All Dogs Go to Heaven

All Dogs Go to Heaven
All Dogs Go to Heaven

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Bluth
Produced by Don Bluth
Gary Goldman
John Pomeroy
Screenplay by David N. Weiss
Story by Don Bluth
Ken Cromar
Gary Goldman
Larry Leker
Linda Miller
Monica Parker
John Pomeroy
Guy Shulman
David J. Steinberg
David N. Weiss
Starring Burt Reynolds
Dom DeLuise
Judith Barsi
Vic Tayback
Charles Nelson Reilly
Ken Page
Music by Score:
Ralph Burns
Charles Strouse
T.J. Kuenster
Studio Sullivan Bluth Studios
Goldcrest Films
Distributed by United Artists (USA)
Goldcrest Films
Rank Organisation (UK)
Release date(s) 17 November 1989 (1989-11-17)
Running time 85 minutes
Country Ireland
United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $13.8 million[1]
Box office $27,100,027 (USA)[2]

All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 Irish-English animated film directed and produced by Don Bluth and released by United Artists. The film tells the story of two dogs, Charlie B. Barkin (voiced by Burt Reynolds) and his loyal best friend Itchy Itchiford (voiced by Dom DeLuise). Charlie is murdered, but he forsakes his place in Heaven to return to earth where he and Itchy team up with a young orphan girl, Anne-Marie (voiced by Judith Barsi) who teaches them a lesson about honesty, loyalty, and love.

The film was produced at Sullivan Bluth Studios in Dublin, Ireland, funded by UK-based investors Goldcrest Films. On its cinema release it competed directly with an animated feature released at the same time, The Little Mermaid produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. While it did not repeat the box-office success of Sullivan Bluth's previous feature films (An American Tail and The Land Before Time) it was very successful on home video, becoming one of the biggest-selling VHS releases ever. The film inspired a theatrical sequel, a television series and a holiday direct-to-video film.



In 1939, New Orleans, Louisiana, Charlie B. Barkin (Burt Reynolds), a roguish mongrel dog with a con man's charm, is working with his gangster business partner, Carface Carruthers (Vic Tayback), at a casino fashioned out of a derelict oil tanker. Carface, unwilling to share the earnings, has Charlie imprisoned at the pound, but Charlie breaks out with the help of his best friend Itchy Itchiford (Dom DeLuise). To get Charlie out of the picture for good, Carface and his sidekick, Killer (Charles Nelson Reilly), plan and execute his murder.

Charlie goes to heaven by default, despite not having done a single nice thing in his life. Charlie cheats death by stealing his "life watch" (a glowing pocket watch) and winding it back up, allowing him to return to Earth. As Charlie leaves Heaven, a Whippet Angel (Melba Moore) tells him that if his watch stops, he will immediately die and go to hell. However, as long as his life watch keeps ticking, Charlie is immortal.

Back on Earth, Charlie reunites with Itchy and plots his revenge against Carface by setting up a rival business. Carface keeps a little orphan girl named Anne-Marie (Judith Barsi) for her ability to communicate with animals, giving him an advantage when betting on races. Charlie "rescues" Anne-Marie, telling her that they will help the poor and he will find her a family. Instead, he proceeds to exploit her gift just as his rival did, to make money from various animal competitions. Anne-Marie notices and becomes upset, since Charlie was using her in the same way that Carface did, but Charlie still convinces her to help him since he actually treats her fairly and kinder than Carface did.

Anne-Marie and Charlie have an argument when she finds a wallet that he had stolen earlier in the film from a respectable family for startup cash. That night, Charlie has a nightmare in which he is banished to hell and is attacked by a Hellhound (Frank Welker) and its minions.

The next day, Anne-Marie goes to return the wallet. Charlie finds her eating breakfast with the family whose wallet was stolen, where he discovers that the couple is planning to take Anne-Marie in. Charlie tricks Anne-Marie into leaving by pretending to be sick. After escaping an ambush with Carface and Killer, Charlie and Anne-Marie fall through the floor of an old warehouse into an underground sewer where they narrowly avoid being eaten by King Gator (Ken Page), a giant alligator who becomes their ally.

Itchy accuses Charlie of caring more for Anne-Marie than him or their business, Charlie, in frustration, proclaims he does not care for her at all. Anne-Marie overhears them, runs away, and is recaptured by Carface.

Charlie goes to Carface's casino/boat to rescue Anne-Marie. Carface has anticipated his arrival, and captures him. King Gator comes to their rescue, frees Charlie and eats Carface. Anne-Marie falls into the water, along with Charlie's watch. Charlie leaps into the water to save Anne-Marie and the watch, but is unable to get to both. He saves Anne-Marie and loses the watch, whereupon he dies a second time.

