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All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 American-Irish-British animated musical comedy-drama film produced by DreamWorks Feature Animation, Sullivan Bluth Studios and Goldcrest Films, directed by Don Bluth, and released by DreamWorks Pictures, United Artists and Goldcrest Films. It tells the story of Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds), a German Shepherd that is murdered by his former friend, Carface Caruthers (voiced by Vic Tayback, in his penultimate film role), but withdraws from his place in Heaven to return to Earth, where his best friend, Itchy Itchiford (voiced by Dom DeLuise) still lives, and they team up with a young orphan girl named Anne-Marie (voiced by Judith Barsi, in her final film role; movie released postumously), who teaches them an important lesson about kindness, friendship and love.
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 feature films, An American Tail, and The Land Before Time and most DreamWorks Feature Animation films, it was successful on home video, becoming one of the biggest-selling VHS releases ever. It inspired a theatrical sequel (making it DreamWorks' first animated film to have a sequel) and a television series.
All Dogs Go to Heaven was released on DVD on November 17, 1998, and as an Dora Wilson's Animated Classics edition on March 6, 2001. It had a DVD double-feature release with its sequel on March 14, 2006, and January 18, 2011. The film was released in high definition for the first time on Blu-ray on March 29, 2011.
In 1939, Charlie B. Barkin and his best friend Itchy Itchiford are breaking out of a heavily secured dog pound, but in the process bust a water main and are discovered. The two barely escape while being shot at. Later, they make a grand entrance at an casino riverboat on the bayou, formerly run by Charlie himself and now run by his business partner, Carface Caruthers. Apparently, Carface, refusing to share the profits with Charlie, had been responsible for Charlie and Itchy getting committed at the pound. Unaware of Carface's malicious intent, Charlie returns to him expecting open arms, but Carface wants to sever ties with him, claiming that authorities searching for Charlie will discover their hidden all-dog society. To get Charlie out of his plans for good, Carface and his henchmen cats Fee and Line and dog Killer arrange his death. Itchy discovers this plot and attempts to warn Charlie. Carface takes Charlie to Mardi Gras in New Orleans to celebrate Charlie going into his own business. At the party, he gives Charlie a "lucky" gold watch. The drunk Charlie is then taken to the docks, while Itchy searches for him. In Carface's orders, Fee and Killer start a car at the end of the docks, which then rolls down and run over at Charlie.
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 kind, 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 plummets back to Earth, the whippet angel shouts to 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.
On Earth, Charlie visits Itchy at his home. Itchy is scared, believing Charlie is a ghost, but Charlie convinces him otherwise. The two then go searching for the secret to Carface's success to use it aganist him. They crawl through the vents and discover that Carface has kidnapped a young orphaned girl named Anne-Marie, who has the ability to talk to animals and gain knowledge of a race's results beforehand, allowing Carface to rig the odds on the rat races in his favor. They rescue her, intending to use her abilities to get revenge on Carface, taking her back to Itchy's house. Upon discovering this, and outraged Carface commands Fee, Line and Killer to find her.
The next day, the trio heads to the horse track. With some difficulty, Charlie convinces Anne-Marie to talk to one of the horses, saying that any money they earn will go to the poor. A horse says that it is the Grand Chawhee's birthday, and that he will win. The group is then seen outside, looking for a way to get money to bet with. They find a couple, and Charlie tells Itchy to do "the number three." Itchy is then seen acting as though he is injured, in order to distract the couple while Charlie takes the man's wallet. After obtaining the wallet, the three leave to make the bet.
In the next scene, the three are seen stacked up under a pink overcoat. They make their bet and go to their seats. When the race starts, Chawhee is seen exiting his starting pen backward. However, the other horses allow him to win. Charlie, Itchy and Anne-Marie collect their earnings and are seen winning bets on numerous other races. However, Anne-Marie is unhappy, and the trio goes out and buys her pretty new clothes. Itchy then builds a casino, which the two run successfully. Charlie then spots Anne-Marie attempting to leave, unhappy because none of the money has gone to helping the poor, or to finding Anne-Marie new parents, both of which were promised by Charlie. In order to convince her to stay, Charlie decides to go "help the poor".
