Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Girls and Their Dogs

While the "boy and his dog" story line is well picked over from Old Yeller (1957) to Air Bud (1997), there are relatively few "girl and her dog" films out there. Notably Because of Winn-Dixie (2005), adapted from Kate DiCamillo's bestselling juvenile novel, and Little Heroes (1992), about a girl learning love and loss through her canine friend. 

One of the really outstanding girl and dog films is not about a girl and her dog at all, but a girl who rescues a wolf on her cross-country journey to find her father during the Great Depression. The Journey of Natty Gann (1985) stared Jed, a Malamute/wolf mix trained by Clint Rowe. Jed also appeared in The Thing (1982) and was most famous for his role in the 1991 adaptation of White Fang. It was the first time in a live-action film that White Fang had been portrayed by any breed other than a German Shepherd Dog.

Some other films featuring a girl and dog are Courage of Lassie (1946), More Than Puppy Love (2000), Sunny's Ears (1997, from TV series), Eyes of an Angel (1991), Annie (1982), Annie (1999), Big Chuck, Little Chuck (2004), The Bashful Elephant (1962), and Poco: Little Dog Lost (1977).

Pictured: Theatrical release poster of The Journey of Natty Gann, from author's collection, showing Jed, Meredith Salender and John Cusack. Copyright The Walt Disney Company, 1985.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Reel Dogs Freeze-Frames 2

A Bloodhound's greeting in Faibian's Rainbow (1968)

Tracking down Rumpelstiltskin (1996), this Great Dane creates an imposing silhouette.

In El Verano del potro a.k.a. Summer of the Colt (1991) this Border Collie puppy spends all his scenes being as cute as possible.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Company of Tervurens

Inspired by the tale of Little Red Riding Hood and based on a short story by Angela Carter, The Company of Wolves (1984) is a surreal and symbolic film featuring one-of-a-kind canine footage.

The film opens with a handsome German Shepherd Dog racing through a wood and along a road to a mansion. He enters and climbs the stairs to the closed bedroom door of a teenage girl. Here reality fades and dreams begin: A pack of about fifteen Belgian Tervurens dominate the canine scene; chasing the teen through a fairy tale forest, being dressed up as courtly lords and ladies while sitting at long dinning tables, crashing through a window and a paper canvas.

There are few films at all featuring Tervurens.
The Company of Wolves is the clear standout among them for any fans of the breed. Besides the GSD and Tervs, there are two other dogs given brief screen appearances and a wolf. Although the filmmakers were able to get a few decent shots of the wolf, it is clear from watching that the animal should not have been on the set at all; panting, cowering, and rolling its eyes in every shot. 

The other dogs are an Alaskan Malamute and GSD mix, both of whom double for the wolf in the film.

Pictured: A Belgian Tervuren leaps through a painting in a slow motion scene near the end of The Company of Wolves.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Reel Dogs Freeze-Frames

A Borzoi gets a kiss in Legends of the Fall (1994)

Alaskan Malamute near the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

A Neapolitan Mastiff finds the leftovers of a meal fit for a king in Dragonheart (1996)

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Biggest Little Dog

Beverly Hills Chihuahua, the "biggest" dog film of 2008, has hit shelves on DVD. Not only staring Chihuahuas but a German Shepherd Dog, Doberman Pincher, Pug, Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, mixed breeds, and dozens more, including a brief shot of a Coyote, Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a movie-dog-lover's dream; and a movie dog trainer's toughest challenge.

Although a considerable amount of the canine footage is CGI, including "Delgado," leaping onto a moving train and fighting cougars, the work from the real dogs
is nothing short of astounding. More than 200 dogs and 60 trainers were involved in the making of the film. And BHC trainers had to do more than just prep those 200 dogs: While filming on location in Mexico, torrential rain caused flooding and trainers carried the dogs to safety through the knee-high floodwater. All the dogs (and people) were okay.

You can buy Beverly Hills Chihuahua here: