All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 Irish-British-American animated musical comedy-drama film directed by Don Bluth which was released on November 17, 1989. It was produced by Sullivan Bluth Studios and Goldcrest Films and distributed by United Artists.
In 1939 New Orleans, Charlie B. Barkin, a German shepherd, breaks out of the dog pound with the aide of his friend, Itchy Itchiford, a dachshund, and returns to the old casino he once shared with his business partner, Carface Caruthers. What Charlie does not know, however, is that Carface had him framed for an unknown crime which landed him in the pound so as to have the casino all to himself.
The two reunite and Carface, still not wanting to share the casino, tries to convince Charlie that the pound may follow him there and put them out of business, and that he should leave with 50% of the earnings, to which Charlie agrees.
Meanwhile, Itchy overheard Carface's assistant, Killer, to tell some of the recruits to help get rid of Charlie, prompting Itchy to run off in search of his friend.
At the mardi gras parade, Charlie gets drunk and is then taken to the dock and blindfolded. With Killer's assistance, Carface pushes a car down the dock towards Charlie, who is killed on impact. He arrives in Heaven, where a whippet angel informs him of how wonderful it is before informing him of his current state and that a watch representing his life has stopped.
Angered at Carface's betrayal, Charlie secretly steals the watch by replacing it with another one and winds it back up, cheating death and sending him back to Earth. On his way back, he is warned that he can never return to Heaven upon dying again.
Charlie reunites with Itchy, who witnessed his murder, and convinces him to help get revenge on Carface. They soon discover that Carface has kept a little girl named Anne-Marie, who has the ability to talk to animals, in order to win bets and become rich. Seeing this as an opportunity for revenge, Charlie "rescues" her and invites her to live with him and Itchy, despite the latter's protests, by claiming that they will use her ability to take care of the poor.
First off, they use Anne-Marie to distract a couple so he can steal their wallet and bet on the races. The plan proves successful and the pair soon begin using her talent to their advantage and soon begin running their own successful business in the junkyard where they live.
Anne-Marie quickly realizes that she had been used the same way as with Carface, and threatens to leave. Charlie persuades her to stay by bringing pizza to a group of orphaned puppies living in an abandoned church under the care by Flo, a rough collie who is friends with Charlie. Anne-Marie discovers the stolen wallet and berates him for it.
That night, Charlie has a nightmare in which he is condemned to eternity in Hell and is attacked by a canine version of the Devil and his minions. He awakens to find Anne-Marie having returned the stolen wallet to Kate and Harold, the couple who they met earlier and are now considering adopting her. Charlie once again tricks her into leaving with him. On their way home, Carface and Killer shoot at them; they barely escape, thanks to Charlie's life watch still ticking (as long as it keeps ticking, he is practically immortal).
They then fall through the floor of an abandoned building and are captured and offered as sacrifices to King Gator, a monstrous-sized alligator. Charlie inadvertently saves them from being eaten when his howling comes off as music to King Gator, who sings a brief song with him and offers the pair a ride back to New Orleans. Anne-Marie catches pneumonia as a result.
Charlie takes Anne-Marie back to the abandoned church and reunites with Itchy, who was ambushed and severely beaten by Carface and his thugs, who also burnt down their casino. Itchy accuses of Charlie of caring for Anne-Marie more than him, angering Charlie into claiming that he does not care for her at all and is merely using her.
Overhearing this, Anne-Marie runs away and is quickly abducted by Carface. Itchy, meanwhile, runs off to town and persuades several other dogs to come to their aid, alerting Kate and Harold as well. Charlie returns to the old casino to find Anne-Marie in a cage, and is quickly attacked by Carface's thugs and tied to an anchor.
One of them bites Charlie's foot, causing him to howl in pain and alert King Gator, who breaks through the haul and frees Charlie before leaving and aiding in the battle by continuously headbutting the side of the ship. Charlie battles Carface, during which oil falls into the water and catches fire.
A headbutt from King Gator causes Carface to fall into the water, where he is chased off by the alligator and eaten offscreen. Charlie rescues Anne-Marie and pushes her out through the hole in the ship's haul and attempts to retrieve his watch, which has sunk to the bottom and begin filling with water. As the gears fill up with water, the watch stops and Charlie dies a second time.
Charlie briefly visits from Hell to see Anne-Marie, who has since begun to recover from her pneumonia and is adopted by Kate and Harold, who have adopted Itchy as well. The whipper angel briefly arrives and gives him the chance to come home to Heaven for his sacrifice to save Anne-Marie. The pair share their goodbyes and admit their love for each other before Charlie ascends into Heaven.
As the credits begin to roll, Carface is revealed to have entered as well and swears revenge on King Gator before attempting to steal his life clock with the whippet angel chasing after him.
Voice Cast Edit
- Burt Reynold as Charlie B. Barkin
- Dom DeLuise as Itchy Itchiford
- Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie
- Lana Beason as Anne-Marie (singing voice)
- Vic Tayback as Carface Caruthers
- Charles Nelson Reilly as Killer
- Loni Anderson as Flo
- Melba Moore as Whippet Angel
- Ken Page as King Gator
- Rob Fuller as Harold
- Earleen Casey as Kate
- Godfrey Quigley as Terrier
- Anna Manahan as Stella Dallas
- Candy Devine as Vera
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 was designed specifically for Burt Reynolds.
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 of 1987.
The film's title came from a book read to Bluth's fourth-grade class 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 (for "The Land Before Time" only) 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 Rock-a-Doodle and It were 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 five films; for this one, they requested them to record their parts in the studio together (in American animation, actors more commonly record their parts 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.
Loni Anderson, who voices Flo, was Reynolds' then-wife.
Child actress Judith Barsi, who voiced Ducky in Bluth's previous film "The Land Before Time" was selected to voice Anne-Marie; she died an apparent murder-suicide a year before the movie was released.
Lana Beeson did Anne-Marie's singing for the song "Soon You'll Come Home" after Judith Barsi broke down during the audition due to her life at home & the filmmakers decided not to push her.
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 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 owned a private 35-mm print of the movie with the cut-out scenes and planned to convince Goldcrest Films on releasing a director's cut of the film after returning from Ireland in the mid-1990s, but the print was eventually stolen from Bluth's locked storage room, diminishing hopes of this version being released on home media (though the cut-out scenes of Charlie's nightmare about being condemned was discovered by YouTube on October 29, 2016, therefore "The Land Before Time" was not included the cut-out scenes (due to produced by Amblin Entertainment).
The soundtrack for "All Dogs Go to Heaven" was released on July 1, 1989, by Curb Records on audio cassette and CD featuring 13 tracks (including seven vocal songs performed by various cast members).
The music for the film was composed by Ralph Burns with lyrics by Charles Strouse, T.J. Kuenster, Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha.
The end credits theme song "Love Survives" was dedicated to Anne-Marie's voice actress, Judith Barsi, who died before the film's release.
- "Love Survives" by Irene Cara and Freddie Jackson; 3:25
- "Mardi Gras" (Music Score); 1:17
- "You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down" by Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise; 2:30
- "Hellhound" (Music Score); 2:09
- "What's Mine Is Yours" by Burt Reynolds; 1:48
- "At the Race Track" (Music Score); 1:49
- "Let Me Be Surprised" by Melba Moore and Burt Reynolds; 4:54
- "Soon You'll Come Home" (Anne-Marie's Theme) by Lana Beeson; 2:38
- "Money Montage" (Music Score) Length: 3:43
- "Dogs to the Rescue" (Music Score); 3:10
- "Let's Make Music Together" by Ken Page and Burt Reynolds; 2:24
- "Goodbye Anne-Marie" (Music Score); 2:10
- "Hallelujah" by Candy Devine; 1:21
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, there wasn't much tie-in merchandise for the movie's theatrical release; a computer game adaptation for the Commodore Amiga system (with a free software package) was released and restaurant chain Wendy's offered toys with their Kids' Meals or regular fries.
"All Dogs Go to Heaven" opened in North America on November 17, 1989 (which was on the same day as Disney's 28th 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.
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 $27 million in North America alone (just over half of what An "American Tail" and "The Land Before Time" each took).
"All Dogs Go to Heaven" received mixed reviews from critics, maintaining a 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 10 reviews and a 50 out of 100 score from Metacritic.
Reviewers often drew unfavorable comparisons to "The Little Mermaid," criticizing the disjointed narrative, the quality of the animation, and the songs by Charlie Strouse and T.J. Kuenster.
The film received a "thumbs down" from Gene Siskel and a "thumbs up" from Roger Ebert on a 1989 episode of their television program "At the Movies."
While Siskel found it to be "surprisingly weak" given director Don Bluth's previous works, due largely to its "confusing story" and "needlessly violent" scenes, Ebert was a fan of the movie's "rubbery and kind of flexible" animation, stating he felt it was a good film despite not being an "animated classic."
Some also found the darker subject material objectionable in a family film, given the film's depictions of death, violence, drinking, smoking, gambling, murder, demons and images of Hell.
Other reviews were mostly positive, with critics praising the film's emotional qualities, humor and vibrant color palette.
Roger Ebert (who was unimpressed with Bluth's previous film "An American Tail") gave it three out of four stars, remarking that the animation "permits such a voluptuous use of color that the movie is an invigorating bath for the eyes" and that although he preferred "The Little Mermaid" which opened on the same day, he still found the movie to be "bright and inventive."
However, film critic Leonard Maltin gave it one-and-a-half out of four stars, due to "unappealing characters, confusing storytelling, and forgettable songs."