101 Dalmatians / Rover Dangerfield

Earlier this year I did a week of rock ’n roll related animated features, including Don Bluth’s ROCK-A-DOODLE, which was released on August 2, 1991 in the U.K. (though not until the following April in the U.S.). In that review I talked about Disney struggling in the ‘80s, and Bluth disagreeing with their direction and splintering off to try to recapture the old Walt magic, doing a pretty good job for a while but then completely losing the plot by that time, when he made that completely befuddling movie about a farm rooster exiled to animal Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, Disney was finally getting their shit together, in a way that reinvigorated the entire American animation industry. It kicked off in the summer of ’88, when Robert Zemeckis and Richard Williams’ love letter to animation history WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT was a giant hit with adults as much as kids. Then in ’89 THE LITTLE MERMAID perfected the musical fairy tale formula that Disney and its rivals would attempt to recapture for the rest of the decade. (A similar thing was happening on TV, with every network trying to make prime time cartoons in the wake of The Simpsons. Even the cartoons made for younger audiences were beginning to be more creative and less disposable: Nickelodeon debuted Doug, Rugrats and The Ren & Stimpy Show on August 11th.)

I personally think Disney’s main 1990 release THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER is one of the best of that era, but at the time everybody wanted a musical, and it was considered a flop. In ’91 they turned that around with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which would earn a historic best picture nomination, cementing the newly elevated status of animated features in American pop culture. They achieved that partly by releasing it in November, which left them room on the schedule to re-releases one of “WALT DISNEY’S CLASSIC”s in the summer.

ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (as it was spelled when it originally arrived in 1961) holds a unique place in the company’s history. Like THE LITTLE MERMAID, it was a success that came after a time of turmoil. The beautiful (but somewhat dull) SLEEPING BEAUTY had been an expensive financial disappointment, and there was talk of closing down the animation studio. They decided instead to try making a movie where they Xerox the animators’ pencil drawings directly onto cels, an Ub-Iwerks-invented process they’d used for a scene in SLEEPING BEAUTY. By eliminating the step of inking they lowered production costs immensely, and also made it more possible to animate the important detail of the dogs’ many spots.

I think there are good and bad things about the Xeroxing. In general I prefer the clean crispness of ink lines. But in conjunction with DALMATIANS’ stylish backgrounds it really gives the movie a fresh, dare I say hip feel compared to previous Disney movies. And that’s appropriate for their first ever movie taking place in the then-present. I think there’s probly also something to be said for getting to see the animator’s actual lines. Sure, an inker might’ve perfected it, but sometimes the original drawing has an energy that just can’t be re-created.

(Walt Disney hated the look of the movie and didn’t want art director Ken Anderson to do any more, but acknowledged some kind of forgiveness shortly before his death in 1966.)

Another really innovative technical feat is the way they animated the vehicles. This is a 1961 movie with three-dimensional car shots comparable to ones made now with computer assistance. They did it by filming model cars with thick lines drawn onto the edges, Xeroxing the footage onto cels and painting over them. It looks great!

Usually when you see images from this it’s either Cruella or a bunch of dogs. So I wanted to share some screengrabs of the scenery to remind you how purdy this movie is:

I can go on about how cool the movie looks, but not as long about the story, which is pretty simple. Honestly I had mostly forgotten, even though I’ve seen it a few times and am aware of the live action version and the live action version sequel and the DTV animated sequel and the animated TV series and the live action CRUELLA prequel. But, you know, a man and woman meet while walking their Dalmatians in the park. The humans, Roger and Anita, fall in love and get married, and their dogs Pongo and Perdita do too, and have 15 puppies.

Anita has an obnoxious “dearly devoted old schoolmate” named Cruella de Vil who comes over and annoys them, and gets mad when they won’t sell her the puppies. Months later two crooks hired by Cruella steal the puppies. Roger suspects what happened but can’t prove anything, so the canine community gets together to take care of this shit. They use The Twilight Bark – a system of barking the 411 and passing it on across the country – to put out an “all dog alert.” Basically an Amber Alert. The sheepdog Colonel and his cat friend Sgt. Tibbs hear the alert and put two and two together that they heard puppies barking at the old de Vil place. So word gets back to Pongo and Perdy, they make a trek to get there, find that there are actually 84 other Dalmatian puppies along with theirs and that they’re gonna get turned into coats, so they help them escape and try to get home, etc.

Of course the main thing we all remember is Cruella, one of the all time great Disney villains. She’s a monster because she’s up for skinning puppies, but also she’s got kind of a lovable GREY GARDENS meets drag queen vibe to her, with her two-tone hair, jagged cheekbones and giant, ridiculous fur coat constantly sliding down her heroin junkie lookin shoulders as she storms in saying, “Dahling, how are you!,” blowing putrid green smoke in Anita’s face, putting out a cigarette in a cupcake and running back out the door. She’s so evil that she reads about the tragic dognapping in the newspaper (while smoking and wearing a fur coat in bed) and laughs at how Roger looks in the picture. She was animated by Marc Davis, the genius who also designed the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean rides.

One thing about being a contemporary story is that for the first time Disney animators got to create a TV show within a Disney movie, as the puppies watch a western starring a dog named Thunder. There’s also a game show called Guess My Crime. And they got to animate animation-within-animation in the form of a dog food commercial. I like that they differentiate the animation on TV from the animation around it by doing it in a limited UPA sort of style.

