Blu-ray". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  32. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven 1 and 2 Blu-ray". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  33. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven 1 & 2". Amazon. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  34. ^ "All Dogs Go to Heaven/The Pebble and the Penguin Blu-ray". Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  35. ^ "MGM Best of Family Collection Blu-ray". Retrieved October 25, 2015.

Further reading

External links