Canine Mysteries

While producing Space Ace during the summer of 1983, Don, Gary and John were also developing a feature length “package” film incorporated with three stories –
1.) The Velveteen Rabbit
2.) Star Baby
3.) And…?

Around this time Gary received a call from Burt Reynolds’ agent. He invited the three of them to have lunch with Burt at a home in Malibu where he was filming “The Man Who Loved Women”. They went over at noon the day after the call. A converted old Greyhound bus was parked beside the home. The transit destination sign above its windshield read, “BANDIT”. Inside the bus, over a lunch prepared by his chef, they sat quietly at the table until Burt arrived.

He began with, “ I love what you did with Dom (DeLuise) in “The Secret of NIMH”. He said, “ I want to be a character in an animated movie. And I have an idea. I want to be a German Shepherd and I’m a private detective. I live in a junkyard car and I’m an “asshole” (laughter from Don, Gary & John). I treat my friends, my secretary and associates terribly. At a crisis moment in the second act, they hold up a mirror revealing to me what an asshole I am. I then do everything I can to redeem myself.”

The lunch was great. They liked Burt and they liked his idea. But, what a coincidence! On the way back to the studio Don exclaimed, “He said he wanted to be a junkyard dog! This could be the third movie in the package” Don went back to the boards and contemplated Burt’s idea. Gary went back to his new responsibility, licensing Dragon’s Lair and John went back to work on Space Ace.

Their next meeting with Burt was at their animation studio on Ventura Blvd. This time it was a meeting to expand and flesh out Burt’s story idea. We started calling it Canine Mysteries.

Here are some of the storyboards for Canine Mysteries

Burt had good story sense. The meeting was very productive. We walked him out to his car. Suddenly, just as he drove away, a pack of seven mid-sized dogs came running across their parking lot up from the LA River. The last dog looked their way and peeled out of the pack. He ran over to them at the building’s entrance, smiled at them (tongue out) and lay down. Gary adopted the dog and named him Burt – after, of course – Burt Reynolds.

It would be five years later and a move to Ireland before they began “All Dogs Go To Heaven”. Burt the real German Shepherd became the model for the design of Charlie B. Barkin.

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7 Responses

  1. Philip Doctor says:

    I saw about that on Wikipedia one time. But thanks for sharing the storyboards though!

  2. Alec Foisy says:

    This film looks like it would’ve been very interesting. That girl police dog is cute.

  3. ArtemyStrelov says:

    Thank you for All Dogs Go To Heaven! It is a cult movie in Russia and Eastern Europe and inspired many people.

  4. Brian says:

    WOW!!!! What a great story! 😀 Thanks for sharing it and all those neat drawings!! ^_^ I can definitely see how some of those designs are similar to All Dogs Go To Heaven! It’s really neat!! I bet Mr. Reynolds got a kick out of working with Dom Deluise, given his comments on his(Mr. Deluise’s) role in Secret of NIMH. What did he think about the adopted German Shepard carrying his name? XD

  5. Spokavriel (Daniel T. Stack) says:

    Are all the bad guys humans? Do the Police Dogs work at a station with Humans? Why was the Dame Hound nicked? Is it Charlie’s secretary leading him in that shot with the cop dogs? Did the Rat Race and Casino idea come into this or only after starting ADGTH? Wish someone still had the outline.

    I notice the cars have California plates. Was the setting worked out?

    Did that version of the Velveteen Rabbit get produced? I know I have seen one before and had the book growing up. Kept it on the same shelf as a copy of Corduroy.

  6. Spokavriel (Daniel T. Stack) says:

    The Castle Pan arrived. The frame shop guy hopefully won’t have a coronary when I finally get over there with all the things I now need them to properly mount.

  7. Dan E. Won says:

    HAHA so this is what “All Dogs Go To Heaven” COULD HAVE turned into! I think it’s great that you guys still hold on to these old concepts and drawings, as mementos of what could have been! Imagine how different history would’ve been had you went with Burt’s original idea, rather than developing your own story! I’m pretty sure the Animation history books would have been drastically different! It’s always fun to imagine the “what ifs” of the past! I’m curious how the film might’ve turned out, I’m trying to picture the film in my head with these old drawings!

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