Disney has long been a promoter of the special place dogs have in our lives, and the wonderful and varied characters that dogs are. Disney dogs are vast and individual, ranging from an anthropomorphized animated Goofy who made his first appearance in 1932 in Mickey’s Revue, to a more current selection in 2012, Tim Burton’s animated Frankenweenie, and all the dogs in between. Both animated and live action, Disney dogs even have their own franchise. The five movies below are just a taste of the wonderful canine collection Disney has brought to the screen.
Originally a 1956 children’s book by Fred Gipson, Old Yeller won the Newberry Medal for “The most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” In 1957, Disney released the film version of the story about the big yellow stray dog that wove its way into the hearts of the family it adopted. Moviegoers shed many tears over the heartbreaking demise of the loyal and beautiful dog at the end of the movie. Yes…we do love our dogs!
The original story is set in Texas in the 1860s. It was followed by a sequel called Savage Sam, about the offspring of the famous yellow dog.
The Shaggy Dog (Chiffon)
There have been two Shaggy Dog movies produced by Disney, one in 1959, and one in 2006. There was also a sequel to the first one called The Shaggy DA, and two television sequels.
The movie is based on the book, The Hound of Florence by Felix Salton. The fantasy story is about a teenage boy who hears the tale of a magical ring that once belonged to the Borgia family. According to the legend, the power of shape-shifting contained in the ring was used to fight the Borgia’s enemies, but once invoked the curse of the ring cannot be lifted until the wearer does a selfless act. The ring falls into the cuff of the boy’s pants and ends up getting him into an offbeat series of adventures when he says the words “in cannis corpus transmute,” meaning “shift in the dog’s body.”
Back in 1957, the black-and-white movie was a big success for Disney and it planted the seeds for more live action movies to be made by the studio. Dogs were making their mark in the Disney catalog.
Voiced by Rod Taylor and Cate Bauer, the animated canine couple of Pongo and Perdita are the dog parents in the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians, released in 1961. When the evil Cruella De Vil has the beautiful Dalmatian puppies kidnapped in order to make fur coats out of their hides, a long rescue mission follows. The hunt becomes a race to save not just the original puppies but many others kidnapped from other sources.
Adapted from Dodie Smith’s novel of the same name, the story is the 17th in a long line of animated movies made by Disney and released by Buena Vista Distribution. The lower production costs of the movie and its great financial success helped rejuvenate a struggling Disney in 1961. Dogs to the rescue!
The Incredible Journey
Bodger the Bull Terrier, Luath the Labrador Retriever and Tao the Siamese cat travel over 250 miles and encounter many challenges in order to find their way home to their people. Though perhaps not as easily and immediately recognized by name as other Disney movie dogs, The Incredible Journey is an amazing story of loyalty, persistence and love between humans and their pets.
The movie was remade in 1993 by Disney and was released under the title Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. The touching tale really epitomizes the kind of bond dogs and cats have with the people who make them part of their families and continues to appeal to pet lovers everywhere with its heartwarming and hopeful message.
Lady and the Tramp
Released in 1955, Lady and the Tramp is based on the short story Happy Dan, The Whistling Dog written by Ward Greene. The canine love story features a stray mutt named Tramp and the refined Lady, an American Cocker Spaniel who comes from a more socially privileged lifestyle. Touching on social issues and crossing class barriers, the two dogs and their struggles to find acceptance symbolize the strength and purity of honest love. Who doesn’t remember the iconic scene showing the dogs sharing a plate of spaghetti?
Although these five films are only a smattering of the now vast and continually growing catalog of animated and live action dogs (and cats), in the Disney repertoire, it proves that the special bond between man and animal is a story worth telling and retelling.
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch