Cast & Crew
Wilson Daniels, a mailman who despises dogs, lives in the suburbs with his wife Frieda and sons Wilby, a teenager, and young Moochie. Wilby, whose curiosity and intelligence are matched only by his clumsiness, is constantly infuriating his father, who explodes in anger after Wilby blows a hole through the roof while testing his new invention, a missile interceptor. As Wilby patches the roof, he spots his friend, Buzz Miller, picking up the neighbor on whom Wilby has a crush, Allison D'Allessio. Suddenly realizing that the money Buzz borrowed earlier will be spent on his date with Allison, Wilby demands the money back, but the boys are distracted from their argument by the arrival of new neighbor Franceska Andrassy. While Frieda gossips to Wilson about Franceska's father, Dr. Mikhail Andrassy, the new assistant curator of the county museum, Wilson frets over the sight of the Andrassy pet, a huge, shaggy sheepdog named Chiffon. Outside, the dog runs straight to Wilby, and when he and Buzz insist on returning Chiffon to Franceska, Allison stalks into her house in disgust. At the Andrassys', sophisticated Franceska shows the boys her family's art collection, including a portrait of the Borgia family that features a dog identical to Chiffon. The boys drive Franceska to the museum, where Buzz steals Franceska away, leaving Wilby alone among the ancient artifacts. Prof. Plumcott is working at the museum and, upon seeing Wilby examining another Borgia portrait, explains that the Italian family was notorious for their dabbling in the occult practices of spell-casting and shape-shifting, or changing from human to animal form. Apprehensive, Wilby rushes to leave, accidentally overturning a tray of Borgia jewels. At home Wilby discovers that a ring from the Borgia jewel collection has fallen into his pant cuff, and upon reading the inscription, unwittingly sets into motion a shape-shifting spell. He immediately transforms into Chiffon, but retains his own mind and voice. Realizing that he must get help, Wilby, still in the embodiment of a dog, slips out of the house and visits Plumcott. Although the professor cannot break the spell, he guesses that an act of heroism might prove successful, as it did in the tale The Hound of Florence , and warns Wilby that he will probably change back and forth from dog to boy without warning. On the way home, Wilby frightens police sergeant Hanson by talking to him, then returns to his bedroom to sleep. Upon awakening, he is aghast to see Chiffon staring back at him in the mirror, but Moochie is thrilled finally to have a pet, and promises to walk and groom Wilby faithfully. Worried that Wilson will shoot his new "pet," Moochie hides Wilby, but Wilson soon breaks out in hives and deduces the presence of a dog. As Wilson reaches for his gun, Wilby races to Franceska's, where he is disheartened by his breakfast of kibble. Stefano, the butler, locks "Chiffon" in a room under the stairs, and after napping and awakening as a boy, Wilby is able to escape. That night, Buzz visits to confess that he has asked both Allison and Franceska to the upcoming country club dance, and asks Wilby to accompany them so Buzz can pretend to each that the other is dating Wilby. At the dance, Buzz tells both girls that Wilby is in love with the other but is too shy to dance, thus convincing them to vie for Wilby's attention. The other girls, noting Wilby's sudden popularity, clamor to dance with him, and he is having the best night of his life when suddenly he takes on his dog form. Chased by both Franceska and Wilson, Wilby runs away, and when he later calls his father from a public phone, Sgt. Hanson again sees him and questions his sanity. Later, at Franceska's house, Wilby's appearance as a dog allows him to listen as Buzz lies to Franceska that Wilby is a troublemaker. He attacks Buzz, prompting the boy to leave, after which Wilby overhears visiting Mr. Thurm discuss with Dr. Andrassy their secret plans to smuggle a "Section 32" hydrogen missile out of the country. Wilby escapes from the house through the laundry chute, and hurriedly conveys to Moochie the information that Andrassy is a spy. Moochie tells Wilson, but his father assumes the boy is just playing, until Wilby, still a dog, approaches his father and convinces him of his plight. Wilson brings Moochie to the police department to inform them, and is proclaimed mentally