A nice touch that makes this different from most Disney musicals is that the two songs are worked in via Roger being an out-of-work songwriter. He sings them at home, playing piano and sometimes trumpet. And the cleverest part is that the famous one, “Cruella de Vil,” is not sung in sincerity – Roger improvises it to get a rise out of Anita because Cruella has just shown up at the door. He dances around singing about the awfulness of their visitor and making faces at his wife to tease her. It’s the only weapon he has against Cruella, who thinks he’s a loser and makes fun of his dream of making music.

I kinda like smartass pipe-smoking jazz nerd Roger. I wonder if he ever considered getting an Aristocat instead of a dog? He’s got some pretty outdated attitudes though, the way he shakes Pongo’s paw while the puppies are being born in the other room, and says, “Why, you old rascal!” He’s just so proud of his dog’s insemination.

More blatantly sexist: the truck driver who almost gets run off the road by Cruella. Obviously he’s the victim in this scenario but still, “Crazy woman driver,” huh? Why did you feel it was important to specify the gender there, pal? Are you prepared to defend that choice? Good job winning that FURY ROAD type driving battle, though, leaving Cruella’s car in pieces. Respect.

In the pre-DVD days of 1991 a reissue of a “WALT DISNEY’S CLASSIC” could sell alot of tickets. 101 DALMATIANS had already been re-released in 1969, 1979 and 1985. On this opening weekend of July 12th it came in #2 at the box office, below T2, but above the week’s other new releases, BOYZ N THE HOOD, POINT BREAK and REGARDING HENRY. It stayed in theaters for 24 weeks and made more than $60 million, surpassing SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS [sic] as the biggest animated movie of all time, adjusted for inflation (before the summer it had been #6). An August 6 Baltimore Sun article declared, “She may not match the form-changing cyborg of Terminator 2: Judgment Day for pure evil, but Cruella, the villain of Disney’s 30-year-old 101 Dalmatians, is proving to be an astonishingly strong box-office draw this summer. 101 Dalmatians is, in fact, the biggest surprise hit of the season for Hollywood.”

It was in week 3 – August 2, 1991 – that DALMATIANS faced competition from a brand new animated feature starring dogs. ROVER DANGERFIELD was distributed by Warner Brothers, and produced by Hyperion Animation, the studio behind THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER (1987), that most relatable story about a boy devastated by his family deciding they don’t need their old toaster.

ROVER DANGERFIELD is the movie that dares to ask the question “What if Rodney Dangerfield was a dog instead of a human and therefore his name was Rover Dangerfield instead of Rodney Dangerfield?” According to Cartoon Research this incredible concept was devised by Harold Ramis (MEN’S GHOSTBUSTERS) around the time he wrote Dangerfield’s BACK TO SCHOOL. Ramis receives a co-“Story Developed By” credit, but sued Dangerfield because he allegedly wasn’t paid and because it says “Based On An Idea By RODNEY DANGERFIELD.”

If Ramis indeed came up with the idea that there should be a dog version of Rodney Dangerfield named Rover Dangerfield, then it is obviously his greatest creation and legacy, and that in itself makes it worth doing. But a man or woman should always be paid for their labor. I wonder if in retrospect Ramis wished he had never even told Rodney Dangerfield that he should do a movie called ROVER DANGERFIELD. He could’ve reworked the idea to do without him. In a way that would be an even stronger premise: what if a dog wasn’t Rodney Dangerfield?

I want to be clear about Rover Dangerfield here. Rover Dangerfield is not Rodney Dangerfield’s dog, or a dog that happens to be similar to Rodney Dangerfield in a world where Rodney Dangerfield exists. As far as we know, there is no Rodney in this plane of existence. Only Rover. But it’s also not like ROCK-A-DOODLE, where live action humans exist in one world but animated farm animals live in another one where animals have cities and cars and stuff. This is a world ruled by humans.

After a zoom through a digitally assisted three-dimensional desert landscape (very much like the opening of THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER) the movie opens with the same gag as DALMATIANS: our lead character is narrating, and we look at a human as if that’s whose voice we’re hearing, but then it pans down to the dog. As if we were gonna believe this guy talked like Rodney Dangerfield!

Rover is in an alley with the strays playing dice for bones and hitting on two pink poodles in pearl necklaces. He actually makes fun of a Dalmatian who opts out of the game. “Hey, stick around! We’ll play connect the dots!”

Dangerfield is credited as sole screenwriter. It definitely seems like he wrote all the wisecracks, but the story about him getting stranded on a farm and falling in love seems like standard cartoon bullshit. This could be a matter of Dangerfield just trying to write what he figures you’re supposed to for a cartoon, or of normal cartoon hacks rewriting it in storyboards. Part of the mystery of the movie is that, at least according to this Film School Rejects article, it was originally announced as an R-rated film to be released in 1988, when BACK TO SCHOOL was still fresh in people’s memories. By the time it came out 3 years later it was rated G.

It definitely wouldn’t get that today! Rover lives in Las Vegas, he walks around in casinos, his owner is a showgirl named Connie (Shawn Southwick, MONACO FOREVER) who he visits in a dressing room surrounded by her partially clothed co-workers (who all look like the Little Mermaid’s sisters).

Rover hates Connie’s chain-smoking boyfriend Rocky (Sal Landi, BACK TO BACK), who he implies is a drunk and who seems like it when he stumbles in after forgetting her birthday. His design and archaic style of macho swagger would fit right into a Ralph Bakshi movie.

Although Rocky can’t hear Rover’s voice and doesn’t know he has human-like feelings he does feud with him. Rocky was trying to do some sort of deal with gangsters when Rover looked into a skylight and spooked them. So he puts Rover in a bag and throws him off the Hoover Dam.

