I’m probably the only living carbon-based unit who hasn’t seen even one of the two blockbusters that came out this week – the Ghost busters reboot and The Secret Life of Pets. By all accounts, both were outstanding, and I’m looking forward to seeing them once they hit Netflix or come out on Blu-Ray. I just can’t stand sitting in a theater with people talking, texting, and generally ruining the whole experience. I also don’t like paying a small fortune for a tiny little drink and a handful of popcorn, so sue me.
It kind of surprised me, though, that The Secret Life of Pets did better at the box office. Ghostbusters made $46 million, while The Secret Life of Pets made over $50 million. The third most-hyped release, The Legend of Tarzan, barely registered with just a little over $11 million. I guess there’s just something about animals that appeals to people, even in animated features, more than movies about humans in whatever situation you could imagine.
Anyway, as I said, I didn’t go. Instead, I babysat my five-year-old niece, Shelley, and we watched SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons together. Oddly enough, I had a pretty good time. My favorite episode was the one where SpongeBob forgets to feed his pet snail, Gary, with what could have been catastrophic results. It all turned out fine in the end, though.
Sponge Bob got me thinking about the cartoons I loved when I was growing up, and the animals (dogs mainly) that populated my favorites. Dogs are still a huge presence in today’s animated TV shows, so this time around, just for fun, I’m going to talk about cartoon dogs. It’s hard for me to really pick favorites in order (although you’ll definitely know my personal favorite when you get to him), so I’m doing this in alphabetical order. You’ll find that some even go back to the early 20th century – these are the characters that I loved in Saturday morning re-runs.
Obviously, these animated canines are not real, but some of them are even more famous than “real life” celebrities.
Honestly, I’m not sure if these guys are dogs are not. For sure they have dog-like characteristics, but Yakko, Wakko, and Dot could be other creatures. Whatever they are, Stephen Spielberg’s creations have been capturing the hearts of cartoon viewers since their debut in 1984. They seem to take their appearance from the cartoon dogs of the 1930s and 1940s, and although it’s never specifically stated that they’re dogs, their appearance seems to suggest they are. You be the judge.
Kids all over the world know Blue, and so does the television industry – Blue’s Clues has won an impressive nine Emmy awards! She appeals to the same age group that loves Sesame Street, and uses riddles, sign language and more to educate young children. This cut-out animation series features a human host who guides the storyline along. The show is a bit formulaic, but kids love it. It’s kind of gentle, and probably directed pretty much toward the Sesame Street set. It’s sweet, but not preachy, and I guess I have to admit that I kind of like it.
Blue shows no identifiable breed characteristics. She’s just a blue dog. A very pretty, sweet-looking blue dog with adorable floppy ears.
I’ve watched this computer-animated Disney movie probably more times than I should admit. I even have the official Bolt t-shirt. This movie tells the Truman Story-like tale of a dog named Bolt, who is a star in a TV series without actually realizing it. Every week, Bolt rescues his person, Penny, from various perils. The thing is, Bolt doesn’t know it’s just a TV show – he thinks Penny is really in danger. Penny knows, though, and that’s where the trouble starts. It all gets shaken up a bit when Bolt realizes the hoax, is replaced with a lookalike, believes that Penny doesn’t really love him, and much mayhem ensues involving other animal characters. It all comes together at the end, though, when there is a fire in the studio, and it’s most definitely not part of the show. It looks like Penny is done for. She tells Bolt to save himself, and he tells her “Not without you.” Of course, that’s where I lose it big time. This wonderful dog would rather die with her than save himself!
It all works out for the best, with Bolt saving the day, but honestly, if this movie doesn’t leave you crying buckets of tears, then you’re not even human.
4. Brian Griffin
Fans of the long-running TV series, Family Guy, might find it a bit of a stretch to see dog-like characteristics in Brian (although he does like to eat vomit). Brian drinks, drives, walks upright, dates human women, and has a serious case of the hots for his “Mom”, Lois. Oddly, this doesn’t seem to cause any conflict between Brian and the family patriarch, Peter.
Brian is voiced by series creator Seth MacFarlane, who came in for a lot of flack following an episode in which he had Brian die after being run over by a car. Fortunately, in the cartoon world, you can undo anything, and Brian is now once again alive and well following a time-travel episode in which evil baby Stewie travelled to the past to prevent the death of his best friend.
Brian has sometimes been described as a beagle, but I’m not so sure. I’m thinking American Staffordshire. Guess we’ll just have to go with “breed unknown.”
5. Charlie B. Barkin
Charlie B. Barkin is a German Shepherd who is killed by Carface, who used to be his friend. Like all dogs, he goes to Heaven – that’s the title of the movie, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” – but he relinquishes his place so that he can go back to help an orphan, Anne-Marie, who is being held hostage by not-so-good dogs because of her ability to talk to animals and rig the odds on rat races (I know, it’s a stretch, but stick with me). Charlie gets back to earth by stealing a watch that represents the time when he died. He rewinds it to a point before his death. The catch is that if it stops working, Charlie can’t go back to Heaven.