unstable until he mentions Section 32, a piece of classified information. Now suspecting Wilson may be a spy, the police interrogate him until Moochie saves him by claiming that his father is a master "storyteller." Meanwhile, Wilby returns to Franceska's, where he hears Andrassy tell Stefano to take the missile to the museum. Just then, Wilby returns to human form and is caught by the spies, who tie him up in the dressing room and, realizing they are now compromised, grab Franceska and rush to board a secret ship heading out of the country. As soon as they leave, Moochie, who has been hiding outside, sneaks in and rescues Wilby. Despite his return to dog form, Wilby jumps into Buzz's jalopy and chases the spies. Moochie and Buzz convince Wilson to follow, and the convoy is soon tailed by Hanson. After Hanson reports that he is chasing a driving dog, however, his chief orders officer Mercer to pursue the sergeant, and Mercer slows the policeman's progress. Wilby arrives at the dock just as the spies are casting off, and manages to jump on board. When Franceska tries to get away, she is knocked overboard, and Wilby leaps into the sea to save her. He pulls her ashore just as Wilson and the boys arrive, followed closely by the police, who chase after the boat. Upon seeing Buzz awaken Franceska and pretend that he rescued her, Wilby attacks him, but as they fight his act of heroism returns him permanently to human form. Franceska, meanwhile, recalls her dog saving her, and finding Chiffon nearby, hugs him gratefully. Soon, Wilson and Chiffon are nationally celebrated as spy-catching heroes, and Wilson's allergies magically disappear as he agrees to adopt Chiffon after Franceska is sent away to school. Buzz and Wilby resume their squabbling over Allison, and are dismayed to see her new boyfriend, a college man, pick her up for a date.
James D. Ballas
Robert O. Cook
William R. Koehler
Harry M. Lindgren
Arthur J. Vitarelli
The Shaggy Dog (1959)
Some of the advertising for the movie made a point to say "Warning Don't miss the beginning... It's a Blast!" Indeed, as the film begins we find teenager Wilby Daniels (Tommy Kirk), tinkering in the basement of his suburban home on a missile interceptor. He and his brother Moochie (Kevin Corcoran) can't stop a huge homemade rocket from beginning a launch sequence, which rattles the upstairs dishes and nerves of their parents, Wilson and Freeda Daniels (Fred MacMurray and Jean Hagen). The family escapes the house just in time, as the rocket blows a hole through the roof of the residence. Wilby and his hot-rod driving pal Buzz Miller (Tim Considine) watch a new neighbor move in down the street, the French-speaking Franceska Andrassy (Roberta Shore). Buzz falls all over himself to impress the new girl, which insults his date, Allison D'Allessio (Annette Funicello, making her big-screen debut). Franceska has a large, shaggy sheepdog named Chiffon, who matches the appearance of a dog in an antique family portrait of the Borgias owned by her father, the new assistant curator at the local museum. The kids drive to the museum, where Wilby is left to wander alone. He runs into Prof. Plumcott (Cecil Kellaway) who shows Wilby more artifacts from the Borgias who, he explained, were known to dabble in the occult. Later at home, Wilby discovers a mysterious ring that had fallen into his pants cuff he wears it and recites the words that trigger a strange shape-shifting spell he turns into a Bratislavian Sheepdog! Plumcott tells Wilby that a good deed may break the spell, but this may be problematic his father Wilson is deathly allergic to dogs and plans to shoot the next one he sees in his house.
The Shaggy Dog was first proposed as TV series to the ABC Network, which was already airing Disney's Zorro (1957-1959) and The Mickey Mouse Club (1955-1959), as well as the flagship Disneyland (1954-1961) program. Rejected as a series, Disney decided to produce a feature film using the premise. Bill Walsh, who had worked as a producer on much of Disney's early TV content, fashioned a screenplay suggested by The Hound of Florence a novel written in 1930 by Felix Salten. (Austrian writer Salten also penned the story Bambi, which was adapted as an animated feature by Disney in 1942). Walsh would go on to write the screenplays for a number of Disney's live-action features, including Mary Poppins (1964) and The Love Bug (1968).
