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All Dogs Go to Heaven (a J!-ENT Children’s Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 29, 2011 by  



Despite it being a barebones Blu-ray release, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” is an entertaining animated family film definitely worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 1989 Goldcrest and Sullivan Bluth Limited. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: All Dogs Go to Heaven

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1989

DURATION: 84 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen (1:85:1), English 2.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, AVC@32MBPS, Subtitles: English SDH, French

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/20th Century Fox

RATED: G

RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2011

Directed by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, Dan Kuenster

Story by Don Bluth, Ken Cromar, Gary Goldman, Larry Leker, Linda Miller, Monica Parker, John Pomeroy, Guy Shulman, David J. Steinerg, David N. Weiss

Screenplay by David N. Weiss

Produced by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy

Executive Producer: Morris F. Sullivan, George A. Walker

Music by Ralph Burns

Edited by John K. Carr, Lisa Dorney

Production Design by Don Bluth, Larry Leker

Featuring the voices of”

Burt Reynolds as Charlie B. Barkin

Dom DeLuise as Itchy Itchiford

Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie

Melba Moore as Whippet Angel (Annabelle)

Daryl Gilley as Dog Caster

Candy Devine as Vera

Charles Nelson Reilly as Killer

Vic Tayback as Carface

Loni Anderson as Flo

Set in 1939 New Orleans, this colorful, song-filled story centers on Charles B. Barkin, a roguish German Shepherd with the charm of a con man and the heart of a marshmallow. Out for revenge against his double-crossing former partner, a cigar-chomping pit bull known as Carface, Charlie finds himself guardian to a lonely little orphan named Anne-Marie. Her astounding ability to talk to animals leads this unlikely pair on an adventure packed with thrills, laughs, tears and true love.

When Don Bluth left Disney to go on to create his own animation studio and created “The Secret of NIMH” back in 1982.  A film that would be looked as Bluth’s major masterpiece and in 1986, together with Steven Spielberg, they would go on to create “American Tail”, another massive hit.

But while working on planning for a new animated film titled “All Dogs Go to Heaven”, it was questionable if it would become a film as Don Bluth Productions was facing major financial difficulty.  Fortunately, years later, UK-based Goldcrest Films would go on to invest in the film and “All Dogs Go to Heaven” would become a reality

But upon release back in 1989, the film had major competition and that was with Walt Disney who would release the film “The Little Mermaid” and unfortunately, “The Little Mermaid” would not only become extremely profitable (and bring Disney back to prominence), “All Dogs Go to Heaven”, with a budget of $13.8 million would earn $27 million the domestic box office but it’s competition would earn $211 million in the box office.

But “All Dogs Go to Heaven” became a sleeper hit (with a cult following) and would become successful in the home video market, selling $3 million VHS copies in its first month of release.  And now, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” receives its first HD treatment on Blu-ray.

“All Dogs Go to Heaven” take place back in 1939 New Orleans and focuses on a dog named Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds), who along with his little buddy Itchi Itchiford (voiced by Dom DeLuise) works for the gangster boss, a bulldog named Carface Carruthers (voiced by Vic Tayback).  But as Carface would make a lot of money in his casino, he is unwilling to share it.  And Carface turns on Charlie and gets him imprisoned.

Fortunately, with the help of Itchy, Charlie escapes from the pound.  Seeing Charlie as an obstacle, Carface has his sidekick, Killer (voiced by Charles Nelson Reilly) murder Charlie.

Charlie ends up in Heaven even though he has done criminal things in his life but manages to cheat death by stealing a “life watch”, a pocket watch that if winded up, would allow him to return back to Earth.  If it stops, he would die and go down to Hell.

Meanwhile, we learn how Carface has been making all his money.  He has imprisoned an orphan girl named Anne-Marie (voice by Judith Barsi), who has the ability to communicate with animals.  When Charlie and Itchy find out about Carface’s secret, they end up kidnapping Anne-Marie and pretending that they are her friend, try to help her by telling her they are raising money to help orphans, when in fact, Charlie wants to use the money to start his own business and ends up exploiting her.

But because Anne-Marie threatens to not help him if he doesn’t do good things, Charlie knows that if he makes Anne-Marie happy, then all will be good.  So, he buys her new clothes and also buys orphaned dogs some pizza.  Meanwhile, Charlie steals a wallet from a rich couple and Anne-Marie finds it.  Anne-Marie then tells about how she wishes to find her parents, Charlie tells her he will help her (of course, lying).

That night, Charlie has a nightmare that he has gone to Hell and is disturbed by it.  When he wakes up, he finds out that Anne-Marie has left to return the wallet to the rich couple and when the couple finds out that she is an orphan, living in a junkyard with her dog, they become concerned.  The couple has always wanted a child and while they are talking about helping her, Charlie comes to get her out and give her the guilty treatment.

Meanwhile, as Charlie tries to get Anne-Marie to come back with him, Carface is also wanting Anne-Marie back and wants Charlie dead for good.