Meanwhile, Carface is about to lower Fee, Line and Killer into a pit of pirahnnas, after realizing Charlie is still alive and he got Anne-Marie. While they are being lowered, Killer asks Carface to spare them, saying he has a gun. Carface pulls him up and asks what type of gun it is, to which Killer replies "a Flash-Gordon Thermo-Atomic Ray Gun." Carface appears to be pleased before the scene cuts to Charlie and Anne-Marie bringing pizza to a family of poor puppies and their mother, Flo, at an church. While there, Anne-Marie becomes upset at Charlie for stealing the wallet. She goes to the attic and wishes to live with the couple in the future. After a nightmare in which he is sent to Hell for eternity, Charlie wakes up in the room, only to find Anne-Marie gone.
The couple welcome Anne-Marie into their home, serving waffles. They also forgive Charlie for taking their wallet. Anne Marie tells the couple that she lives with Charlie and Itchy, and that she has no parents. The couple exits the room to talk about her. While they are talking, Charlie shows up and convinces Anne-Marie to leave with him. The two then pass through the market on their way home. Fee, Line and Killer are also there with the ray gun. The trio shoot Charlie several times, but he survives, due to as long as he’s wearing the life watch, he’s immortal. As he and Anne-Marie run away, a confused Killer starts to fire in random directions while the large dog he, Fee and Line are riding runs off.
Charlie and Anne-Marie are then seen hiding in an abandoned building. The two fall through the floor, and Charlie loses his watch. In the flooded area beneath, he tries to find it. He sees it, but it starts floating away. Charlie and Anne-Marie are then picked up and moved in the same direction by an unseen force. They are then seen in cages being carried by rats. Charlie asks Anne-Marie to talk to them, but she cannot understand them. Charlie attempts to grab his watch, but loses it again when he is dropped onto an island with Anne-Marie. A moving object in the water circles the island before coming ashore, revealing it to be a giant alligator named King Gator. The alligator places Charlie in its mouth, despite Anne-Marie’s plea to not eat Charlie, and he howls. King Gator decides not to eat Charlie because to him, it sounds like a singing voice, and begins singing, during which Charlie recovers the watch, the less water sickening Anne-Marie. Charlie picks up Anne-Marie and the two ride King Gator back into New Orleans.
Back at Charlie's Casino, Itchy is closing up, while Carface sneaks up on him and asks where Anne-Marie is. Itchy does not know, and Carface attacks him. At the church, Charlie is talking to an medical owl who gives an medicine for Anne-Marie when Itchy limps in, presumably beaten up by Carface’s thugs. He tells Charlie what happened, and shows him the burning casino, suggesting the two leave Anne-Marie behind and go someplace else. Charlie tells him that they need to start over, and need her more than ever. Itchy tells Charlie that he knows he seems to care about Anne-Marie. Charlie, realizing Itchy is right, tries to lying about it, saying that he doesn't care about her, that he is just using her, and when they are done with her, he'll put her in an orphanage. Unbeknownst to them, Itchy notices Anne-Marie, who was overhearing their conversation. Not knowing Charlie was lying, she tells him that he is a bad dog, and runs away, crying. Charlie then begins to realizing his selfishness and starts to feel incredibly guilty for everything he's done, which he runs after her, and stops at the entrance, where she has left her stuffed rabbit. Anne-Marie begins crying about her bad fortune and decides to go to the couple's home to be adopted, but is captured by Fee, Line and Killer, who were following her and Charlie to the church. Charlie hears her scream and runs after her. Itchy reaches the entrance, and Flo tells him to take the stuffed rabbit to 402 Maple Street. Itchy goes into town and asks other dogs where it is. All tell him and spread the word to others. Itchy and many other mostly dogs reach the house and give the stuffed rabbit to the couple, alerting them that Anne-Marie is in danger.