The Shaggy Dog was filmed in black-and-white and featured some fairly unconvincing special effects of the talking dog an obvious puppet is often put to use. The muddled origins and low-budget execution of The Shaggy Dog make for an uneven film with some particularly sloppy plotting. (For example, why include a lengthy set-up sequence showing our suburban teenage hero to be a whiz at science when the conceit that will turn him into a dog is one of pure fantasy?)
Given the TV origins of the project, it isn't a surprise that the cast of The Shaggy Dog is mostly made up of teen stars from Disney TV shows. These included Kirk and Considine, who would have been well-known to TV viewers in 1959 as the stars of The Hardy Boys (1956-1957) and other serialized Disney programs. Kirk and Kevin Corcoran played brothers for the second time in The Shaggy Dog; they had already appeared in Old Yeller (1957) as siblings, and would go on to play brothers in three further movies: Swiss Family Robinson (1960), Bon Voyage! (1962), and Savage Sam (1963). Annette Funicello has a deceptively small role in The Shaggy Dog - she may have been the most popular youngster in the cast in 1959, due to her high visibility on The Mickey Mouse Club and her recently-begun recording career; her Top-Ten single "Tall Paul" would receive much national airplay in 1959.
To the cast of teenagers was added a few veterans, including Fred MacMurray, appearing in the first of his seven starring roles in Disney films; Jean Hagen in a thankless "Mom" role; and the always-welcome Cecil Kellaway, playing the sort of befuddled-professor type that audiences had come to expect from him by the late 1950s. While later live-action Disney films would become well-stocked with familiar comedic faces in supporting roles, there are only a few on view here, such as Strother Martin, Gordon Jones, and Jack Albertson. The Shaggy Dog also features a rare on-camera appearance by Paul Frees, who provided off-screen voices for many years worth of Disney TV shows, movies and theme park attractions. (In fact, he also provides the opening narration for The Shaggy Dog!)
Critics at the time seemed to recognize the low-budget nature of The Shaggy Dog. Time Magazine bluntly stated that "producer Walt Disney tells his shaggy-dog so doggedly that he soon runs it into the pound, [but] the young pups who make up most of [his] audience will snap happily at this scented rubber bone." Writing in The New York Times, Howard Thompson called the film "brisk but unrewarding" and goes on to say that "any Disney presentation has its wholesomeness and its moments, and this is no exception. The sight of a shaggy dog with a boy's voice lumbering around a typical small-town neighborhood to the consternation of everyone but his wise little brother couldn't help but provide some chuckles and laughs." Thompson finds fault with the finale, though, which he says "...races into a wild chase of a climax that is pure bunk, as the shaggy hero discovers a nest of sinister foreign spies right across the street. No child, we'll wager, who has ever seen television or another movie will swallow this wrap-up."
The year after The Shaggy Dog, MacMurray began his twelve-year stint as Steve Douglas on the TV series My Three Sons (1960-1972), where Tim Considine played eldest son Mike. In 1960 MacMurray also appeared in his second feature for Disney, as The Absent-Minded Professor (1960) who invents Flubber. Like The Shaggy Dog, this film was also a smash hit at the box-office. Disney has remade The Shaggy Dog twice first as a TV movie in 1994, then as a big-budget theatrical film in 2006 starring Tim Allen. The studio also produced two separate sequels, one for TV in 1987, and the theatrical The Shaggy D.A. (1976), starring Dean Jones as a grownup Wilby Daniels.
Producer: Bill Walsh
Director: Charles Barton
Screenplay: Bill Walsh, Lillie Hayward, based on the novel The Hound of Florence by Felix Salten
Cinematography: Edward Colman
Art Direction: Carroll Clark
Music: Hazel George, Will Schaefer, Paul J. Smith
Film Editing: James Ballas
Cast: Fred MacMurray (Wilson Daniels), Jean Hagen (Freeda Daniels), Tommy Kirk (Wilby Daniels), Annette Funicello (Allison D'Allessio), Tim Considine (Buzz Miller), Kevin Corcoran (Moochie Daniels), Cecil Kellaway (Professor Plumcutt).
