|All Dogs Go to Heaven|
|Directed by||Don Bluth|
|Produced by||Don Bluth
|Written by||Mitchel Savage|
Charles Nelson Reilly
|Studio||Sullivan Bluth Studios|
|Distributed by||United Artists (USA)
Rank Film Distributors (UK)
Warner Home Video (UK)
|Release date(s)||November 17, 1989|
|Running time||85 minutes|
|Budget||$13.8 million (Final Budget) |
|Followed by||All Dogs Go to Heaven 2|
All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 animated film directed and produced by Don Bluth and released by United Artists. Set in 1939, the film tells the story of two dogs, Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds) and his loyal best friend Itchy Itchiford (voiced by Dom DeLuise). Charlie, who is murdered by his gangster business partner Carface Carruthers, forsakes his place in Heaven to return and take revenge. On his return he frees a young orphan girl, Anne-Marie, who Carface was holding captive because of her ability to talk to and understand animals (giving Carface insider information about whom to bet on in races). At first Charlie and Itchy intend on exploiting Anne-Marie's gift too, but they soon become attached to her and act as her protectors. Charlie learns that he will have to change his ways in order to get back into Heaven.
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 at the same time, The Little Mermaid produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. While it did not repeat the box-office success of Sullivan Bluth's previous feature films (An American Tail and The Land Before Time) it was very successful on home video, becoming one of the biggest-selling VHS releases ever. The film inspired a theatrical sequel, a television series and a holiday direct-to-video film. It has since then become a cult film and classic.
In 1939, New Orleans, Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds), a rough-and-tumble mutt with a con man's charm, is working at a casino with his gangster business partner Carface Carruthers (voiced by Vic Tayback). Carface, unwilling to share the earnings, has Charlie locked away at the pound and runs the casino with an iron fist, but with the help of his best friend Itchy (voiced by Dom DeLuise), a nervous Dachshund, he breaks out. Unaware of Carface's malicious intent, Charlie returns to him expecting open arms, but Carface wants to sever ties with him. To get Charlie out of the picture for good, Carface arranges his death. He takes Charlie out to Mardi Gras, gets him drunk and runs him down with a car, knocking him into the river.
Having died, Charlie goes to Heaven by default, despite not having done a single nice thing in his life; as the angelic Heavenly Whippet Anabelle explains, "unlike people, dogs are naturally good and loyal and kind”. Dissatisfied at having died before his time, Charlie distracts Anabelle, takes back his "life watch" (a glowing pocket watch) and winds it up again, forsaking his place in Heaven and returning himself to Earth. While he has been returned to life, and he is immortal while his life watch still ticks, when it does stop he will be condemned to Hell for eternity unless he performs a good deed to earn a place in Heaven (as Anabelle says through the watch, "You can never come back"). Charlie ignores this and slams the watch shut.
Back on Earth, Charlie reunites with Itchy (who at first thinks he is a ghost) and plots his revenge against Carface by setting up a rival business, "Charlie's Place". Before he can do this he must collect money to begin construction. Itchy is reluctant to cooperate, fearing retribution not only from Carface but also a "monster" he has heard Carface possesses. Charlie is intrigued by this and investigates, Charlie discovers the "monster" is in fact a little orphan girl named Anne-Marie who Carface has been harboring because of her ability to communicate with animals, giving Carface the advantage when gambling on races. Seeing the potential to use Anne-Marie's gift for his own gain, Charlie decides to take her. Anne-Marie immediately sees that Charlie is using her just as Carface did. Charlie is able to convince her that the money is for the poor and he will find her a mom and dad. While betting on a horse race Charlie pickpockets the married couple Harold and Kate while Anne-Marie unwittingly helps divert their attention. Trying to keep Anne-Marie from discovering his true intent, he uses some of the money to buy her dresses and other clothing. Once the casino is built Anne-Marie decides to leave Charlie because of his negligence to fulfill his promise to her about helping the poor and finding her parents. He then takes Anne-Marie to an abandoned church where a collie named Flo is caring for orphan pups. Charlie kindly gives them food and teaches them to share but during this Anne-Marie stumbles upon the wallet he stole, on the stairs. She then questions Charlie on it. He does not reply, but Anne-Marie recognizes the couple's picture in the wallet and sees that Charlie stole it. She storms up stairs after deceiving him. His conscience pricked, Charlie begins to worry about his fate, and that night suffers a nightmare where he is banished to Hell and is encountered by a monstrous, dragon-like version of Satan using Charlie's own skeleton body and its minions. The nightmare ends with the Devil saying to Charlie, "You can never go back!"
