This simple premise formed the basis of Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go To Heaven. For this follow-up to the surprise hit An American Tail, the director recruited the vocal talents of Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Loni Anderson, Charles Nelson Reilly and others.
German shepherd Charlie B. Barkin is a roguish gangster in Depression-era New Orleans. When former associate and all-around bad pit bull Carface has him killed, Charlie learns that all dogs do, indeed, go to heaven. The thing is, Charlie doesn’t want to be in heaven. He wants revenge. And so, Charlie cons his way back to earth, with a warning that by so doing, he’s reserving a place in the doggie underworld.
Charlie re-teams with dachshund buddy Itchy and discovers sweet orphan girl Anne-Marie, who has the ability to talk to animals. This little gift makes it easy for the wee girl to predict the races, so Charlie starts to turn a tidy profit. Carface gets wind of this and kidnaps the girl, forcing Charlie to decide what’s really important to him.
All Dogs Go To Heaven was a story of doggie redemption, punctuated by show-stopping musical numbers. Perhaps the best of these showtunes featured the enormous King Gator performing an Esther Williams-style water ballet. With comic bits like that, the film charmed audiences, leading to a 1996 theatrical sequel and an animated series in 1997.