Poor children and disadvantaged puppies populate this movie. Long story short, Charlie and Anne-Marie have a falling-out. She says the worst thing you can ever say to a dog – “You are a BAD dog.” At which point, of course, I start crying. Charlie dies, and then comes back as a ghost and apologizes, and an angel tells him that because he did the best thing a dog can do – gave up his life for a human – he can go back to Heaven. Anne-Marie forgives him. They say goodbye, and Charlie returns to Heaven. And then I cry some more.
Good thing there was a sequel, otherwise I’d probably still be a mess.
6. lifford the Big Red Dog
Clifford the Big Red Dog has moved onto the small screen from the children’s books by Norman Bridwell. Clifford is said to be a Vizsla, a lesser-known Hungarian retriever breed that probably most resembles a Doberman or Weimarner, although Clifford, as illustrated, actually doesn’t resemble any of those breeds. He just looks like… well, like a big red dog!
Clifford often gets into trouble because of his size – apparently he grew a lot more than most Vizslas, standing an incredible eight meters. Clifford is sweet and loyal, but as his owner, Emily Elizabeth, puts it, “He makes mistakes sometimes.”
7. Droopy Dog
Droopy is an anthropomorphic dog with a lethargic manner and a slow, molasses-y voice. He was created in 1943 for MGM cartoon shorts by Tex Avery. In the early cartoons, Droopy didn’t have a name. It wasn’t until the fifth cartoon that he was given the name “Señor Droopy.” Later on, MGM experimented with “Droopy Poodle” and “Droopy McPoodle.” Despite the name, though, Droopy is obviously a Basset Hound with his long ears and sagging jowls. Droopy is very slow to anger, but when roused, can defeat enemies twice his size.
Okay, this is where you get to find out my all-time favorite. I’m going to devote a lot of time to Goofy, first because he’s absolutely iconic – he’s one of the first anthropomorphic dogs to be in cartoons – and also just because this is my blog and I can do what I want!
Goofy really started it all. And what’s not to love about a sort-of-spacey, oversized dog with a sweet southern drawl? Goofy endures to this day as a very popular Disney character, and he’s been interpreted in a number of ways – usually he’s… well, goofy, but other times he actually comes across as pretty smart in his own eccentric way.
Goofy wasn’t always called “Goofy.” He started out as “Dippy Dawg,”and other variations followed – George Geef, G.G. Geef, and even once in 1949 as James Boyd. Post-2000, his name has been given in full, in comic books, as Goofus D. Dawg.
Interestingly, Goofy is one of the very few original Disney characters who actually has a linear family. Donald Duck has nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, and Mickey Mouse has nephews Morty and Ferdie. Goofy, on the other hand, has a son, Max. In the series “Goof Troop,” it is made clear that Goofy is a widower, when he refers to Max’s mother being “up there with the stars.”
In the early years, Goofy appeared in cartoon shorts, usually as a character whowas annoying other characters. Later on, he became a regular, and finally ended up being part of the trio that comprised, in addition to himself, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Usually, the storyline would involve the three characters trying to work together to complete an assignment. They would become separated, face problems on their own, and then at the end would reunite and share the results, which were not usually successful.
Mickey Mouse usually played the “straight man” in the trio, and this may be why as time progressed, he took more of a backseat. Compared with the slapstick hijinks of Goofy and Donald, Mickey just wasn’t all that funny. It just seemed better to let Goofy and Donald go off on their own – hilarity was bound to ensue, as it did in “Polar Trappers,” which was released in 1938. Donald and Goofy go to the Arctic, with just canned beans for food, and try to capture walruses and penguins for food. They are, to say the least, less than successful.
In the solo years, Goofy had his own “How To” series, in which he would show the proper way to do just about everything, from riding a horse, to playing football, to skiing, and even sleeping, with predictably hilarious results. And if you think Goofy doesn’t have staying power, think again – these cartoon shorts are still used. As recently as 2007, Goofy lent his talents to showing us How to Hook Up Your Home Theater.
Goofy is also one of the very few Disney characters who actually grew and developed through various storylines. In the 1950s, he was portrayed as “everyman,” just a family guy who confronted problems like raising kids, dieting, and giving up smoking. Often, he was portrayed as multiple characters. You could actually think of Goofy as an actor in his own right, playing a number of roles.
Now, here’s where things get really interesting. Goofy has always been a dog, right? And yet, in the comics and cartoons of the 1950s, Goofy has a wife and a son, neither of whom look like dogs. Goofy’s wife was never seen, except in profile, but she had a human-like form. And Goofy’s son did not have dog-like ears.
Sadly, though, it appeared that Goofy’s career was coming to an end. By the 1960s, he appeared mainly in cameos. He was becoming less popular, and once the actor who voiced him, Pinto Colvig, died, he was essentially retired with the exception of an appearance as Jacob Marley’s ghost in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Or so it seemed. In the 1990s, Goofy was revived in the series “Goof Troop.” Two movies, “A Goofy Movie” and “An Extremely Goofy Movie” followed.
