Warning! The following contains major spoilers for the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven.
Greetings from GuardianTree12!
A majority of my favorite animated childhood movies are Disney movies, but one of my favorite favorites is not a Disney movie (though I did think it was a Disney movie when I was a kid) but a Don Bluth movie. All Dogs Go to Heaven is one of my favorite favorites because it is a children’s movie but it doesn’t treat children like children. It treats its audience as more like grown-ups. It has deep, underlining grown-up-like themes and issues, and has (almost) equal parts of both dark and light-hearted moments. But of course it is the journey of the main character Charlie that really moves me. And I know that Charlie was in All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 and the All Dogs Go to Heaven TV show; but I never saw the show and I don’t remember much of 2, so I’m just going to talk about Charlie’s character in Don Bluth’s original All Dogs Go to Heaven.
Charlie starts out as a little bit selfish and a little bit devious. He runs a business with a dog named Carface but he’s more interested in having fun than running a business. He gambles. He drinks. He smokes. He sings. He does whatever to have fun even though it gets him into trouble from time to time. But all that changes when Carface decides he doesn’t want to have Charlie around, so he gets Charlie drunk and runs him over with a car.
Since all dogs go to Heaven by default, Charlie ends up in Heaven, but Charlie does not believe that life in Heaven will be very fun. He returns to Earth, but in doing so, forfeits Heaven forever. Of course he’s mad at Carface for killing him, but he decides to have revenge on him by building a more successful business than Carface. Itchy, Charlie’s friend, tells him about a “monster” in Carface’s basement. The “monster” turns out to be a little girl named Ann-Marie who can talk to animals. Charlie convinces the girl to go with him by promising to treat her better than Carface does, but intends to use her for the same purposes Carface does and ends up treating her about the same.
Ann-Marie is a little bit suspicious of this so he comes up with many lies and schemes to keep her around. These include: buying her new clothes, promising to give money to the poor, promising to find her a new home and family, and pretending to be sick. Eventually, Carface finds out that Charlie is alive and has Ann-Marie. He attacks Itchy and destroys Charlie’s new business. A hurt Itchy confronts Charlie and a defensive Charlie claims he doesn’t care about Ann-Marie. Ann, of course, overhears and runs away, resulting in her capture.
But Charlie does care for Ann and runs to her aid. During the rescue, Charlie’s watch that he got from Heaven and the only thing keeping him alive, falls into the water and he dies before he can reach it. He visits Ann-Marie one last time before facing is final fate: Hell. But the angel dog tells him he can return to Heaven because he sacrificed himself to save Ann. He has a few final words with Ann and returns to Heaven.
What makes Charlie’s story so powerful is that at the beginning, he could go to Heaven but he didn’t exactly deserve it and he rejects it, but at the end he changed his attitude and redeems himself. He didn’t change too much but he did learn to care for someone else so much, that he was willing to give up his happiness for her, and that is what earned him his place in Heaven.
All Dogs Go to Heaven may not be appropriate for all ages (the Hell nightmare might be a little scary for younger kids), but it’s still one of my favorite movies. It’s a good story with decent music, wonderful animation (for its time), and an inspiring underline theme. I consider it to be Don Bluth’s best work next to the original Land Before Time and the Secret of Nimh.
And remember, “You can’t keep a good dog down!”