CHILDHOOD REVISITED – FLUPPY DOGS


REVERSE STEREOTYPES. Or something.

REVERSE STEREOTYPES. Or something.

Fluppy Dogs – (1986)

Director: Fred Wolf
Starring: Marshall Efron, Carl Steven, Cloyce Morrow
Screenplay by: Haskell Barkin, Bruce Talkington

WHAT?

Yes, Fluppy Dogs. I know, I know. You’re probably now asking three questions. 1) What the hell is a Fluppy Dog? 2) Why the hell did you choose this as your secret movie? 3) What the hell is this show about? Well, dear readers, I’ll tell you.

Fluppy Dogs was a failed follow-up to 1985’s Gummi Bears. You see, back in the late 80s/early 90s, Disney produce a set of cartoons that ranged from surprisingly mediocre to straight-up excellent for a after-school segment called “The Disney Afternoon”. Gummi Bears, Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, Aladdin, Rescue Rangers, Bonkers, Gargoyles – a ton of animated features aired for this two-hour block, and as a lover of all things animated, I devoured them all. Fluppy Dogs was planned to be one of those shows (along with a short-lived merchandising line of stuffed animals), but they only managed to air the episode’s one-hour pilot. Due to lack of interest and ratings, the show never came to be.

NOSTALGIC LENS: While watching the Care Bears films, primarily to discover that song “Forever Young,” seeing the multi-colored furballs triggered a vague memory of seeing multi-colored canines of some sort. I distinctly recalled them traversing a mountain—but that’s it. So, thanks to the magic that is Google, a few searches connected me to Fluppy Dogs, the movie of which was available on Youtube. So, I decided to surprise myself and you readers by watching this, if primarily to satisfy the most elusive of my childhood memories. One question remains: did we miss out on what could have been an excellent animated series, or did Disney wisely can this into their vault (probably a back corner, next to Oswald the Rabbit?)

DOES IT HOLD UP: The secret to making a “cutesy-girly” product more accessible to boys is to add cool fantasy stuff. Gummi Bears had some pretty epic medieval clashes and even My Little Ponies had a villain of Satanic evil. So, Fluppy Dogs added the somewhat intriguing idea of parallel-world, realm-jumping creatures. Pound Puppies, meet Sliders. (So, if you want your Foo-Foo dolls to appeal to young boys, ladies, add some time travel nonsense.)

The problem that writers can fall into concerning parallel world stories is that it can lead to some really lazy, contrived writing. And Fluffy Dogs, sadly, didn’t pass the test. Now, certainly, I’m not expecting brilliance here, but one of the things the 80s/90s toon-Disney writers were great at was taking bizarre, complex ideas and concepts, and making them nice and straight-forward, an easy to swallow pill for the young audience. This show makes the pill chewable and wholly optional.

Five Fluppy Dogs are jumping gates to try to find their way home. They inevitably land in our world and pretend to be regular dogs. When captured by the pound, a boy named Jamie adopts one. Wackiness happens, and soon Jamie (and older neighbor Claire) are trying to re-unite the Fluppies and get them back home before J. J. Wagstaff (some rich dude with a bad fetish for random animals) captures them.

Part of the problem here is that Fluppy Dogs never passes the contrived-ness of its story. Things happen just cause they can and just to drive the plot forward. For example, why are the colored canines even jumping worlds? It might have been better to say they were escaping some sort of evil – but no, they’re looking for “adventure”. Really? You’re bending the fabric of space and time because your bored?! It gets worse when Wagstaff exposits a history of the Fluppies from a book of legends. Seriously? Why even bother with that? It added nothing to the story. It seemed more apropos to just have Wagstaff chase them because he found out they could talk. No real need to bring in the hard-to-swallow idea that authors have written about them. It’s a knock-off of Gummi Bears; but while that show got away with Gummi Bear legends by taking place in a medieval periods where crazy legends exist all the time, crazy legends in 1980s America concerning parallel-world-traveling canines just seems so random.

This clip contains, essentially, all the shows problems:

For my animator readers: How about those multi-size-changing pajamas on Stanley there? Was this storyboarded? Why are the transitions between scenes so choppy? Fades, people, fades. Also, I totally dug the explanation of the head-scratching-flying ability. Yeah, I’m sure the most amazingly convenient abilities arrive just when you need them on certain worlds, right? Hmm, I wonder if these powers will be used in some fashion at the episodes climax? Oh, who are we kidding – OF COURSE they will be:

Oh yeah. The Heffalump thing is there to crash the party. You know, in case the FLYING thing wasn’t enough for you. And get a load of that ending. The Fluppy Dogs are just gonna take over the world at that rate!

IN A NUTSHELL: You know what? I wanted to like this cartoon – and to be honest, there’s a lot of really nice stuff here. The animation has some quality moments, especially animating the dogs themselves, and the story could create some interesting future episodes. But I get the sense that the entire production was rushed; no fine-tuning of the story or overall animation makes anything clicks, and with that ending, I don’t even know how to make a series based off that – unless it’s some human vs. Fluppies type war disaster. It took all the wrong lessons from Gummi Bears – which itself wasn’t THAT great in the first place, but still managed to make epic adventures without the characters crying out “ADVENTURE!” Even at five years-old, that’s pretty lame.

November 30th: Babe
December 7th: All Dogs Go to Heaven

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  1. #1 by Jon on November 24, 2009 - 12:19 am

    WTF, a heffalump? I almost bought the whole cute puppies from space concept until they introduced the elephant-thing.

    Oh well, the Disney Afternoon was classic–no use adding this bomb to an otherwise pristine line-up. Ducktales, Darkwing, Goof Troop…television heaven.

  2. #2 by Nessie on December 1, 2009 - 9:58 pm

    I have nothing to add here except:

    1) I was enthralled with this movie as a lass and watched it constantly until I wore the tape out. (I’m a little apprehensive about revisiting it on YouTube but I have a pretty good record for having good taste as a kid.)

    2) *Everyone* I have attempted to describe this movie to has a “Dude, WTF?” expression around the time I get to the “It’s ‘Sliders’ with talking Pomeranian!” point. Then I found an illustrated encyclopedia of Disney characters – every single Disney character – and I learned I wasn’t insane. At least not on this count. Yay.

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