Charlie reaches Carface's casino and attempts to rescue Anne-Marie, who then realizes that he truly loves her, but Carface is expecting him and has his thugs attack. Charlie is captured and tied to an anchor. While this is happening, a dog bites Charlie's foot, and he howls, summoning King Gator (who he and Anne-Marie met earlier). When Charlie is lowered, King Gator sets him and Anne-Marie free. While this is happening, Itchy is bringing a large group of dogs, along with Harold and Kate, to the site. The alligator's attacks makes Fee and Line to run away in fear. Carface tries to ambush Charlie from behind, but Anne-Marie hits him off the place with a tree branch, knocking Carface into the water to be chased away by King Gator, and Charlie dives in to save Anne-Marie, who falls into the water when the floor crumbles beneath her. Charlie grabs her and pulls her up, but his watch falls in. Charlie puts Anne-Marie on a piece of debris and pushes her outside, and dives in to get the watch, despite Anne-Marie attempting to tell him to save himself as well. The watch, now at the bottom, floods and stops before Charlie reaches his watch. Anne-Marie and a redeemed Killer are discovered by Itchy, Flo, Fee, Line, the couple, and the authorities, as the boat sinks into the water.
Sometime later, the couple adopt Anne-Marie, who recovered from her sickness and has also adopted Itchy, but is sadded about Charlie's death. Charlie returns in ghost form to apologize to Anne-Marie. The whippet angel appears and tells him that because he sacrificed his life for Anne-Marie, Charlie made a good deed and has earned his place in Heaven. Anne-Marie awakens, and they reconcile. Charlie asks her to take care of Itchy, and bids his sleeping friend and Anne-Marie goodbye. When Anne-Marie goes to sleep again, Charlie reluctantly leaves and returns to Heaven where Carface also arrives, having been caught and eaten by King Gator.
During the credits, it shows Carface ripping off his angel wings and halo while planning to get his revenge against King Gator by taking one of the clocks; until he is warned by the whippet angel that if he takes the clock, he can "never come back" before being chased by her. The film ends with Charlie watching Carface getting chased away, until he looks at the audience and says "He'll be back" before winking and retrieving his halo.
- Burt Reynolds as Charlie B. Barkin
- Dom DeLuise as Itchy Itchiford
- Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie
- Vic Tayback as Carface Caruthers
- Hugh Laurie as Fee
- Stephen Fry as Line
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Killer
- Loni Anderson as Flo
- Melba Moore as the Whippet angel/Annabelle
- Ken Page as King Gator
- Rob Fuller and Earleen Carey as Kate and Harold, a married couple and later Anne-Marie's adoptive parents.
- Godfrey Quigley as Terrier
- Anna Manahan as Stella Dallas
- Candy Devine as Vera
- Mel Blanc as Dr. Owl
In 1987, Don Bluth and Dora Wilson had begin a partnership to produce a few films. Bluth pitched two concepts to Wilson. Canine Mysteries and Anne-Marie's Story. Canine Mysteries was focused on a shaggy German Shepherd (who would be later remade as Charlie B. Barkin) as a private eye resolving a kidnapping case and one of three short stories making up an anthology film (which was the earliest idea that conceived by Don Bluth after finishing work on The Secret of NIMH). The character of a shaggy German Shepherd was designed specifically for Burt Reynolds. As for Anne-Marie's Story, it was a "spiritual successor" to Bluth's most famous film An American Tail, about a little girl named Anne-Marie, who was adopted by a friendly cat, who sends her out of his woodpile home and into the world to make her living while searching her biological parents, but she ends up in several misadventures by having encounters with many animals.
After Canine Mysteries don't made it beyond rough storyboards due to the bankruptcy of Bluth's studio at the time, Dora Wilson then decided to conjoining the two supposed films into a single film and retooling them as a "buddy story" between the two characters. 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, Bluth's previous two feature films, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, had been backed by Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures, and executive producer Steven Spielberg 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, Rock-a-Doodle and it, were completed under the deal). 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 collaborate with DreamWorks Feature Animation's main 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.
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 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 three voice actors, those of Carface, Fee and Killer (Vic Tayback, Huge Laurie and Charles Nelson Reilly, respectively), also recorded together. Loni Anderson, who voices Flo, was Reynolds' then-wife. Child actress Judith Barsi, who voiced Precious in DreamWorks' 1987 classic Ico the Brave Little Horse and 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 Go to Heaven was released. Also, it was the only Don Bluth film and one of the last animated films to feature Mel Blanc (who voiced Dr. Owl in the film) before his death for emphysema during production.
