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Walt Disney Home Video presents
"I'm not a dog, I'm Wilby Daniels!"
DVD ReviewOriginally filmed for television The Shaggy Dog would become Disney's first live-action feature comedy, released to enormous success in 1959. The story centers around Wilby Daniels (Tommy Kirk), a geeky teenager who inadvertently hexes himself with an ancient Borgia family curse, which has the effect of transforming him into a canine, none other than the shaggy Bratislavian sheep dog belonging to his new neighbor.
If being turned into a dog wasn't bad enough, it doesn't help matters that Wilby's father, Wilson (Fred MacMurray), has a loathing aversion to the beasts, due to his constant run ins with them as a postman. On the other hand, Wilby's little brother Moochie (Kevin Corcoran) is thrilled to have a dog—even if it is his brother. Wilby and Moochie conspire to keep the secret from getting out in the open, but when Wilby (as a pooch) overhears a conversation implicating his neighbor as a spy, the boys need to spill the beans to dad, even if he doesn't believe it.
The Shaggy Dog features a number of existing and future Disney regulars. Fred MacMurray, who Walt Disney personally cast for the role, is great as dear old dad, and makes his first of many appearances under the Disney banner, including The Absent Minded Professor, Son of Flubber and Follow Me Boys!. Both Kevin Corcoran (cute as a button as Moochie) and Tommy Kirk (who gives a strong performance, although the TV directing is evident) had previously been featured in Old Yeller. Kirk had costarred in Disney's Mickey Mouse Club: The Hardy Boys adventures alongside Tim Considine, who plays Wilby's studly buddy Buzz (and who would team up with MacMurray in My Three Sons the following year), wooing both school hottie Allison (Mousketeer Annette Funicello in her first feature) and the newly arrived Franceska (Roberta Shore in her second Disney production opposite Considine). Jean Hagen (Make Room for Daddy) plays Mrs. Daniels and Cecil Kellaway shows up as Professor Plumcutt, who tells Wilby of the source of his affliction.
Like all Disney movies from this era, they need to be approached from the right perspective in order to be fully enjoyable, and with that in mind, The Shaggy Dog doesn't disappoint. There is plenty of comedy, plenty of action and what would a 1950s movie be without subplots dealing with espionage to keep things interesting, and a number of great scenes, some of my favorite featuring Corcoran and MacMurray. The Shaggy Dog may not have aged as well as some other Disney favorites, but it certainly belongs in any respectable family film library.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Having the dubious distinction of being Disney's first colorized for television feature, this edition contains both the original black and white theatrical version in anamorphically enhanced widescreen, and the colorized open matte TV transfer.
One of the benefits of the coloration process was that the source elements had to be in fairly good shape in order for it to work, so while I wouldn't call it "pristine," the black and white version looks extremely good, with a reasonably crisp appearance, an even greyscale rendering, and only minor print and processing defects. The color version is likewise in reasonable shape, although it has that fake appearance with unnatural hues and flat colors.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The audio transfer is fine, with no technical anomalies of note. Dialogue is easy to understand, and background music is relatively free of distortion. Tonal balance is as good as can be expected from a film of this era, and not shrill or excessively sibilant.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by actors Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Tim Considine, Roberta Shore
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: Disney bills this as the "Wild and Woolly Edition" which translates into a few nice extras on the disc, including both the theatrical black and white version and the later, colorized for TV version. Thankfully the real cover art is not as obscured by advertising as the online promotional images are.
The theatrical version has an optional commentary track featuring Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Tim Considine and Roberta Shore, who judging by the conversation were recorded in pairs. Along with the usual back patting found on most of these tracks, the foursome recall the production and what it was like working in the Disney system.
A pair of featurettes are also included. The Shaggy Dog Kids (12m:29s) feature recent on camera interview footage of Kirk, Corcoran, Considine and Shore, who discuss much of the same subject matter as the commentary. Fred MacMurray—With Fondness (7m:57s) recalls the career of the actor as seen through the eyes of many of his costars and crew.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThe first of a string of comedies that would stretch into the 1980s, The Shaggy Dog is a fun and innocent feature for those rainy Saturday afternoons with the family. Disney includes both the original black and white and the later colorized versions, along with decent supplemental materials shedding light on life on the Disney lot. A must have for Disney collectors.
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