Is Shaggy dog real?
Move over Old Yeller, there’s a new dog in town and he can drive a car. The Shaggy Dog launched a new style for Disney live-action films. While the past films had been mostly historically dramatic action films, Walt felt it was about time to add some comedy to the mix. The Shaggy Dog was the most profitable film at the box office beating out the likes of Some Like It Hot, North by Northwest and even Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Only Ben-Hur ruled over The Shaggy Dog at the box office in 1959. The crazy plot element combinations kept young audience entertained. What other film at the time could give you talks of the Cold War, plotting Russian spies, a hormonal rivalry over two different girls, and a horror fantasy about a teenage boy shapeshifting into a dog from a magical ring? Only Disney could pull this off and keep the insanity going with many more films that shared the common theme of » A story that treated the younger generation and it’s problems in a light-hearted manner,» as said by Walt Disney.
Let’s rewind the clock to 1930, where the
tale of the Shaggy Dog began. Well, technically it actually began in 1923 with its first publication written in German. In 1930 it was translated into English, releasing it to a wider audience. Felix Salten, an Austrian author penned, The Hound of Florence. If you know your authors his name may seem familiar. You may have even seen his name in a few Disney credits. Felix Salten created the tale of a little deer named Bambi. Walt Disney saw potential in Salten’s writings and bought the film rights to five of his stories ( Bambi, Bambi’s Children, Perri, City Jungle, and The Hound of Florence). Disney had no intention of actually using all five, but didn’t want any other studios scooping them up.
The Hound of Florence is a little different from The Shaggy Dog. Instead of a Leave it to Beaver mid-twentieth century American life, it takes place in 18th century Austria and Italy. The main character Lukas lost his parents and is living in poverty, longing to study art in Florence, Italy. Lukas sees the rich Archduke Ludwig and wishes he could be in the his company, deciding that even the Archduke’s dog Kambyses has a better life than him. With a mysterious magic his wish is granted, but every other day he takes the form of Kambyses, the Archduke Ludwig’s dog. The original story holds a sad ending for Lukas as he is in the form of Kambyses. Lukas comes to realize the Archduke is a cruel man. The dog is killed with a dagger. The English translation was tamed down to be like a Disney fairytale happily ever after with Lukas surviving the stabbing, receiving medication and reuniting with his love. The books main theme was focused on critiquing nobility, rich vs poor, but also be careful what you wish for.
Disney first took the idea of The Shaggy Dog to ABC, who was wanting a new TV series.
«They turned me down flat,» Disney recalls. «I was hopping mad when I went back to the studio, so I called in Bill Walsh and said, ‘Let’s make a feature of it.» Without another studio footing the bill to make this feature, Walt needed to figure a way to save money just in case it was not a success. He came up with a brilliant plan. He would use TV actors who were on summer hiatus that were familiar to audiences, but not superstar actors that would demand over the top billing. The Shaggy Dog story follows the Daniels Family. Wilson Daniels, the dog-hating father was played by Fred MacMurray. MacMurray was popular in Noir films like Double Indemnity, but at this time in his career he wasn’t getting too many offers. Appearing in The Shaggy Dog and joining the Disney Studio Family revived his career. MacMurray’s next film, The Apartment would go on to win the Best Picture Academy Award. He tells a story about a trip to Disneyland with his daughters and how a woman approached him, » Oh Mr. MacMurray I’ve enjoyed your movies throughout the years. I saw The Apartment ( MacMurray played a philandering boss) last night. How could you? You spoiled the Disney image!» She whacked him over the head with her purse and stormed away. Fred became Walt Disney’s favorite actor and appeared in seven Disney films. Tommy Kirk who played MacMurray’s son Wilby had this to say about his co-star,» He ranks up there with Cary Grant as one of the great light comics.»
Jean Hagen known for playing Lina Lamont in Singing in the Rain dropped her high pitched voice for a warm motherly one playing Freeda Daniels. Wilby and Moochie Daniels were played by Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran. Audiences were familiar with the boys from being brothers in Old
Yeller and also in special appearances in the Mickey Mouse Club and The Hardy Boys. More recognizable faces joined the cast: Annette Funicello (Mickey Mouse Club) and Tim Considine (Spin and Marty).Though this was Annette’s first film role, she received top billing even though her role was quite small compared to her other cast-mates.