Charlie hears his name being said softly and awakes to find the pups shaking him awake and the fact that he is holding on the top of a broom handle. The pups inform him that Anne-Marie has left to return the wallet he stole on, and goes after her. He finds her eating breakfast with the wallet family in their home on 402 Maple St., and the couple planning to take Anne-Marie in. Realizing he is about to lose his trump card in his revenge against Carface, Charlie tricks Anne-Marie into leaving by pretending to be sick. As they leave, they are ambushed by Carface and his sidekick Killer (voiced by Charles Nelson Reilly). Charlie is shot by Killer's ray gun, but he survives, thanks to his life-watch. Hiding in a dilapidated warehouse, Charlie and Anne-Marie fall through the crumbling floor and into a flooded underground cavern. There they are captured by a tribe of mice who plan to sacrifice them to King Gator. Moments from being devoured, Charlie lets out a melodic howl of anguish. King Gator (voiced by Ken Page), a camp character with a penchant for musical theatre-style songs, instantly develops a liking for Charlie's voice and sets him and Anne-Marie free. Unfortunately, their adventure in the flooded underground caverns has left Anne-Marie sick with pneumonia.
Meanwhile Carface, still out to get Charlie, storms into Charlie's Place with his thugs, assaults Itchy and sets fire to the establishment. Charlie meanwhile has taken Anne-Marie to Flo at the abandoned church. Itchy limps into the church, badly beaten and bruised. He is angry at him for paying more attention to Anne-Marie instead of being there to help his oldest friend. Charlie, in frustration, replies that he is only using her (despite having obviously grown to care deeply about her). Unfortunately, Anne-Marie overhears and believes him and, despite her illness, rushes heartbroken out into the night. Before long, Carface recaptures her and flees with Charlie chasing after them. Itchy comes out and sees that Charlie has taken off. Flo then instructs him to take Anne-Marie's stuffed rabbit and deliver it to the wallet family. Itchy rounds up all the dogs in the neighborhood and heads to the married couple's house to alert them to Anne-Marie's plight, while Charlie heads for Carface's hideout to confront him and rescue the girl.
At Carface's hideout, Charlie finds Anne-Marie, but Carface knew he would come and planned a trap. Charlie then fights his way through a horde of henchmen, but soon gets captured and tied to an anchor, ready to be thrown into the water. As he struggles, Charlie gets bitten and lets out a piercing howl. King Gator hears the voice and rushes to his aid. Just as Charlie is about to drown, King Gator frees him and begins tearing the oil tanker apart. Charlie confronts Carface in a deadly battle while the ship breaks apart around them. With all the shaking and shuddering, the cage holding Anne-Marie falls into the river, and some oil barrels get knocked over, which causes the oil to spill onto the electric generator and starts a fire. Charlie goes to save Anne-Marie, but Carface leaps on him and knocks his precious life watch, the only thing keeping him alive, onto the debris floating on the water. Just as Carface is about to deliver a killing bite to Charlie, King Gator rams the ship again. Carface tumbles into the water where King Gator is waiting. King Gator finds Carface "delicious", and Carface screams and swims away with Gator following close behind him. Charlie leaps to save both his life watch and Anne-Marie, but is unable to get to both. Faced with the choice, he pushes the piece of wood Anne-Marie is laying on out of the wrecked tanker. His watch sinks to the bottom of the river, Charlie swims down to get the watch, but fails, and its workings fill with water and it stops. On the riverbank, Itchy and the other dogs have led Harold and Kate to the scene. When Itchy sees the tanker sink, he knows that Charlie has died. Carface's former sidekick, Killer, has carried Anne-Marie away from the submerging ship to safety.
