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The Shaggy Dog VHS
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Wilby Daniels (Tommy Kirk) is just an ordinary teenager until a magical ring accidentally transforms him into a lumbering sheepdog ... whose owner is the leader of a plot to destroy the Space Program! This hilarious madcap adventure was the first live-action comedy Walt Disney produced, with a story full of slapstick chases, sight gags, hot rods, spies, and spells! Fred MacMurray helms an all-star cast including Jean Hagen, Tim Considine, Kevin Corcoran, and Annette Funicello in her big-screen debut. It's timeless, thoroughly entertaining fun for every two- (and four-) footed member of your family!
Unlike the fly in the 1958 horror classic, they never really explain what happens to the neighbor's sheepdog when young Wilby Daniels trades places with it. The dog just vanishes, or is subsumed or assumed or something, leaving Wilby (Tommy Kirk) to explain to his dog-hating, allergic, mailman father (Fred MacMurray) that he's turned into a canine. The Shaggy Dog seems like the first instance of Disney packaging, as most of the principals were either Mouseketeers or had been in the short Disney segment Spin and Marty or a previous Disney film. As successful as The Absent Minded Professor for humor, Dog follows Wilby and a rival as they vie for the hand of the new French girl in school, and the girl next door (Annette Funicello). The exchanges with Wilby's younger brother, Moochie (Kevin Corcoran), who always wanted a family dog, are alone worth the price of the tape. Indeed the most successful element of this overall endearing film is the re-pairing of the two actors as brothers (they had done so before in 1957's Old Yeller). This is family fare that's diverting without pandering, a feat that the later Disney regime would have a difficult time re-creating. --Keith Simanton
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It is 1959. It is the height of the Cold War with the USSR and its Eastern Bloc. Wilby has stumbled (literally) into possession of an accursed ring of Lucretia Borgia's - which, at unpredictable times and places "shape shifts" him into the Shaggy Dog or back into Wilby. In his various incarnations, Wilby overhears a plot to destroy America. He and his family and friends must save Democracy! Along the way we see a pajama clad Dog gargling and brushing his teeth at the sink before bedtime, chatting with confounded policemen, and leading them on a merry high speed car chase. A Bratislavian Sheepdog driving a convertible at a rapid rate is quite a sight to see! My favorite line is Buzz (an Eddie Haskell type of adolescent) hitting up Wilby for some money. "I'll need some gas. You wouldn't happen to have a buck on you?" Things have changed.
The cast is awesome. This was Fred Macmurray's first Disney movie. In later years he would go one to make many more. Tommy Kirk deserves MVP for his role in the movie.
The dog is great.
This is an essential movie to any Disney movie collection.
It is also the first Disney film to feature Fred MacMurray. This was a comeback vehicle for the actor who was recently languishing without much work since the type of film he was known for was no longer produced. But after this film he was restored as an actor and went on to do many other films for Disney, including the "Absent Minded Professor" and its sequel "Son of Flubber","Bon Voyage", "The Happiest Millionaire", "Charley and the Angel", and "Follow Me Boys".
Tommy Kirk (perhaps starred in more Disney films than any other actor) is also in this film as Freds son "Wilby" and the hero, of sorts. After all, he is the one turns into a dog with the accidental help of a magic ring. Juvenile Disney star Moochie (Kevin Corcoran)plays his younger brother, and is outright hilareous with his show stealing antics. The ever charming Annete Funicello is here, along with a couple of other Mouseketeers in bit parts. But mouseketeer Roberta Shore plays the sweet Franceska, the new neighbor that Wilby falls for. Her dog looks just like the dog that Wilby turns into when he is enchanted, so Wilby takes his place to find out how good a dog's life really is. But Wilby soon finds out that her villainous father is a dangerous foreign spy.
While it was filmed as a low budget piece, it was very succesful comercially raking in $8 million in its first theatrical release. That was very big in 1959. The movie concept was first offered to a TV network as an idea for a new series, and they gruffly turned it down as "a stupid idea that no one would want to watch". Walt made it anyway, turning it into a theatrical release. When the crowds poured in to the theatre the studio boss called Walt to admit his mistake. Walt laughed all the way to the bank, and created a whole series of low budget comedies movies.
A great Disney advertising campaign for the movie capitalized on the then-current fad for "I was a teenage ____" movies. The film starts with some great animated title credits done expertly by veteran Dinsey animators X. Atencio, T. Hee, and Bill Justice. Released in 1959, written and produced by Disney Studio man Bill Walsh. Directed by Charles Barton. Disney veteran Bill Koehler did the animal training with the sheepdog that is used in some scenes as he did on at least half of the Disney films. (read his very rare book "The Wonderful World of Disney Animals" if you can find it.)
Look out for Paul Frees in this, he is the narrator and is seen as the psychiatrist (a rare on-screen appearance for the famous voice actor). His voice is featured throughout Disneyland ride attractions, especially in the Haunted Mansion (ghost host)and Pirates of the Caribbean, other Disney films and animation, and Rankin Bass holiday specials.
The plot has a touch of 50's paranoia about the cold war, but spoofs it rather than warning of the dangers. Kids just love this film and so do parents and teens. A sequel, "The Shaggy DA", was made after this. This movie was also remade recently for television by Disney with more modern special effects. I highly reccommend!
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