The star of the film was a long-haired Sheepdog named Sammy, actually Lillybrad’s Sammy’s Shadow, but that’s a mouthful so we will stick with just Sammy. Twenty dogs auditioned for the role of Chiffon the Shaggy Dog, with three dogs to be casted, but most dogs were found emotionally unstable and Disney was impressed by Sammy’s temperament and obedience. Sammy was pretty much top of his class in William Koehler’s obedience school, passing with flying colors in just nine weeks. William Koehler trained dogs for the movie industry. His Allied Movie Dogs Association would provide lots more dogs for future projects for Disney productions like The Incredible Journey, Big Red, That Darn Cat, and The Ugly Dachshund. Instead of the three dogs that were supposed to be hired, only Sammy was used, plus for certain scenes there was a sheep dog costume worn by several people including Tommy Kirks younger brother Johnny. There is one particular scene audiences would assume the costumed dog would of been used and that’s the Shaggy Dog driving a car- nope that’s actually Sammy behind the wheel. He did most of the stunts in the film. Koehler was able to get a wide range of expressions and attitudes from Sammy by doing simple tricks like ducking out of sight and emitting suspicious sounds and showing him dog toys or a crispy bone. Fred MacMurray had this to say about his costar, «Dogs can be the worst scene-stealers in the business, worse than kids. But this fellow is something I’ve never had to compete with before — a dog comedian. And lets face it he has the best part in the picture. A shaggy dog kept the whole cast and crew in stitches. He even broke me, that’s no laughing matter. I knew I had to give everything I had to keep him from walking away with the picture. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d been just a trick dog. I tell you he’s an actor. I never saw any amateur catch on to the business so fast as this one did. He is a natural screen personality.» On the first take Sam walked into a bedroom, closed the door, opened a dresser drawer, took out pajamas with his teeth and entered the bathroom and closed the door. The cast and crew were giddy with excitement. Roberta Shore who played Franceska said, » The dog, seriously was almost human.» In order for a talking dog to look believable dialogue was written afterwards to match the mouth movements of the dog. Sammy received lots of treats- with the use of beef jerky to help aid in his mouth movements. But I know you don’t really care about how they got Sammy to talk, you want to know how they taught a sheep dog to drive a car.
Driving lessons first started off in a wheel barrow and then onto a flat four wheel platform to get Sammy used to the motion. He then moved onto a specialty designed hot rod. Stuntman, Carey Loftin was the real driver of the hot rod hiding underneath. Metal was cut away under the dashboard and right through the hood on the right side so he would be able to see the road. For night shooting a series of lights on the right hand side of the road was used so Carey could follow the road. Loftin’s steering wheel was synchronized with the steering wheel Sam used so it looked like Sam was driving. A special bucket seat was made for Sammy to sit in and hair covered mittens were laced to the steering wheel for Sam to slide in his paws. He also followed the rules of safety and wore a seat belt that was hidden under all his shaggy fur. Assistant Director Arthur Vitarelli, » The dog would look over the top of the windshield and out the side. It looked like he was really driving.»
Filming first started on August 4,1958. The role of director went to Charles Barton, who had background included directing Spin and Marty, Zorro, and Abbott and Costello films. The film only cost one and quarter million dollars. Not only did Disney save on the cost from his cast hiring but with location shooting. Instead of building new sets he used the Universal back lot Cul-de-sac colonial neighborhood used for other TV shows and future films like The Munsters, The Burbs, Leave it to Beaver and even Desperate Housewives. The film was shot in black and white. There is some debate of why this was. Some say it was to not bring attention to primitive special effects, especially Wilby transforming into a sheep dog. I believe it was also nod to monster movies. Disney advertised it as a hip Teenage Monster Movie, making it the first comedy about a shapeshifting teenager. Released on March 19th, 1959 it grossed $9.6 million and then with all it’s later releases and rentals it earned $12.3 million. With the films success, audiences were guaranteed to see more of Fred MacMurray who stared in seven Disney films, next up was The Absent-Minded Professor. He would also be rejoined with Tim Considine who would play one of his sons in the TV show, My Three Sons. Tommy Kirk, Kevin Cocoran, Fred MacMurray, and Annette Funicello would cross paths with each other through a few more Disney films, making them the go-to actors that Disney knew audiences loved to see. Several more Shaggy Dogs were made throughout the years, 1976’s sequel The Shaggy D.A. , a 1987 tv sequel and a 1994 remake and then Tim Allen’s 2006 version. But you maybe wondering whatever happened to Sammy? He pretty much retired after the film only making a few TV appearances and gracing the cover of Life Magazine. His paw prints were immortalized in the court yard of the Burbank Animal Shelter in California and he won a 1960s Patsy- Picture Animal Top Star of the Year. Not such a bad life for a dog, especially one that can drive a car.
Shaggy Dog, The (2006)
In this remake of the 1959 Disney classic, Deputy District Attorney Dave Douglas (Tim Allen) is a career-driven father in the midst of a case that pits animal rights activists against a pharmaceutical giant that claims it does not test on animals. When a mystical Tibetan terrier shares his high-octane DNA with Dave, the workaholic dad starts turning into a shaggy dog himself at the most inopportune times. This new perspective offers Dave serious insight into the hopes and dreams of his family, as well as into the corporate clients he has been defending.
Shaggy Dog, The
Release Date: March 9, 2006
Certification: Modified Certification
Viewers will be interested to know that seven bearded collies were on call for the role of the Shaggy Dog, though one dog—”Coal”—performed most of the action.
At the Grant & Strickland laboratory, the “Dog of Ageless Wonder” lies on an examining table hooked up to monitors. Other animal inhabitants of the lab include a bulldog-frog hybrid, a furry-tailed cobra, mice, rabbits, a chimpanzee, and a capuchin monkey. Computer-generated imagery (CGI) was used to create the mutant frog as well as the cobra’s fluffy tail.