So it’s crazy that it’s rated G, and it’s unclear who the audience is supposed to be, but I don’t get the impression it was produced as an adult movie and then cut. Except maybe in the part where Rover wakes up wearing sunglasses and it implies a night of drinking and/or drugs that we never saw. “Ooh, what a night. Boy, I’ll never do that again,” he says, before hallucinating ripples on the tiled floor and almost throwing up.

Anyway, some fishermen find him still alive in that bag and they bring him back to their farm (location unclear, but they “drove all night” to get there). In their truck they’re listening to “Respect” by Aretha Franklin because, do you get it, he don’t get no respect.

Most of the movie is on the farm, and is less weird, more normal cartoon animal business. Rover is loved by a towheaded, bulbous-Converse-wearing farm boy named Danny (Dana Hill, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION), meets various farm animals, is scared by wolves, is not into playing fetch, tries out being a sheepdog. One part that makes it a very hard G movie is when the wolves kill the rooster (an actual character!) and Rover plays with the body pretending he’s still alive and then gets dragged into the woods to be shot. The gun is loaded and pointed at him but he’s saved when the wolves try to maul Danny’s dad.

By the way, there are songs – five of them! – written and sung by Dangerfield. When Rover meets his dream dog Daisy (Susan Boyd, later in THE MASK) he sings a little song about “I’d give up a bone for you!” And there’s a whole number about how he’s not gonna pee on a Christmas tree. (It’s called “I’ll Never Do It On a Christmas Tree.”) But also there’s a very sincere ballad where he looks up at the sky singing about FOMO: “Somewhere there’s a good time, I tell you it’s not fair, somewhere there’s a party, oh how I wish I was there.”

There is some clear overlap here with DOC HOLLYWOOD – the city dog who comes to the farm, falls in love, goes back home, feels empty, decides to come back. I don’t have a problem admitting that it’s a worse movie than DOC HOLLYWOOD, but is it stupid to say they handle that theme with a little more nuance? Yeah, probly. But I like that they acknowledge that yes, there are nice things about living on the farm, but also his city (Sin City!) is fun and it makes sense to miss it and Connie. When he comes back it’s because he realizes he’ll be happier with Daisy, not because he’s rejecting or disavowing Las Vegas life.

As in DALMATIANS and so many other animal movies, the conceit is that we hear the animals speaking English and sometimes see them standing upright or doing other human-like things, but the humans in the story can’t understand them and just see them as ordinary animals. A small, subtle addition to this is that Rover wears (and tugs on) a tie just like Rodney, but when the fishing guys find him in the water they look at the tie and say his name is Rover. So to humans it must just be a collar.

An insignificant thing this has in common with DALMATIANS is scenes of a dog watching TV. In this case you can’t really make out the screen but you can hear the sound from Daffy Duck cartoons.

The animation is a mixed bag. They’re definitely trying – there are shots with camera rotations and stuff. The humans are pretty detailed. It’s smoother and more sophisticated than a TV cartoon. But it doesn’t have an overall appealing aesthetic and – as there were likely many newcomers learning on the job – quality varies from scene to scene. Connie and Rocky are often well animated, and there’s a shot where the animator didn’t care about context, because he or she gives Connie and Rocky a passionate kiss like the cover of a romance novel even though we’re supposed to adore sweetheart Connie and wonder what she sees in this shitbag who she clearly adores here.

I do not think this is a good movie, but there are two things that made it watchable. One is just my fascination with the unanswerable question of what they were going for and how they ended up with this. And the second is that I do think he has some pretty funny lines, like telling a sheepdog “Eh, what’re ya workin so hard for? It don’t mean nothin. Let me tell you somethin. It’s who you know!” Or taunting the wolves with various three little pigs and Little Red Riding Hood references. Hearing Dangerfield’s voice telling Dangerfield jokes is a redeeming quality. But pretending we should be moved by a Rodney Dangerfield dog falling in love with a collie is a little much.

Anyway, the most important thing is that when he comes back he goes into the barn and there are a bunch of puppies that each look exactly like him or Daisy. So I think we should all be thankful this wasn’t R-rated so we didn’t have to see Rover Dangerfield fuck.

There are two credited directors, both of whom also did storyboards, character designs and character animation. Jim George had been an effects animator on Disney’s THE RESCUERS and Bluth’s Banjo the Woodpile Cat. After this he returned to Disney as a character designer for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and then did the same for, uh, FOODFIGHT!. The other director, Bob Seeley, has no credits before this and his only other directing is for some TV thing called Channel Umptee-3.

I said earlier that ROVER DANGERFIELD was competition for the re-release of 101 DALMATIANS. That was a huge exaggeration. I actually couldn’t find any box office information for it, but it didn’t make it into the top 12 on its opening weekend, so I don’t think it was released nation wide. That Film School Rejects article quotes Dangerfield’s autobiography, where he wrote, “I thought it was a funny movie, but I had some trouble with the studio, and they buried it like a bone.”


Dangerfield’s next movie was LADYBUGS, a family film that was actually seen by some people. And after that it was NATURAL BORN KILLERS, in one of the parts I liked. He returned to animation voicing for a cameo in CASPER, two episodes of The Simpsons, a Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and a Nickelodeon movie called THE ELECTRIC PIPER. And he voiced a live action animal, “Bandit the Rabbit,” in RUSTY: A DOG’S TALE.

