All Dogs Go to Heaven

All Dogs Go to Heaven Information

All Dogs Go to Heaven is a 1989 animated musical film directed and produced by Don Bluth and released by United Artists & Goldcrest Films. 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 in her final role) who teaches them an important 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 on November 17, 1989, the same time as Walt Disney Pictures animated motion picture The Little Mermaid. While it did not repeat the box-office success of Sullivan Bluth's previous feature films (The Secret of NIMH, 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. The film was released on VHS and DVD November 17, 1998, and as a MGM Kids edition on March 6, 2001, and for the first time rendered in high definition on Blu-ray on March 29, 2011, with no special features, except the original theatrical trailer.


In 1939 New Orleans, Charlie B. Barkin is working with Carface Carruthers, at a casino fashioned out of a derelict oil tanker, until Carface frames Charlie and has him sent to a dog pound, whence Charlie escapes with the help of Itchy Itchiford. Later, Carface and his sidekick, Killer, kill Charlie, who goes to heaven by default. There, Charlie revives himself by winding a glowing pocket watch representing his lifespan. Thereafter it is assumed that if he dies again he will automatically go to hell, and established that his life depends on the watch's motion.

Charlie reunites with Itchy and plots his revenge against Carface by setting up a rival business, in which they discover Carface is imprisoning an orphaned girl named Anne-Marie for her ability to communicate with animals, giving him an advantage when betting on races fixed so that those who speak the racing animals' language know in advance of the outcome. Having taken her from Carface, Charlie obtains a large profit using Anne-Marie's ability; and when she accuses him of exploiting her, purchases pizza and cake for orphan puppies in an abandoned church. There, Anne-Marie discovers a wallet stolen by Charlie, and accuses him further. That night, Charlie has a nightmare in which he is banished to hell and attacked by a hellhound and lesser monsters.

The next day, Anne-Marie returns the wallet, whose owners plan to adopt her; whereupon Charlie tricks Anne-Marie into leaving by pretending to be sick. After escaping Carface and Killer, Charlie and Anne-Marie fall into an underground sewer, where they are nearly eaten by King Gator, a giant alligator who befriends them in admiration of Charlie's singing-voice, and Anne-Marie contracts pneumonia. Itchy is ambushed by Carface and his thugs, who destroy Charlie's casino, and accuses Charlie of caring more for Anne-Marie than for their business. Frustrated, Charlie claims the opposite, and thus distresses Anne-Marie, who is recaptured by Carface.

Attempting to rescue Anne-Marie, Charlie is captured, while Itchy and other neighborhood dogs alert the wallet's owners. When one of Carface's followers bites Charlie's foot, Charlie's howl of pain alerts King Gator, who frees Charlie. In the fray, Anne-Marie falls into the water and finds that her illness has left her too weak to swim. Unable to rescue her while maintaining his watch in motion, Charlie drowns, and is allowed into heaven for sacrificing himself to save her. Leaving Itchy in her care, Charlie enters the afterlife, where Carface imitates Charlie's attempt to revive himself.


Main characters
  • Burt Reynolds as Charlie B. Barkin, a roguish German shepherd. The character was designed specifically with Reynolds in mind for the role, and the animators mimicked some of his mannerisms.
  • Dom DeLuise as Itchy Itchiford, a paranoid, nervous, and cowardly Dachshund.
  • Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie, a young human orphan girl with the ability to talk to and understand animals.
  • Vic Tayback as Carface Carruthers, a shifty, psychotic mixed American pit bull terrier/bulldog gangster. This was Tayback's last role before his death in 1990.
  • Charles Nelson Reilly as Killer, a misnamed, cowardly, neurotic, spectacles-wearing Schnauzer/poodle hybrid.
Supporting characters
  • Loni Anderson as Flo, a female rough collie and friend of Charlie's.
  • Melba Moore as a whippet angel, who welcomes deceased dogs into Heaven. She was named "Annabelle" in the sequel.
  • Ken Page as King Gator, an American alligator and voodoo witch doctor, living below the streets of New Orleans.
  • Rob Fuller and Earleen Carey as Harold and Kate, a married couple who later become Anne-Marie's new parents.


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.

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. 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). 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.

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". 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.

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, recognizing that the concession needed to be made in the name of commercial appeal. Don Bluth owns a private film print of the uncut version, which has yet to be released onto video or DVD. In the song "Let Me Be Surprised", Charlie says "Damn that Carface. I'll kill him!"

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; a computer game adaptation for the Commodore Amiga's DOS system (with a free software package) was released, and restaurant chain Wendy's offered toys with their Kids' Meals or regular fries.

All Dogs Go to Heaven opened in North America on November 17, 1989, the same time as Walt Disney Pictures' full-length animated motion picture The Little Mermaid; once again, Sullivan Bluth Studios' latest feature would be vying for box office receipts with Disney's, just as their last two films (An American Tail and The Land Before Time) had. It received many mixed reviews from critics, 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. Some also found the darker subject material objectionable in a family film, featuring as it does depictions of death, violence, drinking, smoking, gambling, demons and Hell. But other reviews were mostly positive, with critics praising the film's emotional qualities, humor and vibrant color palette. Roger Ebert, who was unimpressed with An American Tail, gave All Dogs Go to Heaven 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. However, film critic Leonard Maltin gave this movie one-and-a-half out of four stars, due to "unappealing characters, confusing storytelling, and forgettable songs."

On its theatrical release, while still making its budget of $13.8 million back, All Dogs Go to Heavens 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. 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, selling over 3 million copies in its first month.

Sequels and Spin-off

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 movie based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, were made. Don Bluth and his studio had no involvement with any of them. Dom DeLuise voiced Itchy in all 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.

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) - Lana Beeson - 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

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