Anne-Marie ends up with her new family and Charlie is allowed back into heaven, instead of hell, since he gave his life to save his friend. He's given one more chance to give his heartfelt goodbyes to Anne-Marie and Itchy, finally proving his love for her. Leaving Itchy in her care, Charlie finally departs for the afterlife, where he finds (rather comically) that Carface has also ended up in heaven and attempts to use his clock to return home just as Charlie did. The Whippet Angel chases him down saying he won't ever be able to come back, but Charlie assures the audience he will be back.


Main characters
  • Burt Reynolds as Charlie B. Barkin, a roguish German Shepherd/Collie hybrid and the main protagonist. He was Car Face's partner but was betrayed by him and wanted revenge. He has a change of heart after meeting Anne-Marie and even risked his life to safe her. The character was designed specifically with Reynolds in mind for the role, and the animators mimicked some of his mannerisms.[3]
  • Dom DeLuise as Itchy Itchiford, a paranoid, nervous, and cowardly Dachshund who has long been best friends with Charlie. He has a hyperactive need to scratch himself when he's "nervous", thus giving him his name. He constantly argues against most of Charlie's greedy and dangerous plans, as they usually put him in a state of panic. Though he disliked Anne-Marie in the beginning for interfering with his and Charlie's friendship, she eventually touched his heart as she did Charlie's.
  • Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie, a young human orphan girl with the ability to talk to and understand animals. This was Barsi's final role as she and her mother were killed by Judith's father in a double murder-suicide a year and a half prior to the film's release. "Love Survives" was dedicated in her memory.
  • Vic Tayback as Carface Carruthers, a shifty, psychotic American Pit Bull Terrier/Bulldog hybrid gangster and main antagonist. He seems to like cars, because he has a car kiddie ride, complete with a projector and a fan.
  • Charles Nelson Reilly as Killer, a misnamed, cowardly, neurotic, spectacles-wearing Schnauzer/Poodle hybrid (could also be known as a schnoodle) who serves as Carface's sidekick. In the end of the movie, he helped Anne-Marie to shore after the ship sank.
Supporting characters


The earliest idea for All Dogs Go to Heaven was conceived by Don Bluth after finishing work on The Secret of NIMH. The treatment was originally about a canine private eye, and one of three short stories making up an anthology film. The character of a shaggy German Shepherd Dog was designed specifically with Burt Reynolds in mind for the role. However, Bluth's first studio, Don Bluth Productions, was going through a period of financial difficulty, ultimately having to declare bankruptcy, and the idea never made it beyond rough storyboards. The concept was revived by Bluth, John Pomeroy and Gary Goldman and rewritten by David N. Weiss, collaborating with the producers from October through December 1987. They built around the title All Dogs Go to Heaven, and drew inspiration from films such as It's a Wonderful Life, Little Miss Marker and A Guy Named Joe. The film's title came from a book read to Bluth's fourth grade class in school, and he resisted suggestions to change it, stating he liked how "provocative" it sounded, and how people reacted to the title alone.[3]

During the production of their previous feature film, Sullivan Bluth Studios had moved from Van Nuys, California to a state-of-the-art studio facility in Dublin, Ireland, and All Dogs Go to Heaven was their first to begin production wholly at the Irish studio. It was also their first to be funded from sources outside of Hollywood; the previous two feature films, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, had been backed by Amblin Entertainment and Universal Pictures, and executive producers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had exercised a degree of control over the content of the films, a situation Bluth found disagreeable.[4][5] The studio found investment from UK-based Goldcrest Films in a US$70m deal to produce three animated feature films (though only two, All Dogs Go to Heaven and Rock-a-Doodle, would be completed under the deal).[6] The three founding members of the studio, Bluth, Pomeroy and Goldman, had all moved to Ireland to set up the new facility, but during the production of All Dogs Go to Heaven, John Pomeroy returned to the U.S. to head up a satellite studio which provided some of the animation for the film. Pomeroy also used his presence in the U.S. to generate early publicity for the film, including a presentation at the 1987 San Diego Comic-Con.[3]

The film's lead voices, Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, had previously appeared together in a number of films, including The Cannonball Run. For All Dogs Go to Heaven, they requested they be allowed to record their parts in the studio together (in American animation it is more common for each actor to record their part solo). Bluth agreed, and allowed Reynolds and DeLuise to ad-lib extensively; Bluth later commented "their ad-libs were often better than the original script".[7] However, Reynolds was more complimentary of the draft, warmly quipping, "Great script, kid," as he left the studio. Another pair of voices, those of Carface and Killer (Vic Tayback and Charles Nelson Reilly, respectively) also recorded together.[3]

As production neared completion, the studio held test screenings and decided that some of the scenes were too intense for younger viewers. Writer and producer John Pomeroy decided to shorten Charlie's nightmare about being condemned. Co-director Gary Goldman also agreed to the cut, recognising that the concession needed to be made in the name of commercial appeal.[3] Don Bluth owns a private film print of the uncut version, which has yet to be released onto video or DVD.[8]

In the song "Let Me Be Surprised", Charlie says "Damn that Carface. I'll kill him!" This has been controversial to some parents of small children.

