All Dogs Go to Heaven
|All Dogs Go to Heaven|
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Don Bluth|
|Produced by||Don Bluth
|Screenplay by||David N. Weiss|
|Story by||Don Bluth
David J. Steinberg
David N. Weiss
T. J. Kuenster
|Edited by||John K. Carr|
|Distributed by||United Artists (US/Canada)
Rank Organisation (UK)
|Box office||$27.1 million (US)|
All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 animated musical film directed and produced by Don Bluth, and released by United Artists and Goldcrest Films. It tells the story of Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds), a German Shepherd who is murdered by his former friend, Carface (voiced by Vic Tayback, in his final role), but forsakes his place in Heaven to return to Earth, where he and his best friend, Itchy Itchiford (voiced by Dom DeLuise), team up with a young orphan girl, Anne-Marie (voiced by Judith Barsi, in her final film 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 the Walt Disney Pictures animated film The Little Mermaid, released on the same day. While it did not repeat the box-office success of Sullivan Bluth's previous feature films, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, it was very 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.
All Dogs Go to Heaven was released on DVD on 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. It had a DVD double feature release with its sequel on March 14, 2006 and January 18, 2011.
In 1939 New Orleans, a roguish German Shepherd named Charlie B. Barkin escapes from a dog pound with the help of his friend, a dachshund named Itchy Itchiford. They return to the casino riverboat on the bayou, formerly run by Charlie and his bulldog partner, Carface Caruthers. Not wanting to share the profits with Charlie, Carface persuades him to leave town with 50% of the venture, all the while intending to take him out for a drink later and murder him. Charlie goes to Heaven where a whippet angel named Annabelle (named in the sequel) tells him that a gold watch representing his life has stopped. He steals and winds it, sending him back to life, but is told that if he dies again, he can never come back. Charlie reunites with Itchy and they discover that Carface is holding an orphan girl named Anne-Marie (presumably kidnapped from the orphanage), who has the ability to talk to animals and gain information on animal betting sports beforehand, allowing Carface to rig the odds on the rat races and become rich. Charlie and Itchy rescue her, intending to use her abilities to get revenge on Carface, though Charlie tells her that they plan to give their winnings to the poor and help her find parents.
The next day at the race track, Charlie secretly steals a wallet from a couple as they talk to Anne-Marie and become concerned for her ragged appearance. Charlie and Itchy use their winnings to build a successful casino in the junkyard they live in. Upon discovering that she had been used, Anne-Marie threatens to leave them. However, she and Charlie brings a box of pizza and a cake to a family of poor puppies and their mother, Flo. While there, Anne-Marie discovers the wallet Charlie had stolen and becomes upset, rushing away where she dreams of living with the couple in its photo. After a nightmare in which he is sent to Hell, meets a hellhound and is attacked by little demonic monsters, Charlie awakens to discover that Anne-Marie has gone to return the wallet. The couple, Kate and Harold, whom Anne-Marie met at the race track, welcome her into their home and serve her waffles. While they privately discuss about letting her stay, Charlie arrives outside the house and thinks that she no longer needs him anymore since she has now a new home for her with the couple, but then she decides leaving with him. While walking home, Charlie is shot by Carface and his henchman Killer, though the gold watch protects Charlie. He escapes with Anne-Marie into hiding, but they accidentally fall into the lair of a massive alligator named King Gator. He and Charlie strike a chord as kindred spirits and he lets them go, but Anne-Marie catches pneumonia.
Meanwhile, Itchy counts the bricks on the wall, but Carface and his thugs attack him at their new casino. Itchy escapes, but the casino is destroyed. Itchy then confronts Charlie, claiming he cares about Anne-Marie more than him and their business. He accidentally and angrily declares that he is using her and will eventually "dump her in an orphanage" as soon as they are done with her. Anne-Marie overhears the conversation and sadly runs away, but is soon kidnapped by Carface. Flo, hearing Anne-Marie's scream, sends Itchy to get help from Kate and Harold, and he rouses the dogs of the city by his side, carrying Anne-Marie's stuffed bunny. Charlie returns to the casino, where he is attacked by Carface and his thugs. He fights them off, which inadvertently sets an oil fire that immediately engulfs the boat. King Gator appears and eats Carface. As the watch falls into the water, Charlie pushes Anne-Marie to safety onto some debris and dives into the water to retrieve it, but the watch goes out of control and stops, causing Charlie to die again. Anne-Marie and Killer are discovered by Kate, Harold and the authorities, as the boat sinks into the water.