Some time later, Anne-Marie sleeps at Harold and Kate's house. Charlie's spirit returns, escorted by the Devil from his nightmare, to bid her farewell before he is banished to Hell. As the Devil beckons Charlie, a bright blue light enters and destroys it, and the voice of the Heavenly Whippet tells Charlie that his act of self-sacrifice has earned him his place in Heaven again. Charlie says his heartfelt goodbyes to Anne-Marie, and returns to Heaven.
In Heaven, Carface is furious at his untimely death, having been killed and eaten by King Gator, and, just as Charlie did, he winds up his life clock to return to life, swearing revenge on King Gator with Annebelle screaming at him while chasing him, "Touch that clock and you can never come back!". With a wink at the camera, Charlie remarks, "He'll be back". Then, he zips back under the clouds, leaving his halo behind floating, which he quickly grabs off-screen.
The earliest idea for All Dogs Go to Heaven 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 Dog 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 and rewritten by Bluth, John Pomeroy and Gary Goldman in November 1987, building around the title All Dogs Go to Heaven, and drawing 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 All Dogs Go to Heaven 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, All Dogs Go to Heaven 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 production of All Dogs Go to Heaven, 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 All Dogs Go to Heaven, 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”. 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. When first submitted to the MPAA, All Dogs Go to Heaven received a PG rating. Writer and producer John Pomeroy found this unacceptable, and decided to shorten or remove several shots in order to attain a G rating, most notably a clear shot of Charlie being knocked down by a car, and his nightmare about Hell. Co-director Gary Goldman also agreed to the cuts, recognising that some concessions needed to be made in the name of commercial appeal. Don Bluth previously owned a private film print of the uncut version, which he had planned to duplicate onto video to convince Goldcrest to release in its original form, but it was stolen from a locked storage room. The original drawings and cels of all scenes, including the cut scenes, were destroyed by Goldcrest Films so that they would avoid paying storage fees.  Also, in the soundtrack version of the song "Welcome to Doing Whatever You Wish", Charlie says "Damn, that Carface. I'll kill him!", but in the film version, he just says "That Carface. I'll kill him!".
Dissatisfied with the terms imposed by Universal Pictures, 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; several computer games and software packages were released, and restaurant chain Wendy's offered toys with their Kids' Meals or regular fries.
All Dogs Go to Heaven opened in the U.S. on November 17, 1989, the same day as The Little Mermaid produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation; once again, Sullivan Bluth Studios' latest feature would be vying for box office receipts with Disney's, just as their previous one (The Land Before Time) had. Many critics were hard on the movie, 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, demons and Hell. But reviews were 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.
On its theatrical release, while still making its budget of $13.8 million back, All Dogs Go to Heaven's performance fell short of Sullivan Bluth Studios' previous box office successes, grossing US$27m, 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. As of today, 44% of the critics give positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. However, this is only based on 9 reviews (with Ebert being the only "Top Critic"). The more numerous website users, on the other hand, gave it a score of 72%.
The Nostalgia Critic's recurring 'Big Lipped Alligator Moment' joke originates from a scene in this film.
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 a Christmas special, An All Dogs Christmas Carol, based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol were made. Don Bluth and his studio had no involvement with any of them. Dom Deluise is the only voice actor to appear in all installments of the franchise.
On July 1, 1991, A soundtrack to All Dogs Go to Heaven was released but according to Amazon.com, it has been discontinued by the manufacturer.
[as Charlie is introduced to Heaven by the Whippet Angel]