Release and reaction

Dissatisfied with the terms imposed by Universal Studios, which had distributed their previous two films, the studio found an alternative distributor in United Artists. Somewhat unusually, production investors Goldcrest Films covered the cost of the release prints and the promotional campaign, in return for a greatly reduced distribution fee from UA. This was similar to the arrangement with United Artists when they distributed Bluth's first feature film, The Secret of NIMH. Goldcrest Films invested $15 million in printing and promoting the film. Due to contractual issues, very little tie-in merchandise accompanied the film's theatrical release;[3] several computer games and software packages were released, and restaurant chain Wendy's offered toys with their Kids' Meals or regular fries.[9]

All Dogs Go to Heaven opened in North America on November 17, 1989, the same day as The Little Mermaid produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation; once again, Sullivan Bluth Studios' latest feature would be vying for box office receipts with Disney's, just as their previous one (The Land Before Time) had. Many critics looked down upon the film,[3] drawing unfavorable comparisons to Disney's offering, criticizing the disjointed narrative, the quality of the animation, and the songs by Charlie Strouse and T.J. Kuenster.[10] Some also found the darker subject material objectionable in a family film,[11][12] featuring as it does depictions of death, violence, drinking, smoking, gambling, demons and Hell. But reviews were positive, with critics praising the film's emotional qualities, humor and vibrant color palette.[13][14] Roger Ebert, who was unimpressed with An American Tail, gave it three out of four stars. More recent reviews of the film have generally been less harsh, with Box Office Mojo awarding it a B- rating.[2]

On its theatrical release, while still making its budget of $13.8 million back, All Dogs Go to Heaven's performance fell short of Sullivan Bluth Studios' previous box office successes, grossing US$27m in North America alone, just over half of what An American Tail and The Land Before Time each took.[15] However, the film became a sleeper hit on its home video release; a strong promotional campaign helped it become one of the top-selling VHS releases of all time,[16] selling over 3 million copies in its first month.


The success of the film, particularly its performance on home video, prompted several follow-up productions. A theatrical sequel, All Dogs Go to Heaven 2; a television series, All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series; and An All Dogs Christmas Carol, a Christmas special based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, were made. Don Bluth and his studio had no involvement with any of them.


On July 1, 1991, A soundtrack to All Dogs Go to Heaven was released but according to, it has been discontinued by the manufacturer.[17]

Track listing
  1. "Love Survives" - Irene Cara and Freddie Jackson - Length: 3:25 (Unlike the NTSC version, the soundtrack and European versions sound high-pitched.)
  2. "Mardi Gras" - Music Score - Length: 1:17
  3. "You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down" - Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise - Length: 2:30
  4. "Hellhound" - Music Score - Length: 2:09
  5. "What's Mine Is Yours" - Burt Reynolds - Length: 1:48
  6. "At the Race Track" - Music Score - Length: 1:49
  7. "Let Me Be Surprised" - Melba Moore and Burt Reynolds - Length: 4:54
  8. "Soon You'll Come Home" (Anne-Marie's Theme) - Judith Barsi - Length: 2:38
  9. "Money Montage" - Music Score - Length: 3:43
  10. "Dogs to the Rescue" - Music Score - Length: 3:10
  11. "Let's Make Music Together" - Ken Page and Burt Reynolds - Length: 2:24
  12. "Goodbye Anne-Marie" - Music Score - Length: 2:10
  13. "Hallelujah" - Candy Devine - 1:21[18]


  1. ^ Ask Us Questions at []
  2. ^ a b Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Cawley, All Dogs Go to Heaven
  4. ^ Cawley, An American Tail
  5. ^ Cawley, The Land Before Time
  6. ^ Cawley, At Home in Ireland
  7. ^ Beck, The Animated Movie Guide p.14
  8. ^ Ask Us Questions
  9. ^ "RetroJunk - Wendy's All Dogs Go to Heaven Toys". 
  10. ^ Rainer, Peter (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". L.A. Times. 
  11. ^ Kempley, Rita (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". New York Times. 
  12. ^ Carr, Jay (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Boston Globe. 
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  14. ^ Kehr, Dave (1989-17-17). "All Dogs Go to Heaven (review)". Chicago Tribune. 
  15. ^ "Don Bluth - Box Office Data". 
  16. ^ Lenburg, p.32
  17. ^ All Dogs Go to Heaven: Various Artists: Music
  18. ^ SoundtrackCollector: Soundtrack details: All Dogs Go To Heaven


  • Beck, Jerry (October 2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-55652-591-5. 
  • Cawley, John (October 1991). The Animated Films of Don Bluth. Image Pub of New York. ISBN 0-685-50334-8. 
  • Lenburg, Jeff (June 2006). Who's Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-Winning and Legendary Animators. Applause Books. p. 32. ISBN 1-55783-671-X. 

External links

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