One of the character animators, Jeff Smith, started publishing his independent comic book Bone that year. It ran until 2004, a cult phenomenon that has repeatedly almost been made into a series or movie. (Based on his drawing style I suspect he did some of those Connie and Rocky shots, but that’s pure speculation.)

In 1992 Hyperion released a better-received comedian-based animated feature, BEBE’S KIDS, based on the routines by the late Robin Harris.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 12th, 2021 at 10:46 am and is filed under Reviews, Cartoons and Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

41 Responses to “101 Dalmatians / Rover Dangerfield”

  1. no kidding ROVER DANGERFIELD is the movie that Jeff Smith famously quit animation for to make BONE? I’d always wondered if it was just distaste with animation in general or a specific project that made him say, “ah, enough of this shit.”

  2. The first SIMPSONS he did was quite funny. It’s too bad he never got a regular spot for something animated like FAMILY GUY. I think I’m going to watch more animated stuff soon, including the classics because it’s been so long or I just never watched them as close as you did in this instance Vern. Still hope you’re interested in doing PINK FLOYD THE WALL sometime soon, since it fits right in with those rock movies you did earlier.

    Funny you bringing up Nickelodeon starting all those shows in 91. There’s a great documentary on Hulu, THE ORANGE YEARS, about the channel and all of the now-classic shows they had in the early/mid-90’s. At the time I remember Disney Channel being premium like HBO, and Nick being basic cable so I have more memories of those shows. Watching it as I did a few months ago, those memories came flooding back in dramatic fashion because it touched something deep in my memory. I’m living in my old hometown again, so that clearly plays a part in this too. But yeah, the pure unadulterated shock that nostalgia can be is something else.

  3. My family were fans of ROVER DANGERFIELD. I got it on VHS second hand in the early 00s after seeing Dangerfield for the first time in CADDYSHACK (and finding him one of the few good parts TBH), my mum and I enjoyed it enough that we later had a bigger family screening which IIRC included my grandparents and auntie and uncle. I think the VHS is still in the family home, in the “to be transferred to DVD” pile next to the DVD recorded machine that never worked properly (it never came out on DVD in the UK). Rover has since appeared in the background of the not-great recent Looney Tunes show WABBIT (or maybe it was the reboot of WABBIT, NEW LOONEY TUNES) and, surprise surprise, FAMILY GUY, which may break his contract with Warner Bros, so the fanbase may reach all the way into double digits!

  4. Two things that always bothered me about 101 DALMATIANS:

    1) Cruella gets away with it in the end. She has a car accident, but survives unharmed and her big punishment is that she can’t make her coat. The live action version with Glenn Close really improves in that regard, by putting her, in best 90s John Hughes post-HOME ALONE style, through some well deserved shit and then have her arrested.
    2) That Cruella song becomes a hit in the end and it does feel weird that someone could make a song about a real existing person, painting her as the worst ever (true or not) and doesn’t even get sued. Even the guy who beat up Eminem as a kid dragged him in front of a court, after made a song about him.

    Rodney Dangerfield is unknown here in Germany. I mean, he popped up in movies and TV shows and because he had this memorable face, he is a bit of an “That guy” actor, but he never really broke out, so with him not being a big marketing point, his cartoon was released as ROVER & DAISY here. I don’t know if it even got a theatrical release. The name mostly rang a bell from seing the VHS covers back in the days. A few years ago I caught bits of it on TV, not knowing about it being a Rodney Dangerfield movie, and was extremely irritated by the design and animation of its protagonist, which often looked liked they had rotoscoped a human with most bizarre results.

  5. I have a four year old who is absolutely obsessed with dogs, and her two favorite movies are 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp. I rarely have the time to sit down and choose whatever movie I want to watch by myself anymore, but it has been fun to rewatch some of those Disney classics, and they’re so much better than I remember them being. As an adult I can appreciate the animation in a way I couldn’t when I was younger. These are literally films that couldn’t be made today. The film that absolutely blew me away was Bambi, which is absolutely gorgeous from beginning to end.

    But 101 Dalmatians is so damn good. It’s incredible that they took this limitation–the financial necessity to xerox their lines–and married it to these modernist backgrounds and designs that make sense for the scratchy lines xeroxing produced. None of their films from the 60s and 70s were able to look as good as 101 Dalmatians (although I love plenty of their movies from this era).

    My favorite sequence in the film is the twilight bark, which is such a beautiful representation of all these animals banding together to help save these lost puppies. This took new resonance with me during the pandemic, because I realized that people are refusing to put on a mask or get a simple vaccine to help protect family, neighbors, and children. And that sense of duty occurs throughout the film, from the Colonel and Sgt. Tibbs helping out Pongo and Perdita to the cows that feed and shelter the puppies to the nameless black lab that directs them to the truck that will take them back to London. There’s no reason for these animals to help out except for the fact that it’s the right thing to do. It’s a beautiful lesson for anyone, but it’s never heavy handed.

    101 Dalmatians was the hit Disney animation needed at the time, but from what I’ve read, the subsequent films struggled, which is why they look so cheap. There were several more times where the animation studio was on the line. The big money makers were the cheaply produced live action movies like The Shaggy D.A., the Nutty Professor, or That Darn Cat. It’s absolutely crazy to think about what makes money and what actually endures in film.

  6. CJ – I don’t know if this helps any, but in the direct to video animated sequel, 101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure, Cruella goes to jail for what she does, but of course she’s released and immediately goes back to a life of crime.