BW-102m. Closed captioning.
by John M. Miller
The Shaggy Dog (1959)
Shaggy Dog, The (1959) - The Original 1959 version of THE SHAGGY DOG on DVD
Wilson Daniels (Fred MacMurray) is a generally mild-mannered mail carrier with a natural antipathy toward dogs, much to the dismay of his young son, Moochie (Kevin Corcoran), who wants nothing more than to own one. But the real bane of Wilson's existence is teenage son Wilby (Tommy Kirk), who seems to have no direction in life, other than spend all of his time in the basement tinkering with experiments: something that is infinitely preferable to the young man than trying to work up the courage to ask someone one out on a date. Wilby's one friend is Buzz Miller (Tim Considine), the type of guy who will retain your friendship as long as you can be a source of the occasional loan.
Buzz stops by to hit Wilby up again, with current date Allison D'Allessio (Annette Funicello) neatly fitted in his sporty little car. But they are interrupted by the arrival of a moving van and a car that both grind to a halt at a house across the street from Wilby's. They are stunned by what emerges from the car: a beautiful French girl named Franceska Andrassy (Roberta Shore) accompanied by a huge shaggy dog who she calls chiffon. Once Franceska has released the dog and gone into the house, the dog makes a bee-line for Wilby, and the impact with the animal nearly throws the boy on his back. Buzz announces that he's going to return the dog (in an obvious attempt to ingratiate himself to the new arrival), and Wilby insists he can do that on his own. Nevertheless, Buzz accompanies him to the house anyway, leaving Allison sitting in his car (but not for long – after two seconds she decides not to put up with this and leaves).
Once the boys have introduced themselves to Franceska and have returned the dog, she gives them a brief tour of the family's artwork and curios. Among them is a large portrait of the notorious Lucretia Borgia, whose family, Franceska explains, was rumored to have practiced black magic. It's not the lady that Wilby finds interesting, though—it's the fact that pictured at her feet is a large shaggy dog who looks uncomfortably like Chiffon.
On a visit the local museum the next day, Wilby runs into the eccentric Professor Plumcutt (played by Disney film regular Cecil Kellaway). The gangling Wilby manages to knock over a display, and scrambles to help retrieve the artifacts from the floor. However, Wilby proves to be one of those people to makes things worse when he tries to help, and the professor gently urges him to run along so that he can get things rearranged properly. When Wilby gets back to his lonely basement, he discovers an antique ring in the cuff of his pants, apparently having dropped there when the things spilled in the museum. He studies the ring and finds the inscription "In Canis Corpore Transmuto," which he foolishly says aloud, not just once, but three times, in what could reasonably be described as a chant.. Within moments he is sprouting tufts of long white hair, then his nose turns into a black snout, and at last he is fully transformed into Chiffon, Franceka's big shaggy dog (which disappears from the scene whenever Wilby takes over his body. The one good thing is that Wilby retains his voice and is still able to talk.
He realizes at once that the only one who can possibly help him is Professor Plumcutt. He heads for the museum and finds the professor burning the midnight oil. The professor is completely unfazed by the change that has come over Wilby, and when he examines the ring finds that it had belonged to the Borgias, and posits that perhaps they had place a curse on the ring that caused this. Wilby asks how exactly he's supposed to change back, and the Professor explains that he may change back on his own, or he may change back and forth for a while, or that sometimes an act of heroism is what is called up to correct things. Not very satisfied with this answer, Wilby returns home, wriggles into his pajamas, and in one of the film's funniest moments performs his oral hygiene routine before climbing into bed.
When Moochie discovers him the next morning, he's thrilled: despite knowing that this is his transformed brother, he's always wanted a dog! But Wilby immediately sets out to try to find some way to get permanently changed back. Unfortunately, his progress is hampered by the fact that he keeps transumting back and forth from man to dog and back again at the most inopportune moments. However, while in the guise of the dog he overhears Francescka's father, respected scientiest Dr. Mikhail Anrassy in secret conference with sinister stranger Thurm (Strother Martin), discussing plans to steal something from the town's missile plant. Without thinking, Wilby is off and running to try to stop the plot, not realizing that this might be the opportunity he's been waiting for to perform the brave act that will break the curse.
