Family Dog (TV series)

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Family Dog
Genre Animation
Created by Brad Bird
Directed by Chris Buck
Voices of Martin Mull - Skip Binsford
Molly Cheek - Beverly Binsford
Danny Mann - Family Dog
Zak Huxtable Epstein - Billy Binsford
Cassie Cole - Buffy Binsford
Bruce McGill - Martin Mahoney
Deanna Oliver - Trish Mahoney
Theme music composer Danny Elfman
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 10[1] (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Steven Spielberg
Tim Burton
Dennis Klein
Producer(s) Chuck Richardson
Production company(s) Amblin Television
Tim Burton Productions
Warner Bros. Television
Universal Television
Nelvana Limited
Original network CBS[2]
Original release June 23 – July 28, 1993

Family Dog is a Canadian-American animated television series that aired in the summer of 1993 on CBS. Created by Brad Bird, the series was about an average suburban family, the Binsfords, as told through the eyes of their dog. It first appeared as an episode of the TV show Amazing Stories, then was expanded into a series of its own.[3][4]

Original episode[edit]

Newspaper advertisement for original episode

In the original Amazing Stories episode, which aired in the show's second season in 1987, a dog (a Bull Terrier simply called "the dog") is the main character, portrayed in three stories:

The first story involves general misadventures around the house, with him being both ignored and somewhat mistreated by his owners, originally named the Binfords.

The second part is a "home movie" showing their Christmas (in which the family narrates), that culminates with the dog eating the ham.

In the third, final and elongated segment of the episode, a couple of robbers break into the family's house twice (the first time was when the Binfords had to go out to see a movie at a movie theater, and the dog was given one more chance before the second time), so the father sends the dog to Gerta LeStrange's Dog Obedience School, so he can learn how to become a "quivering, snarling, white-hot ball of canine terror" in order to fend off the robbers. However, when they return to try to rob the house the third time, they run away from it to try to avoid and escape from the dog, but when they return to their hideout, which is full of their stolen stuff (they came back with nothing from their third robbery), the second, shorter-bodied robber discovers the dog attached to his arm, with his teeth. Time passes, and the dog is still stuck to his arm. A policeman investigating the robberies approaches the door, burst in and the dog attacks him. The villains praise the dog, and decide to use him as a weapon in a crime spree (featuring the dog and his attacks and robberies). Later the robbers threaten to get a cat when the newspaper refers to them as "The Dog Gang". Already angered by this annoying humiliation, the dog becomes too much for the robbers to take, as he turns on them, causing an auto accident in which the robbers hit a cop car and are busted. The dog is returned to the Binford family, who now consider him their hero. The story ends with a catch-up gag, with the father stuck outside the house, as he tries to whisper to his wife to let him in. He then sneaks behind the house into the backyard, only to be attacked by the still-quivering, snarling, white-hot ball of canine terror.

Written and directed by Brad Bird, with music by Danny Elfman and Steve Bartek, it was one of the most popular episodes of the Amblin Television/Universal Television weekly anthology television series, Amazing Stories.[5] The story was animated by Dan Jeup, Ralph Eggleston, Chris Buck, Sue Kroyer, Gregg Vanzo, David Cutler, Rob Minkoff, Alan Smart, and Darrell Rooney from an animation production design by Tim Burton. The animation production was outsourced to Hyperion Pictures (then under The Kushner-Locke Company), and was shot in Sydney, Australia by Cinemagic Animated Films under animation director Cam Ford, with Kim Humphries as camera operator.[6]

Spielberg's choice to make the episode using animation – especially combining the expense of high-quality animation with well-known voice actors – was considered risky and bold at the time.


Main cast[edit]

The first half of the special was attached to the theatrical release of another Spielberg-produced project, The Land Before Time, because of the film's short length of just over an hour.[7]

Other character voices[edit]

CBS series[edit]

Six years after the original Amazing Stories episode, a CBS series based on the episode was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton (who were involved in the original episodes by contributing to the story's production and character designs). It was written by Dennis Klein, Sherri Stoner and Paul Dini and animated by Nelvana, but notably lacking the involvement of the original writer and director, Brad Bird. Largely hyped due to the involvement of Spielberg, the series suffered various noted production delays that plagued the show. It did not get past its original network order of 13 episodes. 10 episodes were finished and sent back from the Wang Film Productions animation house in Taiwan but the producers were dissatisfied with the results, so they halted production on the final three episodes and outsourced the ten episodes to Nelvana for "fixes and completions".[2] The series was scheduled to debut on March 20, 1991 (and it was heavily promoted during the February 1991 broadcast of the Grammy Awards), but the animation production was not completed in time for this premiere, so the series was ultimately pushed back until 1993.[2][8] Frederick Coffin was originally cast as the voice of Skip Binsford, but Spielberg decided to replace him with Martin Mull, after animation was completed on the first three episodes.