    The worst 101 Dalmatians related film is without a doubt 102 Dalmatians, the live action sequel to the 90s remake. It’s one of the absolute most toxic, regressive films I’ve ever seen. The basic premise seems to be that if you release people from jail, they’ll just commit more crimes, and the mentally ill should be mocked and humilated.

  7. I remember seeing trailers in theaters and I could’ve sworn it played locally for at least a week.

  8. Vern, I can’t tell if it’s a subtle joke I’m not getting, but just letting you know that Dalmatians is misspelled in the Title (and URL)

  9. Thank you, S. I’m just an idiot and spell it wrong every time, but the title bar doesn’t have spell check.

  10. Haha I wasn’t sure cause then early on you say “ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (as it was spelled when it originally arrived in 1961)” and I had to double-check that the spelling of Dalmatians hadn’t changed since then or something

  11. My mum, a huge vintage Disney fan, said the Close 101 DALMATIANS film looked like a ridiculously redundant waste of time and money, or maybe words similar to that but that a 9 year old would understand, when it came out (a woman ahead of her time), and as she was my ride and chief accomplice to most or all cinema trips at the time I knew there would be no chance of me seeing it; she’d have taken me if I’d asked I’m sure, but asking someone if you can see a film knowing they don’t respect it? How undignified! And it wasn’t that I really wanted to see the film, or disagreed with her. But then all of my friends saw it and it had what probably wan’t but seemed like the most aggressive kid-targeted marketing campaign of my young life (“who is this Glen Close person they mention at the top of all the adverts?” I thought), so I felt like I was missing out big time. But I got over it, especially when I saw bits on TV in later years and realised I hadn’t missed out on much.

    Still, people remember it, because you know Disney wished it had Jason Scott-Lee JUNGLE BOOKed itself into obscurity so they could have rolled out another remake off their conveyor belt rather than having to come up with that CRUELLA thing.

    101 DALMATIANS: THE NOVEL: THE ANIMATED FILM: THE LIVE ACTION FILM: THE SERIES was cute, not appointment TV even at that age, but better than JUNGLE CUBS at least. 101 DALMATIAN STREET, despite a cute art style, is one of those cartoons you’ll want off your lawn.

  12. RBatty: I accept that.

    PacMan: The 90s live action version is really not good. It lives from Glenn Close mega acting, but just like everything John Hughes did in the 90s, it’s pretty much another HOME ALONE remake, where a bunch of dumb criminals (Here: Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams as Cruella’s sidekicks) fall on their asses a lot. But as mentioned before, that leads to Cruella getting a well deserved punishment. (I remember Close talking about how she insisted on doing as many stunts as possible, so that they could actually show her face and the kids in the audience know that it’s really Cruella. That’s pretty cool from her IMO.)

  13. CJ, Roger Dangerfield is also completely unknown here, and the cartoon was released as HOMERE, LE ROI DES CABOTS (Homer, King of Mutts). The dog was voiced by the guy who usually does the French dubbing for Stanley Tucci, Patrick Bauchau, and Owl in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons.

  14. Rover Dangerfield was probably the review I was most hoping for/anticipating in this series– thanks, Vern! I had this one taped off of a TV broadcast as a kid and revisited it some years back. It doesn’t really hold up, but it was a fun hit of nostalgia.

  15. Completely random, but I found a German TV announcement for ROVER on YouTube. There is absolutely nothing special about it, other that someone decided to upload it.

    Also Rover is voiced by Wolfgang Völz, who was the usual German dubbing voice of Dangerfield, but also of Mel Brooks and of course he also dubbed him in LIFE STINKS.

  16. I remember the live action Glenn Close Dalmatians being well received at the time, and Rotten Tomatoes seems to confirm this. But having sat through the whole thing, it’s pretty terrible. Glenn Close is really hamming it up, but it’s not an enjoyable performance in the least. But, again, I think it was lauded at the time. America was in the midst of Glenn Close mania. And it bugs me to no end that Roger goes from being a struggling musician to a video game designer.

    It probably surprises no one that 102 Dalmatians is awful for any number of reasons. It starts off, and you think it can’t get worse than Ioan Gruffud wearing a heavy winter coat with cargo shorts, but somehow it does. Cruella DeVil is released from jail, but her parole officer (who’s also Gruffud’s love interest) is convinced that she’s going to break the law again. It’s sending the message that people don’t deserve a second chance. But what’s worse is that the film suggests that maybe DeVil actually has reformed. The only reason she goes back to breaking the law is because she has a mental break down.

    And the film never reflects on the fact that maybe if this woman had the proper access to mental health, she would maybe live a decent life. By the end of the film, she’s somehow baked into a cake and then humiliated by all the Dalmatians who squirt frosting on her in a scene that has a subtext of sexual humiliation. You would think the filmmakers would have stopped to think, “Maybe we shouldn’t suggest that our villain is getting bukkaked by all these Dalmatians,” but apparently they didn’t. The scene reminded me a lot of The Walk of Atonement from Game of Thrones.

  17. Let’s be honest, back then society fucking loved that HOME ALONE shit. There is a reason why so much of that suddenly appeared, not just in terms of comedies about bratty children, but also films about burglars falling victim to family friendly hardcore slapstick violence, so this, paired with a – I have to disagree here – great performance by Close, led of course to lots of goodwill from the critics.

    And it’s quite interesting who all got hit in the head and kicked in the ass in the post HOME ALONE climate. Many acclaimed character actors, like Close, Hugh Laurie, Christopher Lloyd got it from DENNIS THE MENACE (Written by John Hughes), Clancy Brown and Ted Levine got it in FLUBBER (written by John Hughes), Joe Pantoliano and Joe Mantegna in BABY’S DAY OUT (written by John Hughes) and while I can’t remember how far it went in the actual movie, I think “John Goodman is getting HOME ALONE’d by little fantasy creatures” was the big selling point of THE BORROWERS (written by John Hughes [No, just kidding, he had nothing to do with it]).

