When I was growing up, Disney was the name in cartoon films with catchy songs thrown in. Nothing could really rival them for their style and (usually) box office potential. However there were a few animated films that popped up that have unfortunately been swept under the carpet (especially for more recent generations) but for some still bring a smile to their faces.
All Dogs Go to Heaven is a film that brings back a lot of fond childhood memories, but the same memories have scarred me a little.
…the settings are dingy and dark, often relating to the seedier parts of society…
The film centres around the protagonist, Charlie B. Barkin (Burt Reynolds), a mongrel dog that is a big loveable rogue. He is in business with a psychotic bulldog, Carface Carruthers, who runs the dog casinos and other illegal activity in the city of New Orleans. After Carface frames Charlie and gets him sent to the pound, Charlie escapes with help from his best friend, Itchy Itchiford (Dom DeLuise), but is killed by Carface in the getaway. Charlie is sent to dog heaven, even though he has never done a nice thing in his life, and finds out there is a way to go back by winding up his “Life Watch”, but the penalty is that he can never return. He risks it and escapes heaven to get revenge on Carface. However he finds out that Carface has been holding an orphan girl. Charlie frees her and they team up to take on Carface.
The animation is what I would term as “dirty”. Like An American Tail the settings are dingy and dark, often relating to the seedier parts of society. Although not as crisp as a Disney production the film style is instantly recognisable in its detail and story arcs that lean to an often scarier and unpleasant outcome.
…the audience come to terms with some of the harshest realities in their lives…
The overall appeal of this film comes from its complete lack of Disney ethics. This film is primarily about getting revenge, gambling, drinking and death. Harsh themes for a children’s film, but this is the wonderful point of the movie. Seeing dogs drink, gamble and ultimately end up dying means the audience come to terms with some of the harshest realities in their lives by seeing it through a cartoon dog. Film these days are so concerned with being politically correct and protecting children that they sometimes sugar coat what life is really about and I think that’s a real shame.
The film isn’t perfect and does drag a little in the middle, but stick around for the explosive finale and an amazing duet performed by Charlie and the King Gator (voiced by Ken Page who was the voice of Oogie Boogie in The Nightmare Before Christmas) who hams it up in his watery domain far beneath the streets of New Orleans.
Images courtesy of MGM