Trainers standing off-screen cued the caged animals to bounce, and sound effects of loud barking were added later. Only key crew members were on set when the cobra was used, and opaque glass between the snake’s cage and the other animals prevented them from seeing each other. The tubes hooked up to Coal were props.
When Dave tries to drag the Tibetan terrier out of the house in one scene, the dog bites his hand and transfers his special DNA. Coal was prepped for the tugging action, and a trainer in wardrobe doubled for Allen in the close-up shot of the bite by putting his hand in Coal’s mouth and moving it around like the dog was biting.
After turning into the title character at the pound, “Shaggy Dave” runs all over town and stops short when he sees his image on the many TV screens of an electronics store. In disbelief, Shaggy tries to wake himself up by ramming straight into the store window. But it doesn’t work; he slides down the glass pane and collapses on the sidewalk.
The streets were closed to all traffic for the dog’s long run. Production created an animatronic puppet head to film Shaggy’s collision with the window. This footage was mixed with that of the real dog’s face sliding down glass, which was filmed against a green screen. The trainer placed Coal in a sit-stay position and gently leaned the dog’s head against a large pane of glass. Two off-camera crew members then moved the glass up, which created the illusion of the dog sliding down.
In one scene, Dave sees a cat on a tree branch, morphs into canine mode, and decides to chase the frightened feline. The pursuit starts on the street. Cars brake to avoid the cat, which jumps onto the hood of an animal control van. Dave chases the cat through a neighborhood, on top of a table at a sidewalk café, and into traffic again.
The cat’s trainer remained just out of frame on a ladder during the tree shot. She held a treat on a bait stick to get the cat to look toward the window and used a buzzer and food reward to cue the jump from the tree. The jump was actually from a height of less than three feet to a platform below frame.
The running sequence was filmed in short bursts, with trainers at the start and end marks. Each had a carrier, and the end mark trainer waited with a buzzer and food reward. Some parts of the sequence were achieved with a CGI cat, such as when the cat runs on the table top. The dog and cat were filmed separately.
Though the scene appears chaotic, the street was closed to all traffic and the animal control truck was actually at a standstill the entire time. Two crew members merely pushed the back bumper up and down to give the effect of a sudden stop. The truck had a platform set up on each side of the front tires, and one trainer released the cat at the first platform while a second handler on the other side called to the animal.
During the mayhem, a garbage truck rear ends the car of Dave’s neighbor and his French bulldog, “Attila,” who goes flying against the windshield. A trainer hid in the back seat for the first shots with the real dog, but the filmmakers used a stuffed dog and a compression rig that shoved the stuffy forward for the “smashing” sight gag.
The Big Escape
Back at the Grant & Strickland lab, the animals band together to help free Dave by pushing over all the cages. Off-screen trainers cued the chimpanzee to shake his cage, and the rabbit and snake enclosures were actually empty and pulled over by the special effects (SFX) team. A fake snake was pulled across the floor, and a CGI version gives the keys to the actor. A stuntman replaced Allen in the cage when the animals knock it to the floor.
After a brief tussle with the evil scientists—ended by the chimp zapping them with the same prop cattle prod they had previously used on Shaggy—the animals make their escape through an air-conditioning duct. On action, the trainer released the chimp, which climbed up Allen and into the opening of the ceiling vent. Then the capuchin monkey was released to enter the same way, and the rabbits were lifted up. An unseen trainer waited on the other side to receive the animals, all of which were well-prepped for the action. The vent was actually a large prop with multiple openings built on a sturdy wood structure and low to the ground. Trainers rewarded the animals with treats at the end mark and released them one at a time.
Dave drives all the animals to the courthouse, but traffic is so thick that Dave decides to leave the car and proceed on foot. After transforming into Shaggy, he leaps off a bridge and onto the top of a bus. Most of the driving sequence was simulated against a green screen. For the short segment filmed on a real road, the car was towed by a trailer and the group had a police escort.
Trainers positioned the chimp in the passenger seat, the monkey on Allen’s shoulder, the rats on the dashboard, and the rabbit on the center console. For safety, the monkey wore a leash held by a trainer hidden in the back seat. An off-screen handler cued the chimp to smile and go through the various items in the glove compartment. The frog and snake were CGI.
Shaggy’s jump off the highway overpass was actually filmed indoors against a green screen, with the dog in a secured harness. Coal was extensively trained and prepped for this stunt, and trainers gently manipulated the dog’s paws with erasable green sticks while the SFX team worked the harness rig. Both green screen and motion control techniques were in play when Shaggy rode on the roof of the bus. Coal stood on a rotating table that moved slowly while fans provided the dog with wind-tousled hair.
Dave’s animal companions hang out on the car in front of the courthouse in one of the film’s final scenes. A rubberized neoprene material was applied to the roof of the car for traction, and trainers drew a line with yogurt to keep the rats occupied. Multiple trainers were in the shot as part of the crowd of extras to step in as needed.