  18. Did society love it or was it just kids? And after the first two HOME ALONEses did we really love it, or were there just not that many good kids movies in the 90s actually? I know where I stood on that back then, but I was weird.

    Two things I remember from HOME ALONE-mania:
    1) My family all grumbled through a viewing of it when I was about 5. Despite this my mum took me to see LOST IN NEW YORK, which I don’t recall clamouring or asking to see. What she didn’t take me to see, despite her afformentioned fandom and even a brief time working in their London offices in the late 70s, was any Disney movie between RESCUERS DOWN UNDER and HERCULES. But she did take me to see MR NANNY and TOM & JERRY: THEY TALK NOW? THEY TALK NOW. I’m not mad, just baffled. And to be fair it was my choice to see SUPER MARIO BROS rather than JURASSIC PARK, so I’m not blameless here. She also told me years later that she had considered taking me to the truly bizarre FELIX THE CAT movie as my first movie, which would have been a heck of a boast had it happened.
    2) Watching the start of it at a friend’s house on VHS when I was waiting to be picked up, and he said that the film was “I like this but it’s different from, you know, Tweetie Pie, or something like that”, which was 5 year old speak for “it’s a live action film”.

  19. “ were there just not that many good kids movies in the 90s actually?”

    I think the unwarranted nostalgia for pablum like SPACE JAM and HOCUS POCUS—not to mention the deep and inexplicable-to-me love of Brendan Fraser, who seems like a solid dude and I’m happy he’s doing better and all but let’s be frank: he never made a movie that’s both good and popular in his life—proves this to be true. The millennials got stuck with a particularly lame crop of childhood favorites and now the rest of us are stuck living through their even lamer reunion tours.

  20. As a millennial who was a kid in the ’90s– my favorite movies were Batman ’89, Ghostbusters I and II, and the RoboCop TV cut. (And I guess those are still my favorite movies, oops.) But I also saw most of the kid/family stuff coming out at the time and I watched Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network all day. (Back then Cartoon Network didn’t have much original material, so it was a good education in the cartoons of the ’40s through the ’80s.)

    It has been a long time since I’ve seen most of these, but I liked Home Alone, Hook, Aladdin, Nightmare Before Christmas, Jumanji, Babe, Toy Story, Cool Runnings (it was PG, so it counts), the Mighty Ducks, Angels in the Outfield, The Sandlot, Honey I Shrunk and then also Blew Up the Kid(s), Disney’s Hercules, Lion King, Jingle All the Way, etc. And I still have Free Willy and Little Big League on VHS, but I can’t remember a thing about them.

    And while I can’t say Space Jam is a good movie, I just rewatched it for the first time since it came out, and it is a fascinating piece of film history. Either the most cynical movie ever made, the beginning of the slippery slope that led to our current age of content over art– or it’s a brilliant meta-treatise on the earliest days of late-stage capitalism.

    I think, though, that it is only natural to think the stuff you liked as a kid is better than the stuff kids like now. Everyone has a 10-15 year window of youth that they look back on fondly, and the nature of the entertainment industry means those kids grow up to be producers who make reboots or revivals of the stuff they liked as kids. We’re getting sequels or revitalizations of Michael Keaton’s Batman, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, even Turner & Hooch! The people developing movies and TV are my age now, but I fear it’s become a monkey’s paw situation.

  21. Out of nowhere a slam against Brendan Fraser. I can’t speak to his popularity to 90s kids because I was only a kid (legally speaking) for the first couple years of the 90s but I admit to liking him and several of his movies. I will admit that some I like despite understanding they aren’t the best, but I don’t think they’re the worst, either. ENCINO MAN is one of those treasured movie memories I have of going to a movie with zero expectations and having a blast. I think I’d say his “best” movie is BLAST FROM THE PAST, which stating something like a movie to be empirically the best is ridiculous, but that’s my opinion. The best thing he’s ever done was probably Scrubs.

  22. I admit that my dislike of Brendan Fraser has become unfashionable. But I hated the kind of movies he made back then and I don’t like them any better now, so I’m sticking with it. If the current Brendanaissance produces anything that changes my mind I will be happy to admit it.

    Bill: I agree that it can be easy to see your own childhood with rose-colored glasses, but I actually think the kids that came after the millennials had it better than I did. They have an embarrassment of riches that will age with them. Lucky fucks. So it’s not a “you kids these days” thing. I just think that particular era of family/kids entertainment was weak.

  23. I think no one was better at reacting to CGI than Fraser. Between the Mummys, Looney Tunes and Journey, the man sold it in a way I wish the Marvel actors could.

    My favorite Fraser is School Ties. I dig George of the Jungle and With Honors too. I remember Blast from the Past being good too but I need to revisit.

  24. “he never made a movie that’s both good and popular in his life”

    Gonna call BS on this type of Hipster Snark which mandates one needs to shit on a Popular Choice.

    You can debate on their “Good”-ness but ENCINO MAN, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, THE MUMMY, THE MUMMY RETURNS, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH were all popular. Even box-office disappointments like LOONEY TUNES BACK IN ACTION & MUMMY TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR benefited from Fraser’s genial screen presence and immensely likeable charisma.

