Courage the Cowardly Dog is an American animated horror comedy television series created by John R. Dilworth for Cartoon Network as part of the network's Cartoon Cartoons block. The main character is the eponymous pink, anthropomorphicdog named Courage, who lives with a married elderly couple in the middle of Nowhere. The trio are frequently thrown into bizarre misadventures, often involving the paranormal or supernatural. The series is known for its dark, surreal humor and atmosphere.
Dilworth pitched the series to Hanna-Barbera's animated shorts showcase What a Cartoon!, and a pilot (entitled "The Chicken from Outer Space") aired on Cartoon Network in early 1996. The segment was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Wallace and Gromit's A Close Shave. Cartoon Network greenlit a series from the short, which premiered on November 12, 1999 and ended on November 22, 2002, with four seasons of 13 episodes each produced. During its run, the series was nominated for 3 Golden Reel Awards and 1 Annie Award. The series received critical acclaim from critics and audiences and has developed a strong cult following. Spin-off media include home video releases and collectible toys. Reruns have aired on Boomerang from 2009 to 2017.
Main article: List of Courage the Cowardly Dog characters
Courage the Cowardly Dog follows Courage (Marty Grabstein), a pink and easily frightened dog. He was abandoned while a puppy after his parents were forcibly sent into outer space by a crazed veterinarian. He lives in a house with a connected garage near the fictional town of Nowhere, Kansas with Muriel Bagge (Thea White), a friendly, sweet-natured Scottish woman, and her husband Eustace Bagge (Lionel G. Wilson episodes 1–33, Arthur Anderson episodes 34–52), a grumpy, greedy farmer who regularly mistreats Courage and refers to him as "stupid dog." Muriel found Courage in an alleyway and took him in as her own.
Courage, Muriel, and Eustace frequently encounter monsters, aliens, demons, mad scientists, zombies and other such perils from myths and legends. The plot generally uses conventions common to horror films. Although most of the creatures that the three face are hostile, some turn out to be friendly and are simply suffering from distress and acting in desperation.
The task of protecting the three main characters from such dangers falls on Courage, who endeavors to thwart or reconcile with the monster of the week and remedy or repair any damages done. Although Courage is occasionally aided with that task, the full extent of his efforts is usually performed unbeknownst to Muriel and Eustace. Ironically, given his name, Courage is a genuine coward, but still goes to great lengths to protect his owners.
Although episodic in nature, there are a handful of recurring characters in the show's cast, including Courage's sarcastic, sentient computer (Simon Prebble); the family physician Dr. Vindaloo (Paul Schoeffler); a fortune-telling chihuahua named Shirley the Medium (Mary Testa); Eustace's mother "Ma" (Billie Lou Watt); and villains Katz and Le Quack (both voiced by Schoeffler).
Dilworth's influences for Courage were Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and Salvador Dalí. Among the more contemporary influences is Ghost in the Shell, though not as a narrative influence but rather in the dynamics of action and technology.[clarification needed] Dilworth also took inspiration from Porco Rosso and My Neighbor Totoro.
Originally, Courage the Cowardly Dog was created as a seven-minute animated short, "The Chicken from Outer Space". Dilworth started the animated short with Hanna-Barbera, sponsored by Cartoon Network and introduced Courage. Dilworth graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1985. He became an art director and founded his own animation studio, Stretch Films in 1991, and incorporated in 1994.
The animated short was shown as one of the episodes of Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons in 1996, a Hanna-Barbera Cartoons innovation by then-president Fred Seibert. The short served as a de facto pilot for the future series. The original animated short had no dialogue except for one line spoken by Courage, who had a more authoritative voice than in the series. It was uttered by voice actor Howard Hoffman who also provided all the other vocal sounds and effects for the short. An alien chicken was the villain in this short, who later reappears in the series to seek revenge. His sons also attempt to seek revenge too in a later episode. The short was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 68th Academy Awards.
When deciding on sound effects, Dilworth tried to avoid pre-made stock sounds. He contributed a substantial amount of new material to sound designer Michael Geisler and only looked for sounds that made him laugh. The composition of the series' music relied on what was being portrayed: suspense, comedy, or action. The production crew worked together to come up with new music for the series that had not previously been used. There were a few sections on one particular piece that Dilworth exceptionally liked. The production crew was able to isolate these sections and expand them into a usable theme. Dilworth further complicated the crew's job by suggesting layering the theme with a variety of funny sounds, a strange tempo and a voice over of a crazed laugh or person singing to give the music and sound effects their own personality beyond anything else out there.
