All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 Americanâ"Irish animated musical comedy film directed and produced by Don Bluth and released by United Artists and Goldcrest Films. It tells the story of Charlie B. Barkin (Burt Reynolds), a German Shepherd who is murdered by his friend, Carface (Vic Tayback), but forsakes his place in Heaven to return to Earth where he and his best friend, Itchy Itchiford (Dom DeLuise), team up with a young orphan girl, Anne-Marie (Judith Barsi), who teaches them an important lesson about honesty, loyalty and love.
The film was produced at Sullivan Bluth Studios in Dublin, Ireland, funded by UK-based investors Goldcrest Films. On its cinema release it competed directly with an animated feature released on November 17, 1989, the same day as Walt Disney Pictures animated motion picture The Little Mermaid. While it did not repeat the box-office success of Sullivan Bluth's previous feature films, The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, it was very successful on home video, becoming one of the biggest-selling VHS releases ever. It inspired a theatrical sequel, a television series and a holiday direct-to-video film. It was released on DVD November 17, 1998, and as an MGM Kids edition on March 6, 2001 and for the first time rendered in high definition on Blu-ray on March 29, 2011, without special features except the original theatrical trailer. It had a DVD double feature release with its sequel on March 14, 2006 and January 18, 2011.
In 1939 New Orleans, a roguish German Shepherd named Charlie B. Barkin escapes from a dog pound with the help of his friend, a dachshund named Itchy Itchiford. They return to a casino riverboat on the bayou, formerly run by Charlie with his partner, a bulldog named Carface Caruthers. He, not wanting to share the profits with Charlie, persuades him to leave town with 50% of the casino's earnings. He agrees, but is later intoxicated and murdered by Carface. He is sent to Heaven where a whippet angel tells him that a gold watch representing his life has stopped. He steals and winds it, returning to Earth, but was told that if he dies again, He'll go to Hell and never return to Heaven. After reuniting with Itchy, they discover that Carface is holding an orphan 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 and become rich. They rescue her, intending to use her abilities to get revenge on Carface, though Charlie tells her that they plan to give their winnings to the poor and help her find parents. The next day at the race track, Charlie steals a wallet from a couple as they talk to Anne-Marie and become concerned for her ragged appearance.
Charlie and Itchy use their winnings to build a successful casino in the junkyard they live in. Anne-Marie, upon discovering that she had been used, threatens to leave. To keep her happy, Charlie brings pizza to a family of poor puppies and their mother, Flo. While there, Anne-Marie discovers the wallet he had stolen and becomes upset, rushing away where she dreams of living with the couple in its photo. After a nightmare in which he is sent to Hell and meets a hellhound and is attacked by the hellhound's monsters, Charlie awakens to discover that Anne-Marie has gone to return the wallet. The couple, Kate and Harold, welcome her into their home and serve her waffles. While they privately discuss letting her stay, Charlie arrives outside and tricks her into leaving with him. Walking home, Charlie is shot by Carface and his henchman, Killer, but is impervious to harm as long as he has the watch. He escapes with Anne-Marie into hiding but then falls into the lair of a massive alligator named King Gator. He and Charlie strike a chord as kindred spirits and he lets them go, but Anne-Marie falls ill with pneumonia.
Meanwhile, Carface and his thugs attack Itchy at their new casino, and he confronts Charlie, claiming he cares about Anne-Marie more than him. He angrily declares that he is using her and will eventually "dump her in an orphanage". She overhears the conversation and runs away, heartbroken. Charlie hears her scream, believing that Carface captured her. Flo, who heard Anne-Marie's scream, sends Itchy to get help from Kate and Harold, and he rouses the dogs of the city by his side. Charlie returns to the casino, where he is attacked by Carface and his thugs. He fights them off, which inadvertently sets an oil fire that soon engulfs it. King Gator saves him, chases Carface off, and eats him. As the watch falls into the water, Charlie pushes Anne-Marie to safety onto some debris and dives into the water to retrieve it, but it stops before he can do so. Anne-Marie and Killer are discovered by Kate, Harold and the authorities, as the boat sinks into the water.
Sometime later, Kate and Harold adopted Anne-Marie who also adopted Itchy, Charlie returns in ghost form and tells Anne-Marie that he was sorry about his behavior. Then whippet angels appears and tells him that due to giving up his life for Anne-Marie's, Charlie regained his place in Heaven, Anne-Marie awakens and he says goodbye and asks her to watch after Itchy. She falls asleep and Charlie returns to Heaven.
- Main characters
- Burt Reynolds as Charlie B. Barkin, a roguish German Shepherd mix and con artist. The character was designed specifically with Reynolds in mind for the role and the animators mimicked some of his mannerisms.
- Dom DeLuise as Itchy Itchiford, a paranoid, nervous and cowardly Dachshund.
- Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie, a young orphan girl with the ability to talk to and understand animals. Her singing voice was performed by Lana Beeson. This was Barsi's final film role before her death in 1988. The end credits song "Love Survives" was dedicated in Barsi's memory.
- Vic Tayback as Carface Caruthers, a shifty, psychotic mixed American Pit Bull Terrier/Bulldog gangster. It was Tayback's final role before his death in 1990.
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Killer, a misnamed, cowardly, neurotic and spectacles-wearing Schnauzer/poodle hybrid.