    Bring on the Brendanaissance! I’ll be there

  25. One thing that film snobs have not yet realized is the enormous cultural importance of kid’s or kid-friendly films. They always talk as if that is the absolute lowest thing a film can be, when in fact those are the films with the greatest influence and staying power. Cartoons, sci-fi/fantasy, horror, comedy and action seem to end up being more timeless than “adult” dramas.

    Those films’ stories and characters shape young minds, their values, their aesthetic, their sense of humor, etc. and establish a shared culture with others of their age group. Or at least it has been so since the advent of home video in the 1980s.

    And those kids grow up into adults who cherish what those stories and characters instilled in them. How many times has a critically derided or overlooked movie turned out to be a culture-defining cult classic 20 years later, simply because so many impressionable kids took it to their heart, and carried it with them into adulthood, possibly sharing it with their own kids?

    HOCUS POCUS seems to have become one of those, as Mr. M pointed out. STAR WARS was a fun movie at the time but who would have guessed how much people would still be talking about it almost half a century later?

    A really big one with the millennials (since we’re talking about the Brendanator) is 1999’s THE MUMMY. When it first came out it seemed to be regarded as a symbol of everything wrong with CGI-era Hollywood, but it seems to carry a lot of cultural weight now. You may have seen that meme showing photos of the male and female leads, with the caption “My sexual orientation is the cast of The Mummy”. I also once read an op-ed piece celebrating how feminist it is. It might not be their STAR WARS but it seems to at least be their GOONIES or GHOSTBUSTERS.

    Eli Roth (or technically Tarantino) had a great quote. Roth was talking about how he once lamented to Tarantino that his latest horror movie had bombed. He described Tarantino’s response: “You’re not making a movie for the box office today. You’re making a movie for a sleepover 15 years from now!”

  26. Mr. M: “I just think that particular era of family/kids entertainment was weak.”

    Maybe another way to look at it is that the 1990s was an era that put more emphasis on adult-oriented dramas (serious or indie-influenced or both), whether FORREST GUMP or PULP FICTION or AMERICAN BEAUTY or FIGHT CLUB etc.

    So maybe the 1990s were the reverse of the 1980s, which was when youth-friendly genre films seemed to capture the zeitgeist more than serious adult dramas.

  27. I don’t get Brendan either. I can’t remember if he was good in GODS & MONSTERS or if it was just cool that he was in a good movie. My opinions on the MUMMY movies as far as whether or not they are terrible, whether or not he delivers his lines as if he understands what they mean, and whether or not the third one is easily the best Fraser one but not half as good as the Tom Cruise one have already gotten me on the no-fly list, so I will leave them up to the imagination, even though I am right.

    I genuinely liked him in NO SUDDEN MOVE though. Didn’t know he would be in it or what he would look like, so it was a cool surprise.

  28. I’m not sure if the 90s were the decade of the “adult-oriented drama”. That seemed to be more a 70s thing, were something like KRAMER VS KRAMER could become a box office smash. I remember the 90s more as a Yin/Yang of big, VFX filled spectacle (ARMAGEDDON, JURASSIC PARK, INDEPENDENCE DAY, TWISTER, GODZILLA, EPISODE 1, etc) and small, dialogue heavy indie films, that could be anything from absurdist comedy to violent gangster film.

  29. Well, let’s consider what genuinely great kids/family movies came out in the ’90s. I would include BABE and its sequel, TOY STORY, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, THE IRON GIANT, THE WITCHES, and at least a couple of the Disney animated movies.

    I’m sure there are other good ones. I like HARRIET THE SPY. But I think as someone who was in my teens and twenties during the decade just the whole style and vibe of most of the live action stuff meant for kids at that time comes across as aggressively ugly and cheesy to me, and not with the same nostalgia an ’80s equivalent might have. I googled “kids movies of the 90s” and I get Tim Allen with an arrow in his mouth, a bunch of Disney baseball and football comedies, FLUBBER. The same search for the ’80s includes WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, E.T., WILLOW, RETURN TO OZ, PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, THE DARK CRYSTAL, THE SECRET OF NIMH, POPEYE, LEGEND (does that really count?), KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE, THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, THE NEVERENDING STORY… maybe the secret was that fantasy movies were more popular than little league comedies at that time?

    I watched HOCUS POCUS for the first (and only) time last Halloween hoping to understand how it has become such a big thing, and I guess in some ways it was better than what I assumed at the time, but I really couldn’t take it. I really think you have to have grown up on a certain type of entertainment from that era for your brain to be open to that style. Mine definitely rejects it.

    THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS has some overlap in content and was released in the same year by the same company, and I can and do watch that over and over again. But it’s coming from a different planet artistically.

  30. Let’s not pretend that everything was good in the 80s. For every PEE-WEE or NEVERENDING STORY, you had 10 MAC & MEs or GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIEs. And that’s just the stuff that people remember!

  31. Yeah, of course. But I could only come up with half a dozen on that level from the ’90s. What would you suggest?

    (And for the record there is only one movie in existence like GARBAGE PAIL KIDS: THE MOVIE, but I know what you mean.)

  32. Nah, I’m not saying that the 80s weren’t a great decade for family oriented entertainment or that that stuff didn’t get much blander in the 90s (I guess because HOME ALONE showed the studios that you can break box office records without big effect heavy fantasy scenarious that were produced or at least inspired by Spielberg/Lucas), but thanks to the last few years of hollow commercialized nostalgiaturbation, I refuse to pretend that the 80s were that perfect. I would say the good to bad movie ratio was pretty much the same, but several of the good movies were much better.