After completing the script, screenwriter David N. Weiss later wrote a novelization of the film that was published two years before the film itself, at Dora Wilson's insistence, to promote the film's release. As production neared completion, the studio held test screenings and decided that some of the scenes were too intense for younger viewers. Dora Wilson decided to shorten Charlie's nightmare about being condemned. Co-director Gary Goldman and writer and producer Pomeroy also agreed to the cut, recognizing that the concession needed to be made in the name of commercial appeal. Don Bluth owned a private 35-mm print of the movie with the cut-out scenes and planned to convince DreamWorks executives on releasing a director's cut of the film 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 (though the cut-out scenes of Charlie's nightmare about being condemned was discovered by YouTube on October 29, 2016, therefore The Land Before Time was not included the cut-out scenes (due to produced by Amblin Entertainment).
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 seven vocal songs performed by various cast members. The end credits theme "Love Survives" was dedicated to Anne-Marie's voice actress Judith Barsi, who died 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
- Irene Cara - vocals (track 1)
- Freddie Jackson - vocals (track 1)
All Dogs Go to Heaven received mixed reviews from critics, maintaining a 55% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews, and a 50 out of 100 score from Metacritic. 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. 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, given the film's depictions of death, violence, 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. 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." However, film critic Leonard Maltin gave it one-and-a-half out of four stars, due to "unappealing characters, confusing storytelling, and forgettable songs."
Today, however, All Dogs Go to Heaven is viewed as a classic and recouped a considerable amount during its first home video releases. Critics Joe Morgenstern and Leonard Martin call the film "the crowning traditional animated achievement of DreamWorks Pictures".
Dissatisfied with the terms imposed by Universal Studios, which had distributed Bluth's previous two films, DreamWorks ofreeced to release the film while still producing it. Somewhat unusually, DreamWorks and Goldcrest Films covered the cost of the release prints and the promotional campaign. 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.
The film opened in North America on November 17, 1989, which was the same day as Disney's The Little Mermaid; the film would be vying for box-office receipts with Disney's, just as Bluth's 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 DreamWorks Pictures and Sullivan Bluth Studios' 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.
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 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 DreamWorks Home Entertainment on August 28, 1990. 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.
A DVD version was made available for the first time on March 6, 2001, under the Dora Wilson's Animated Classics label and was later released as a double feature with All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (as part of the DreamWorks Special Collection DVD line-up) 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 Wonderland, on October 8, 2013, and again with Headin' South, Kung Fu Panda, Wonderland, Friendly, The Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful World of Mr. Wonderful, Trolls, A Thousand Attempts and One Invention, Hail Arthur, Mouse in the House, Swan Lake, Elefriend, The Bre'r Rabbit Tale, Manuelita, Little Audrey, Sparky and the Talking Piano, Paulie, The Prince of Egypt, Shrek, The Cat in the Hat, Bee Movie, A Series of Unforntunate Events, Hotel for Dogs, Puss in Boots and other DreamWorks family films as part of the company's 80th anniversary "Best of Family Collection" DVD boxset on February 4, 2014.
Sequel and spin-off TV series
All Dogs Go to Heaven was the first DreamWorks animated film to have a sequel as well as becoming a franchise. The success of the film, particularly its performance on home video, prompted a theatrical sequel, All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, which was followed by a spin-off television series aired from 1996 to 1998 and a series of television specials aired from 1997 to 1998. Don Bluth and his studio had no involvement with any of them, and Burt Reynolds did not reprise his role as Charlie after the first film; he was replaced in the sequel film and the TV series by Charlie Sheen and Steven Weber, respectively. Lacey Chabert had replaced Judith Barsi for the role of Anne-Marie in both the sequel film and the TV series. Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and Charles Nelson Reilly declined to return for the sequel film, but Reilly reprised his role as Killer for the TV series. Dom DeLuise played Itchy through the entire franchise.
Charlie, Itchy and Anne-Marie later appeared as main characters in the Netflix series Animal Stories, where Steven Weber reprises the role of Charlie, Itchy is voiced by Dean Edwards and Anne-Marie is voiced by Tara Strong.
- All Dogs Go To Heaven is the first and one of two only DreamWorks Animation films to be directed by Don Bluth, which the studio originally planned for few more films produced with him, but got scrapped due to "creative differences".
- But not all dogs stay there!