Original music featured in Courage the Cowardly Dog was composed by Jody Gray and Andy Ezrin. Classical music can be heard at times, which pays homage to classic Warner Bros. animation and the scores of Carl Stalling. In several episodes, Gray arranged various famous classical pieces, such as Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", and wrote up to 15 songs.
In 1999, Cartoon Network gave Dilworth permission to turn the short into an animated series. Hanna-Barbera was responsible for the What a Cartoon! anthology and intended on developing the series. However, Dilworth insisted on taking the production to his Stretch Films Studios. The stories' plots were written by the show's head writer, David Steven Cohen, in addition to Irv Bauer, Craig Shemin, Lory Lazarus, Bill Marsilii, Allan Neuwirth, Bill Aronson and Michelle Dilworth.
Courage the Cowardly Dog originally was premiered as a short on February 18, 1996. The show premiered on November 12, 1999 and became the highest-rated premiere in Cartoon Network history at the time. It last aired on November 22, 2002, with 52 episodes produced in four seasons. The series is available for streaming on Boomerang's website. Reruns have aired on Boomerang.
Main article: List of Courage the Cowardly Dog episodes
In total, there were 52 episodes in four seasons produced, plus a pilot episode and a special episode. The series ran from November 12, 1999, to November 22, 2002.
John G. Nettles of PopMatters reviewed the show and called it, "a fascinating and textured mixture of cartoon and horror-movie conventions, and a joy to watch."
Alex Mastas of Lights Out Films reviewed the show gave it a grade "A−" and described it: "The backgrounds are rich and imaginative—they composite a lot of the show over real photos and occasionally integrate CGI into the cartoon. The look is weird and ethereal, just like the show itself."
KJ Dell Antonia of Common Sense Media gave three stars out of five with the summary, "Cult fave 'toon plays over-the-top violence for laughs." Antonia warned parents that the series contains graphic animated violence, including "exploding organs, growing extra limbs, turning inside out, you name it". Antonia said shows aimed at younger audiences "usually don't go for thrills and chills, so it's good to see a genuinely surreal and slanted series develop a decent following."
Jeff Swindoll of Monsters and Critics reviewed the first season DVD and felt a bit disappointed about its lack of the original Hanna-Barbera short "The Chicken from Outer Space." Swindoll felt that the lack of special features still should not deter fans from buying the season since the other episodes have appeared on other releases of the series.
Awards and nominations
Home media releases
VHS editions of Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost and Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders each include an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog as a bonus.
Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season One, a two-disc DVD set featuring all 13 episodes from the show's first season, was released in Australia (Region 4) on September 12, 2007, by Madman Entertainment. On January 13, 2010, the complete second season was also released.
A Region 1 release of the first season was done by Warner Home Video (via Warner Archive) on July 20, 2010. The release is the second in an official release of several Cartoon Cartoons on DVD, under the "Cartoon Network Hall of Fame" name. The second season was released on October 14, 2014 as the fourth in the "Hall of Fame" series. The third season was original supposed to be released on DVD in Region 1 on February 2, 2016, but it was delayed to (and was released on) March 22, 2016. It is the fifth title in the Cartoon Network Hall of Fame series. The fourth and final season was released on September 27, 2016.
In addition, all four seasons of the series are available for download on iTunes. The PlayStation 2 version of the video game Cartoon Network Racing contains the episodes "Robot Randy" and "The Magic Tree of Nowhere" as unlockable extras.
Select episodes from the series were also featured on several Cartoon Network compilation DVDs:
- The Powerpuff Girls: Down 'n' Dirty - "Journey to the Center of Nowhere" - November 7, 2000
- Scooby-Doo and the Toon Tour of Mysteries - "The Mask" (Disc 3), And "The Tower of Dr. Zalost" (Disc 5) - June 2004
- Cartoon Network Halloween Volume 2: Grossest Halloween Ever - "Courage Meets the Mummy / Night of the Weremole" - August 9, 2004
- Cartoon Network Christmas Volume 2: Christmas Rocks - "The Snowman Cometh" - October 4, 2005
- Toon Foolery: Laugh Your 'Ed Off! - "The McPhearson Phantom"
Though the series has no official video games, characters from Courage the Cowardly Dog appear in the Cartoon Network games Cartoon Network: Block Party, Cartoon Network Racing, Cartoon Network Speedway, and Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall.
