580. Family Dog – Brad Bird

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SUMMARY: A cowardly family dog is transformed into a ruthless attack dog but his vicious rage is indiscriminate.

WHY IT’S HERE: An episode of the Steven Spielberg 80s anthology series ‘Amazing Stories’, ‘Family Dog’ was notable for several reasons. For one, ‘Amazing Stories’ was not an animated show and the decision to include an animated episode, let alone one of such high quality, was unprecedented and typical of Spielberg’s dedication to quality. Secondly, ‘Family Dog’ was the directorial debut of animation legend Brad Bird. Bird, who also wrote the episode, would go on to direct several classic animated movies including ‘The Iron Giant’, ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Ratatouille’. Also adding to the talent involved were Tim Burton, who created the production design, and Stan Freberg, a voiceover legend, who provided the voice of the father. Finally, this very funny short provided something of a template for the barrage of animated sitcoms that would soon dominate TV schedules of the 90s. ‘Family Dog’ mixes child-pleasing gags with adult-oriented observations to create a forerunner for shows like ‘The Simpsons’ (which Bird worked on) and ‘King of the Hill’. Sadly, while ‘Family Dog’ proved popular enough to spawn its own series in 1993 but without the involvement of Bird the show was panned by critics and cancelled after just ten episodes.

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