The Shaggy Dog is a delightful romp that never attempts to be anything more than it is: a slice of pure entertainment, with the cast selling the material by playing it with the utmost sincerity, and the antiquated effects still working surprisingly well. Fred MacMurray turns in his usual performance as the father, who learns to love dogs after one of them inadvertently makes him a hero. Poor Jean Hagen, without her trademark accent and done up like Barbara Billingsly, is wasted in the role of the mother. Disney apparently ensured the film's success by populating the rest of the cast (with the exception of Roberta Shore) with alumni of The Mickey Mouse Club. Annette Funicello gets a chance to play a saucier young woman than she had in the past. Tim Considine also gets his first opportunity to play a bad guy rather than a squeaky clean youth. Kevin Corcoran is delightful as Moochie, who is torn between wanting a dog and wanting a brother...but leans heavily toward the dog. But it's Tommy Kirk who gets to show the most range as Wilby. His reaction when he first sees in a mirror that he's transmuting is priceless.
Disney's Wild & Wooly Edition DVD was transferred from source material that is in remarkably good condition, with no damage or debris, only some mild general wear. The audio is excellent, with no deterioration and very strong bass. The disc include the film in it's original theatrical formal, black and white and widescreen (aspect ration 1.75:1, anamorphically enhanced). It also includes a colorized version which has had ten minutes edited out.
Additionally, there are new interviews with Tim Considine, Kevin Cororan, Tommy Kirk, and Roberta Shore (who also provides a feature-length commentary), and a brief tribute to Fred MacMurray.
For more information about The Shaggy Dog, visit Disney DVD & Video. To order The Shaggy Dog, go to TCM Shopping.
by Fred Hunter
Shaggy Dog, The (1959) - The Original 1959 version of THE SHAGGY DOG on DVD
The first live-action feature comedy produced by Walt Disney.
The words Wilby Daniels recited from the amulet to transform himself were, "In Canis Corpore Transmuto."
The film's opening and closing credits feature an animated, stop-motion sheep dog that interacts with the titles. The picture begins with a voice-over narration describing the character of "Wilson Daniels" and his aversion to dogs. Throughout the film, footage of a real dog is intercut with shots of a prop dog, whose mouth moves to approximate speech. The film's title, while referring to the dog in the picture, is also a reference to the old expression "a shaggy dog story," indicating a tall tale.
According to a April 14, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, before production of The Shaggy Dog began, Walt Disney considered releasing the film exclusively on television. As noted in a August 22, 1958 news item, the film was partially shot on the Universal lot. Contemporary sources disagree as to the real name of the dog who played "Chiffon"; while most refer to the dog as Shaggy, Los Angeles Mirror states that his name was Mr. Hyde, and Hollywood Citizen-News lists him as Sammy's Shadow.
The picture marked the feature-film debuts of former Mickey Mouse Club "Mousketeers" Annette Funicello and Roberta Shore. It also marked the first time Fred MacMurray appeared in a Disney film; he went on to star in six more of the studio's pictures, including The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963; see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). Although August and September 1958 Hollywood Reporter news items add Charles Lane, Larry Blake and Gregg Palmer to the cast, neither Lane nor Blake were in the released film, and the appearance of Palmer has not been confirmed. Modern sources add John Hart (Police broadcaster) and Mack Williams (Betz) to the cast.
As noted in a May 1959 Los Angeles Mirror article, The Shaggy Dog proved Disney's biggest box-office hit of the time, earning over $8 million in its first domestic release. The studio re-released the film in 1967 and in 1976 produced a sequel, The Shaggy D.A., directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Dean Jones and Tim Conway. Several made-for-television films followed, included 1987's The Return of the Shaggy Dog and 1994's The Shaggy Dog, which starred Ed Begley Jr. In 2006, Buena Vista released a remake of The Shaggy Dog directed by Brian Robbins and starring Tim Allen and Kristin Davis.
Released in United States Spring April 1959
Released in USA on video as part of Walt Disney's Family Film Collection.
Released in United States Spring April 1959