Will Charlie turn a new leaf and become a good dog?  Will Anne-Marie continued to be used and exploited?

VIDEO:

“All Dogs Go to Heaven” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1).  For a 1989 film, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” holds up quite well.  Picture quality is vibrant on Blu-ray but because of the age of this film and the fact that there was not much cleanup, you will see dust and speckles and even times of color fluctuations.  But I pretty much accepted that a lot of these non-Disney animated films are not going to get a thorough remaster nor are they going to be cleaned up and every imperfection removed.

But nevertheless, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” looks very good on Blu-ray and if you loved the film and have owned it on VHS or DVD, you’ll definitely want to upgrade to the more vibrant Blu-ray version.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“All Dogs Go to Heaven” is presented in English 2.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Surround and French Dolby Surround.  While the film is primarily dialogue and music-driven, the lossless 2.0 surround track was quite adequate for this film.  It’s front-channel driven and there are times where you feel the more action-driven scenes (and dog howling galore) does bring an immersive quality to this film, it’s primarily a front-channel soundtrack that is adequate, nothing unique or anything that stands out but it works.

Subtitles are in English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“All Dogs Go to Heaven” comes with no special features.

It’s quite interesting how I actually dismissed this film when it was first released.  At the time, I suppose I was looking for a series that was much more Disney-like, films that were typically happy endings, vibrant and cheery.   And while “All Dogs Go to Heaven” has that style of animated family film, singing characters and the adorable child, back in 1989, I admit, I was caught up in “The Little Mermaid” Disney hype.

And unfortunately, Don Bluth’s “All Dogs Go to Heaven” flew under the radar.

But I’m glad I have been able to revisit this film once again because now, I can watch it alongside with my own family and see how my son reacts to it and right after the initial viewing, we enjoy the film!

Granted, the film may not have musical numbers which stick into your head but it was a animated film that grabbed you by the heartstrings because it had this darkness that most animators would not touch in an animated film.  Disney tried it with “Black Cauldron” and it wasn’t well-received.  Don Bluth on the other hand has stuck to his guns and has continued to create animated films that although they have happy endings, characters die.

From “The Secret of NIMH”, “An American Tail”, “The Land Before Time” and with “All Dogs Go to Heaven” to nearly a decade later with “Anastasia” and “Titan A.E.”, Bluth has managed to pave his own direction outside of Disney and do animated films that is willing to take steps into darker material but yet making it accessible for children and families.  Granted, some parents may have not liked it then (and a few even now) but the fact that he was creating these type of animated films back in the early ’80s to now, that’s pretty awesome!

“All Dogs Go to Heaven” is not about your loveable canine characters.  These dogs are troublemakers.  They are involved in crime and they are literally mutts.  Charlie is not exactly your good or cute looking dog.  He’s a dog that has rough edges to him and he’s a con artist. And while the majority of the animation features characters that are dogs and even a big giant alligator that talks, the character that really captures your attention is Anne-Marie, it was almost like watching a very young Snow White in some ways and Judith Barsi did a wonderful job giving the character life.

You cared about this character because not only is she an orphan, she has been locked up and she just wants to be part of a loving family and unfortunately, she is often deceived by those animals that she trusts and many times, you see her life in peril.  Voice actress Judith Barsi brings the emotions of that character to life and of course, the writers manage to make the viewer shed tears after they see how the film ends.

And for those who never grew up during the ’70s or ’80s, Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise were an excellent duo that worked well-together in many comedy films.  And at the time, it was great to see Don Bluth bring these two together to do the voice of Charlie and Itchy on “All Dogs Go to Heaven”.  So, these two really did feed off each other’s dialogue and both Reynolds and DeLuise did a wonderful job.

When I think of it, it has a “Alice in Wonderland” type of appeal because the majority of the characters are all dogs and Anna-Marie is the main human that you see throughout the film (until she meets a rich couple), and  I often wonder if people who watched the film thought of Louisiana talking canines to be ludicrous and outright lame.  But there is nothing lame about this animated film, once again, I didn’t care for the music all that much but in terms of the story and animation, I enjoyed this film.

As for the Blu-ray release, it’s pretty much a barebones release.  There are no special features but if you did enjoy this movie and your VHS is now to the point of discoloration or you want the best looking version of the film to date, then yes, definitely upgrade to the Blu-ray version of “All Dogs Go to Heaven”.

It was great to revisit this film and I felt that watching it today and having many years to step away from the “All Dogs Go to Heaven” vs. “The Little Mermaid” news of 1989 or Bluth vs. Disney type of debates, watching this film on Blu-ray and accepting it as a non-Disney release, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” is an enjoyable animated film that families should watch.  Granted, it has its share of a darker plot but nothing that is too scary or too bad for children.  It’s actually quite accessible and parents should watch with their children as they may ask questions of what is “Heaven” or “Hell” and its relation to the storyline.

Overall, despite this Blu-ray release being a barebones release, “All Dogs Go to Heaven” is an entertaining animated family film definitely worth watching!

 

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