- Supporting characters
- Loni Anderson as Flo, a female Rough Collie and Charlie's girlfriend.
- Melba Moore as a Whippet angel, who welcomes deceased dogs into Heaven. She was named "Annabelle" in the sequel.
- Ken Page as King Gator, an American alligator and voodoo witch doctor, living below the streets of New Orleans.
- Rob Fuller and Earleen Carey as Kate and Harold, a married couple who later become Anne-Marie's adoptive parents.
- Godfrey Quigley as Terrier, a dog who appears when Itchy tells everyone Anne-Marie's in danger.
- Anna Manahan as Stella Dallas, a horse who appears, when Anne-Marie, Charlie and Itchy are at the derby.
- Candy Devine as Vera, a female gambling dog.
The earliest idea for the film was conceived by Don Bluth after finishing work on The Secret of NIMH. The treatment was originally about a canine private eye, and one of three short stories making up an anthology film. The character of a shaggy German Shepherd was designed specifically with Burt Reynolds in mind for the role. However, Bluth's first studio, Don Bluth Productions, was going through a period of financial difficulty, ultimately having to declare bankruptcy, and the idea never made it beyond rough storyboards. The concept was revived by Bluth, John Pomeroy and Gary Goldman, and rewritten by David N. Weiss, collaborating with the producers from October through December 1987. 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 in school, 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; the previous two feature films, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, had been backed by Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures, and executive producers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had 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, it and Rock-a-Doodle, would be completed under the deal). The three founding members of the studio, 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 head up a satellite 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.
The film's lead voices, Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, had previously appeared together in a number of films, including The Cannonball Run. For this one, they requested they be allowed to record their parts in the studio together (in American animation it is more common for each actor to record their part 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 pair of voices, those of Carface and Killer (Vic Tayback and Charles Nelson Reilly, respectively), also recorded together.
As production neared completion, the studio held test screenings and decided that some of the scenes were too intense for younger viewers. Writer and producer John Pomeroy decided to shorten Charlie's nightmare about being condemned. Co-director Gary Goldman also agreed to the cut, recognizing that the concession needed to be made in the name of commercial appeal. Don Bluth owns a private film print of the uncut version, which has yet to be released onto video or DVD.
Release and reaction
Dissatisfied with the terms imposed by Universal Studios, which had distributed their previous two films, the studio found an alternative distributor in United Artists. Somewhat unusually, production investors Goldcrest Films covered the cost of the release prints and the promotional campaign, in return for a greatly reduced distribution fee from UA. This was similar to the arrangement with United Artists when they distributed Bluth's first feature film, The Secret of NIMH. 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; a computer game adaptation for the Commodore Amiga's DOS system (with a free software package) was released, and restaurant chain Wendy's offered toys with their Kids' Meals or regular fries.
The film opened in North America on November 17, 1989, the same day as Walt Disney Pictures' full-length animated motion picture The Little Mermaid; once again, Sullivan Bluth Studios' latest feature would be vying for box office receipts with Disney's, just as their last two films (An American Tail and The Land Before Time) had. It received many mixed reviews from critics, drawing unfavorable comparisons to Disney's offering, criticizing the disjointed narrative, the quality of the animation, and the songs by Charlie Strouse and T.J. Kuenster. Some also found the darker subject material objectionable in a family film, featuring as it does depictions of death, violence, drinking, smoking, gambling, murder, demons and images of Hell. But other reviews were mostly positive, with critics praising the film's emotional qualities, humor and vibrant color palette. Roger Ebert, who was unimpressed with An American Tail, gave it three out of four stars. More recent reviews of the film have generally been less harsh, with Box Office Mojo awarding it a B- rating. However, film critic Leonard Maltin gave it one-and-a-half out of four stars, due to "unappealing characters, confusing storytelling, and forgettable songs".
On its theatrical release, while still making its budget of $13.8 million back, the film's performance fell short of Sullivan Bluth Studios' previous box office successes, grossing US$27m in North America alone, just over half of what An American Tail and The Land Before Time each took. However, the film became a sleeper hit on 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.
Sequels and spin-off
The success of the film, particularly its performance on home video, prompted several follow-up productions. A theatrical sequel, All Dogs Go to Heaven 2; a television series, All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series; and An All Dogs Christmas Carol, a Christmas television movie based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, were made. Don Bluth and his studio had no involvement with any of them. Dom DeLuise voiced Itchy in all of them.
On July 1, 1991, a soundtrack to the film was released. The song "Love Survives" is dedicated in memory of Anne-Marie's voice actress, ten-year-old Judith Barsi, who was shot and killed by her father before the film's release.
- Track listing
- "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
- Beck, Jerry (October 2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp.Â 13â"14. ISBNÂ 1-55652-591-5.Â
- Cawley, John (October 1991). The Animated Films of Don Bluth. Image Pub of New York. ISBNÂ 0-685-50334-8.Â
- Lenburg, Jeff (June 2006). Who's Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-Winning and Legendary Animators. Applause Books. p.Â 32. ISBNÂ 1-55783-671-X.Â
- All Dogs Go To Heaven Activity Center
- Official website
- All Dogs Go to Heaven at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- All Dogs Go to Heaven at the Internet Movie Database
- All Dogs Go to Heaven at Box Office Mojo
- All Dogs Go to Heaven at Rotten Tomatoes