Goofy is, simply stated, every man. He’s lived our lives, experienced our troubles, and come out on top. And that’s why I love him, and why he will always be my very favorite cartoon dog.
9. Huckleberry Hound
Huckleberry Hound is a collar-and-tie wearing anthropomorphic dog who speaks in a slow southern drawl, and who first appeared on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series that also featured Yogi Bear. Huck never seemed to occupy any particular time period, having appeared as Roman gladiators, medieval knights, and modern sheriffs. Oddly enough, he never appeared in any storylines set in the future – always either the present or the past.
Nothing much seems to get Huck down, although he’s not without his enemies, including Crazy Coyote, Powerful Pierre, and Dinky Dalton. His trademark was singing “My Darlin’ Clementine,” loudly and off-key.
10. Lady and the Tramp
Okay, technically, I know that this isn’t just one cartoon dog, but you really can’t separate the two. The Disney movie, “Lady and the Tramp” is a classic story of a privileged girl (Lady) meeting a boy from the wrong side of the tracks (The Tramp) and falling in love. Their memorable enemies are two very unpleasant Siamese cats, and they also battle other obstacles in their quest to be together. Call me crazy if you like, but I think one of the most romantic scenes in any movie, ever, is the beautiful Cocker Spaniel and the Schnauzer-like mixed breed sharing a plate of spaghetti. That’s amore!
Poor Odie. The creation of cartoonist Jim Davis, Odie is the hapless victim of Garfield, the big, fat, lasagna-loving cat, although sometimes also the recipient of Garfield’s not-so-frequent affection. Odie isn’t the brightest bulb on the string (a fact which Garfield frequently points out), but every so often he does outsmart Garfield. Although we see Garfield’s speech in “thought balloons,” Odie never speaks. Still, Davis does a masterful job of conveying Odie’s thoughts and emotions even without words or thought balloons.
In recent developments, Odie and Garfield’s owner, Jon Arbuckle, has begun dating their veterinarian, Liz. It’s added an interesting dimension to what was once a fairly one-dimensional comic strip involving little more than a nasty cat and his much put upon dog companion.
As to breed, no one has any idea at all what Odie is supposed to be.
12. Scooby Doo
Scooby Doo travels around with his hippie friends, Shaggy, Velma, and Daphne as a member of “Mystery Incorporated.” This brave band of investigators looks for ghosts and other paranormal activity, which most of the time turns out to have a perfectly logical explanation. Despite his powerful body and impressive size (Scooby is a Great Dane), Scooby is more likely to run away from suspected ghosts than to chase them. Sometimes he’s brave, but usually he prefers to hide behind Shaggy.
Scooby debuted decades ago, but remains popular to this day. Even LEGO has gotten on the Scooby bandwagon, with their LEGO Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Building Kit. It features a robotic tree – be careful not to get caught into the branches – and a hidden gem. You can open up the Mystery Machine to make a huge sandwich (after all, no one ever told us why Shaggy was constantly hungry, but we had a pretty good idea), and get the clue that will help you to solve the mystery. Whether you’ve known Scooby and his friends for a long time, or you’re just introducing your kids to this fabulous cartoon dog, I think you’ll love this offering from LEGO.
13. Santa’s Little Helper
Santa’s Little Helper originated on the Simpsons as a rescued Greyhound. Honestly, he’s not much of a dog. He’s poorly trained, and, in fact, at one time Bart tried to replace him with a better-trained dog, Laddie, in a genuinely funny episode that was a “Lassie” rip-off. Eventually, though, he discovered the meaning of love and loyalty, and got SLH back. Since then, the dog has rescued members of the family more than once. It looks like he’s a permanent fixture in the Simpson family.
Originally, the star of the Charles M. Schulz comic strip, “Peanuts,” was Charlie Brown. In little time, though, Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy, stole the show. After all, what’s not to love about a dog who strings Christmas lights all over his doghouse to celebrate the Yuletide season, pretends to be a World War I flying ace, plays hockey on a birdbath, and has as his best friend a scraggly little bird named Woodstock? Charles Schulz’s beagle captured our hearts. He has starred in numerous animated features, and has even been made the Apollo Program’s official aerospace mascot.
Underdog is kind of like Superman, but a dog. Oh, and he speaks only in rhymes. He is a crime fighter who lives under the radar as Shoe Shine Boy, but when danger looms, he takes special pills to activate his super powers. His Lois Lane is reporter Polly Purebred, and his nemesis is Simon Bar Sinister.
Although his breed was never specified in the cartoons, in the live action film, a beagle portrayed Underdog.
I don’t know about you, but as I get older, I like to think back on the things I loved when I was a kid. I guess we all get nostalgic, don’t we? After-school and Saturday morning cartoons were a big part of my childhood. Perhaps you’ve recognized some of your own favorites in this post. Some of them are actually still running in syndication today for new generations to enjoy. I hope you enjoyed reading this look back at dogs in classic cartoons, and some of the more modern ones, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.