Planned CGI revival
In February 2012, BuzzFeed reported that a CGI special of Courage the Cowardly Dog was in development. The special, entitled "The Fog of Courage", was finally aired in 2014. However, BuzzFeed also stated that there are strong chances of bringing back Courage the Cowardly Dog in a CGI format. A Facebook campaign was launched in July 2016 to convince Cartoon Network to greenlight a fifth season of Courage. Also, it was said that voice actor Brian Doyle-Murray was assigned to voice Eustace Bagge in a potential CGI reboot of the series due to the death of Arthur Anderson in April 2016. However, no other information has been said since.
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- ^"Remembrance of Courage Past". Courage the Cowardly Dog. Season 4. Episode 13a. 2002-11-22. Cartoon Network.
- ^ abcdefgMiller, Bob (November 1, 1999). "The Triumphant Independent — an interview with John R. Dilworth". Animation World Network. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
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- ^"The Revenge of the Chicken from Outer Space". Courage the Cowardly Dog. Season 1. Episode 12. 2000-06-09. Cartoon Network.
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- ^ ab"Courage the Cowardly Dog: Episode Guide (season 4)". Zap2It. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
- ^Nettles, John G. (2001). "Courage the Cowardly Dog review". PopMatters. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- ^Mastas, Alex (March 4, 2003). "TV Review: Courage the Cowardly Dog (2003)". Lights Out Films. Archived from the original on 2003-05-12. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
- ^ abAntonia, KJ Dell. "Courage the Cowardly Dog — Television Review". Common Sense Media. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
- ^Miller III, Randy (July 21, 2010). "Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season One : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". DVDTalk.com. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
- ^ abSwindoll, Jeff (July 21, 2010). "Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season 1 - DVD review". Monsters and Critics. Archived from the original on December 20, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
- ^"28th Annual Annie Awards — Category # 15 - Outstanding Individual Achievement for Design In an Animated Television Production". Annie Awards. Archived from the original on 24 April 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
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- ^ abLacey, Gord (June 29, 2010). "Cartoon Network Hall of Fame: Season 1 Press Release". TVShowsonDVD.com. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
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Remembrance of Courage Past
November 22, 2002
This episode is one of, if not the, most important episodes of the series as the secrets behind Courage's past finally come to light and how he came to be the dog he is today is explained.
One day Courage notices a missing dog ad on the back of a milk carton and we are thrown into a series of flashbacks on how Courage was abandoned as a puppy. He had two parents that loved him very much, and one day, he got his head stuck in two gateposts. His parents took him to the vet where the creepy, estranged veterinarian frees Courage and then asks to talk with his parents privately. Courage just manages to watch his parents get nabbed by a net and taken away. Courage follows the evil veterinarian and discovers the vet is a mad scientist working on an experiment involving sending dogs up into space and breeding them in space. Little Courage attempted to save his parents, but is chased down a garbage chute by the vet and he watches as his parents are blasted into space. And that was when Muriel found him and took him home. As Courage remembers all of this, he goes into such a daze even Eustace's "OOGA BOOGA BOOGA!" mask doesn't snap him out of it. Worried, and Muriel and a reluctant Eustace take him to the same evil vet that blasted Courage's parents into space years before! The vet attempts to commit the same evil deed once again, but Courage escapes and is pursued through the hospital by the mad doctor. He is eventually captured and taken to the vet's laboratory. Eustace and Muriel arrive just in time to get thrown into the rocket as well. Courage escapes and is chased around the lab. Courage knocks over a bucket of bolts and screws, causing the mad scientist to slip. He tries to open the door to the rocket, but to no avail. As the vet nabs him again, Courage screams as loud as he can into the vet's stethoscope. Courage then grabs the key, unlocks the door and saves Eustace and Muriel and then manages to trap the evil doctor inside the rocket and then the evil vet is blasted into space. The final episode ends with the evil vet landing on the moon surrounded by all the dogs that he blasted into space, including Courage's parents. He is then seriously beaten (most likely killed) unmercifully by the dogs off screen.
- This episode reveals more about Courage's past, how he lost his parents and how he was adopted by Muriel.
- First and only appearances of the Cruel Veterinarian and Courage's parents.
- This episode marks the only time in the entire series where Eustace's mask fails to scare Courage.
- This episode is the series finale alongside with Perfect.