  33. Our GHOSTBUSTERS was MEN IN BLACK, thank you very much. Or come to think of it it was kind of just GHOSTBUSTERS, that was still very popular here until about 1995 (or at least it was as a “brand” factoring in the cartoon, toys, comics etc), don’t know how it was in America. I pitty the poor year or so of kids whose GHOSTBUSTERS was EVOLUTION.

    GOONIES is probably about right for THE MUMMY I guess, I think the evolution of my MUMMYses views are not a million miles from Vern’s GOONIEvolution. I liked them at the time but don’t have much use for them in the 2020s, which is not to say I have zero affection for them, but they aren’t in any kind of pantheon for me, not even of their genre.

    If you compare his GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE or DUDLEY DO-RIGHT to Matthew Broderick’s INSPECTOR GADGET, a thrilling prospect for you all I’m sure, you can see the value of what Fraser brought to a role in his prime. But I can’t say I’m completely here for the Brendanaissance and, without meaning to minimise the poor guy’s struggles, I’m finding the emotionally manipulative way people are boosting it a little much. Although I’m quite interested in that Aronofsky joint he’s making, even though or partly because it sounds like a fake movie from a sitcom.

  34. “A really big one with the millennials (since we’re talking about the Brendanator) is 1999’s THE MUMMY. When it first came out it seemed to be regarded as a symbol of everything wrong with CGI-era Hollywood, but it seems to carry a lot of cultural weight now”

    Yeah, and even back in 1999 I gave zero fucks for all the criticisms this movie received because you could pretty much distill them down to 2 ludicrous points: “It’s Indiana Jones-lite” & “Sacrifices Horror & Suspense for Action & Adventure”.

    While they remain guilty pleasures, I’m willing to concede that THE MUMMY RETURNS and especially VAN HELSING deserved most of their critical bile.

    But THE MUMMY? Fuhgeddaboutit. It remains a perfectly calibrated slice of entertainment. It’s paced like a rocket with special effects that still largely hold up. Fraser’s likeable, Weisz charming, Vosloo intimidating with Kevin J O’Connor bringing up the rear as the scene-stealing “Shiftiest (Shittiest?) Best Friend/Side Kick/Comic Relief in cinema history”. About the only thing that hasn’t aged well is the blatant Arab Stereotyping which wildly veers from Omid Djalili’s crass, uncouth and swarthy crook to Oded Fehr’s “Sexy Sheikh”.

  35. I’ll throw in with defending The Mummy and Brendan Fraser. I actually really disliked the first Mummy movie when I saw it in theaters. I was expecting something a little more grounded and less goofy, like the Indiana Jones films that tried to rise above their influences. But a bunch of my friends actually liked it on the grounds that it leans into the cartoony, pulpy nature of those old serials. With that in mind, I actually enjoyed it the second time around.

    The Mummy is still overrated by nostalgia culture, so it has that going against it. I saw a pole of best Indiana Jones knockoffs, and The Mummy blew everyone out of the water. For my money, the best post-Indy adventure movies are Romancing the Stone and the Armour of the Gods films.

    And clearly Fraser did the live action cartoon thing better than anyone. For me, his best role is in George of the Jungle, which I remember being much better than it had any right to be. I’ve also heard that his Looney Tunes movie was secretly really good, although I haven’t seen it.

    Fraser isn’t the best or most versatile actor out there, but he had the right kind of talent at the right moment. And I can’t think of anyone else who would be better fit for so many of his roles, even if the actual movies were uneven.

    Also, the difference between 80s kids movies and 90s kids movies is that the former seemed like the filmmakers made movies that they themselves would have enjoyed as a kid or even as an adult while the latter always felt like they were the projection of what an adult thought kids wanted to see. But with so much content, there’s no doubt that kids today have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to children’s entertainment.

  36. “ the difference between 80s kids movies and 90s kids movies is that the former seemed like the filmmakers made movies that they themselves would have enjoyed as a kid or even as an adult while the latter always felt like they were the projection of what an adult thought kids wanted to see.”

    Bullseye. 90s kids movie feel deeply pandering to me, which feeds into my theory that millennials love being pandered to in a way Gen X distrusts.

  37. Shit, I just remembered how the 40-year-olds reacted to the new STAR WARSes. Never mind, my theory is shit. Gen X sold out and wants to be pandered to like everyone else.

  38. “Also, the difference between 80s kids movies and 90s kids movies is that the former seemed like the filmmakers made movies that they themselves would have enjoyed as a kid or even as an adult while the latter always felt like they were the projection of what an adult thought kids wanted to see.”

    Well put, RBatty. I think you cracked it. Or at least that’s the difference between classy kids movies and cheesy ones, and it seems to me fewer ’90s releases skew toward the classy side.

  39. I like that theory, Majestyk, but wouldn’t you say mostly Gen-Xers made up the whole Ain’t It Cool era of “geek culture” that took over Hollywood and gave us “fan service,” READY PLAYER ONE, petitions to listen to “the fans,” etc.? There is definitely a big chunk of Gen-X, especially in the world of super hero fans, that does or did for a long time absolutely love to be pandered to.

  40. Yeah, I quickly realized how full of shit I was. I still think there’s some truth to it in terms of music (I hold that no Gen Xer ever gave Fuck One about some mainstream bullshit like the Grammys) but for pop culture in general, Gen X is as guilty as any other generation.

  41. Rodney Dangerfield would have been 100 today. It’s a big assumption but if we are to assume that Rover was the same age as Rodney, he’d have been 560 in dog years.

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