Thursday, September 5, 2013

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Don Bluth first came up with All Dogs Go To Heaven after The Secret of NIMH, though it was supposed to be a short story inside of an anthology, and it had the main character as a canine private eye. The dog private eye would be a shaggy German Shepard and was made with Burt Reynolds in mind. Unfortunately, Don Bluth Productions went bankrupt about this time, so the idea was shelved for a few years. It was finally dusted off in 1987, with new plot centered around the title, All Dogs Go To Heaven. The title had come from the name of a book that was read to Bluth when he was in fourth grade, and though others related to the project wanted to change the name, Bluth was adamant, finding the title to be provocative. All Dogs was Bluth's first production to be made in his new state of the art studio in Dublin, Ireland, and as such he and Goldman and Pomeroy were forced to relocate. The biggest shift was that this film was not backed by Amblin and Universal, and therefore Bluth didn't have to worry about George Lucas and Steven Spielberg having any creative control over his work. It also meant he had to do this basically on his own.

Bluth was able to get some decent voice talent with this film, netting not only Burt Reynolds for Charlie, but also Dom DeLuise for Itchy, a fun pairing since the two had previously starred in several movies together, most namely Cannonball Run. The actors asked if they could record their lines together-an unusual request since most voice actors did their work individually-which Bluth agreed to. The simultaneous recording led to a lot of ad-libbing, with some of the lines making it into the film instead of the scripted lines. Even Bluth admits to this day that their lines were better than his script. 

Once again Bluth found himself competing with Disney, this time with The Little Mermaid. Yikes. Without the big name studios backing Bluth up, All Dogs wasn't promoted nearly enough as it should have been, which caused the movie to tank in comparison to The Little Mermaid. In all, All Dogs made $27 million at the box office, making just enough for the company. The Little Mermaid on the other hand made over $210 million and blew away their $40 million budget. The film received mixed reviews upon its release, with most critics focusing on the lack of good characters, disjointed plot and forgettable songs. Many critics pointed out that this film was not really appropriate for children, noting that the movie dealt with such mature subject matter such as drinking, gambling, smoking, violence, death, and Hell. The movie has since done extremely well on video, becoming one of the highest selling VHS's of all time. It has also, like most of Bluth's work, gained a cult status, specifically for the same reasons critics found it so inappropriate for children. 

I loved this movie as a kid, though maybe not as much as Fievel Goes West. I'm not sure anymore what drew me so much to it as a child. I hadn't watched it since I was very young, so I decided to pick it up and watch it for old time sake. I didn't like it. It wasn't enjoyable at all. I saw all those imperfections that critics had brought up. Plus, I had totally forgotten about the alligator, which if I'm not mistaken was meant to be a caricature of voodoo/hoodoo practicing African-Americans in New Orleans. Wow, just wow. The only character I actually cared about the whole time was Anne-Marie, the young girl who can speak to animals. Charlie and the rest are completely unlikable. I really want to talk about how great this movie still is and how fun it was to watch it again, but it just wasn't. It was like re-watching Rock-A-Doodle, which I wouldn't recommend. I will say that this movie is better than anything Bluth puts out later on, with the exception maybe being Anastasia. Stick with Bluth's first three films, they're much better. 

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