Despite the Amazing Stories short airing two months before the launch of the new Fox network and the original The Simpsons shorts as part of The Tracy Ullman Show, Family Dog eventually was lumped into a category of failed primetime animated series produced for the "Big Three" networks to compete with The Simpsons, which had by then been established as a successful (and as of 2016, still ongoing) series, alongside ABC's Capitol Critters and CBS's own Fish Police.[9] Every program was canceled in its first season, after only a few weeks. Those programs and their reception likely resulted in CBS burning off Family Dog in six weeks over the 1992-93 summer season.


No. Title Original air date
1 "Show Dog" June 23, 1993
The Binsfords enter the dog in a rodeo showcase of the stars, believing him to be specially talented. Meanwhile, all the dog wants is a drink of water.
2 "Hot Dog at the Zoo" June 23, 1993
When the Binsfords take a trip to the zoo, their pooch tags along and causes plenty of trouble.
3 "Doggone Girl Is Mine" June 30, 1993
The dog falls hard for a recently-divorced neighbor's pet. Meanwhile, Skip fears Bev might leave him.
4 "Enemy Dog" July 7, 1993
When the pretentious Mahoneys pick up a vicious police dog from an auction, the Binsfords force their pooch to interact with it.
5 "Eye on the Sparrow" July 7, 1993
The dog cares for a sparrow who's unable to fly.
6 "Call of the Mild" July 14, 1993
The family dog dreams of cavorting with the neighborhood strays, but he soon discovers he doesn't have what it takes to run with the pack.
7 "Dog Days of Summer" July 21, 1993
When the Binsfords head to the beach, they're forced to contend with a trashy group of teens and their vicious bulldog, Scud.
8 "Party Animal" July 21, 1993
After hosting the neighborhood block party, the Binsfords' house catches on fire.
9 "Family Dog Goes Homeless" July 28, 1993
The family dog befriends a homeless woman.
10 "Family Dog Gets Good and Sick" July 28, 1993
The family dog becomes ill after being bitten by a mosquito that was feasting on toxic waste. Meanwhile, a neighborhood dog is killed by a car.


When the show debuted, it was roundly panned for its crude scripts and cheap production values, both of drastically lesser quality than the episode which had spawned the series.[1][10][11] Brad Bird did not participate in making the show because he did not believe the show's premise would work as a television show.[12] The entire series was later released as a Laserdisc box-set, and various episodes of the show were released on VHS around the same time.

Home media[edit]

Complete Series Laserdisc Cover

All 10 episodes of the series have been released as a laserdisc box set, and a few episodes have also been released on VHS.

It hasn't seen a DVD, Blu-ray or digital release of any kind, however.

Video game[edit]

The show was later adapted into a Super NES video game about the life of an everyday family dog. The player has to go three places such as the home where the dog lives, a dog pound and the woods to defeat stereotypical obstacles and enemies like dog catchers and cats.[13]


  1. ^ a b O'Connor, John J. (1993-06-23). "Review/Television; Spielberg's New Project? It's a Cartoon Dog's Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  2. ^ a b c Cerone, Daniel (April 24, 1991). "Animated Series Stuck in Doghouse : Television: CBS promoted 'Family Dog' for its spring lineup, but production snags will delay the Spielberg production until fall". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  3. ^ Scott Blakey (January 27, 1994). "Spielberg-burton Collaboration A Weary, Predictable Dog". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  4. ^ Daniel Cerone (July 9, 1991). "Cbs Is Still Trying To Fix 'Family Dog'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  5. ^ Solomon, Charles (1987-02-16). "Animated 'Family Dog' Does Prime-time Tricks". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  6. ^ Solomon, Charles (1987-02-15). "Spielberg's Bite". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-10. 
  7. ^ Thompson, Anne (1988-11-03). "The Profits Keep Rolling In For Spielberg". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  8. ^ Cerone, Daniel (1993-06-10). "Spielberg's 'Dog' Finally Has Its Day : But Is CBS Throwing a Bone by Unleashing the Series in Summer?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  9. ^ Daniel Cerone (February 28, 1992). "'Fish Police' on Endangered Species List". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Family Dog". Entertainment Weekly. 1993-06-25. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  11. ^ Kogan, Rick (1993-06-23). "Cbs' Animated `Family Dog' Has No Bite". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  12. ^ "Iron without irony". Salon. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  13. ^ "Family Dog". Moby Games. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 

External links[edit]