Sometime later, Kate and Harold adopted Anne-Marie who also adopted Itchy. Charlie returns in his ghost form and apologizes to Anne-Marie in tears about his behavior. The whippet angel appears and tells him that because he gave life for Anne-Marie, Charlie has regained his place in Heaven again. Anne-Marie awakens and forgives Charlie as he says goodbye and asks her to watch after Itchy. She falls asleep and Charlie returns to Heaven. During the credits, Carface, angrily realizing that King Gator killed him, vows revenge and attempts to wind his watch (similar to what Charlie did), despite Annabelle angrily screaming and threatening to chase him out of Heaven, while Charlie assures the audience that he will return.
- Burt Reynolds as Charlie B. Barkin, a roguish German Shepherd mix and con artist. 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 orphan girl with the ability to talk to and understand animals. Her singing voice was performed by Lana Beeson. This was Barsi's final film role before her death in 1988. The end credits song "Love Survives" was dedicated in her memory.
- Vic Tayback as Carface Caruthers, a shifty, psychotic mixed American Pit Bull Terrier/Bulldog gangster. It was Tayback's final role before his death in 1990.
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Killer, a misnamed, cowardly, neurotic and spectacles-wearing Schnauzer/poodle hybrid.
Supporting voice cast
- Loni Anderson as Flo, a female Rough Collie and Charlie's girlfriend.
- Melba Moore as a Whippet angel, who welcomes deceased dogs into Heaven. She was named "Annabelle" 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 Kate and Harold, 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 are at the derby.
- Candy Devine as Vera, a female gambling dog.
The earliest idea for the film 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 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 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. The studio found investment from UK-based Goldcrest Films in a US$70m deal to produce three animated feature films (though only two, it 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 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.
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 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. Loni Anderson, who voices Flo, was Reynolds' then-wife. Child actress Judith Barsi, who voiced Ducky in Bluth's previous film The Land Before Time, was selected to voice Anne-Marie, but was killed in an apparent murder-suicide over a year before All Dogs Go to Heaven was released.
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 owned a private 35mm print of the uncut version, and planned to convince Goldcrest Films on releasing a director's cut of the film in the mid-1990s after returning from Ireland. But the print was stolen from Bluth's locked storage room, diminishing hopes of releasing this version on home video.
|All Dogs Go to Heaven Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by Various Artists|
|Released||July 1, 1989|
|Don Bluth Music of Films chronology|
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. An official soundtrack was released on July 1, 1989 by Curb Records on audio cassette and CD featuring 13 tracks, including 7 vocal songs performed by various cast members. The end credits theme "Love Survives" was dedicated to Anne-Marie's voice actress Judith Barsi, who passed away before the film's release.
- "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
All Dogs Go to Heaven received many mixed reviews from critics, maintaining a 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 10 reviews, and a 50 out of 100 score from Metacritic. Reviewers often drew 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. 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 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."
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 images of 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 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." 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 it one-and-a-half out of four stars, due to "unappealing characters, confusing storytelling, and forgettable songs."
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.
The film 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. On its theatrical release, while still making its budget of $13.8 million back, the film'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.
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. The home video release received an Award of Excellence from the Film Advisory Board.
|Youth in Film Award||Best Family Motion Picture: Adventure or Cartoon||All Dogs Go to Heaven||Nominated|
All Dogs Go to Heaven was released on VHS, S-VHS, 8mm video and LaserDisc in both regular and special CAV standard play editions by MGM/UA Home Video on August 29, 1990. The film became a sleeper hit thanks 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.
A DVD version was made available for the first time on March 6, 2001 under the MGM Kidz label, and was later released as a double feature with All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 on March 14, 2006. On March 29, 2011, the film made its debut on Blu-ray, which was later included as a bundle with its sequel on October 7, 2014, along with a re-release of the compilation on DVD. The Blu-ray version was also packaged with another Don Bluth film, The Pebble and the Penguin, on October 8, 2013, and again with eight other MGM films as part of the company's 90th anniversary "Best of Family Collection" on February 4, 2014.
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 reprised his role as Itchy in all of them.
- Ask Us Questions at [donbluth.com]
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- 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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