Sunday, March 04, 2018

POB #8: The Legend of Big Paw

Pound Puppies was one of the most profitable toy franchises of the 1980s. If you were a kid in the 80s then you probably had a Pound Puppy, a sleepy-eyed lump of stuffing with a PP heart tattoo on its butt. There was also a television series because it was a toy franchise in the 80s. It ran only two seasons and 26 episodes and experienced a change in character animation and writing making it seem like two different shows. It also had a special that was used as a pilot for the series and a full-length animated feature film.

Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw was released in March of 1988. The animation was different than what was on TV at the time. The entire movie was also a flashback and about as close as you can get to it being a musical without actually calling it that. Unfortunately, critics and fans alike agree that it wasn't as good as what Disney and Don Bluth was putting out at that time and the movie was a box office bomb earning not even $600,000.

The movie starts out in the present-day, circa 1988. We're following Whopper, now a grown dog, taking his niece and nephew someplace for a surprise. A guy on a skateboard rolls past and nearly gets hit by a car but is saved by Whopper at the last minute. This gives the movie the chance to refresh the audience in looking both ways and waiting for the WALK signal before crossing the street. They mention Puppy Power because if dogs and humans couldn't talk to each other, Whopper never would've been able to lecture that guy. Whopper regales his niece and nephew with the story of how we got Puppy Power.

Back in the Dark Ages, circa 958 AD, Sir McNasty is hunting for the sword Excalibur and the Bone of Scone. Along the way, they run into a boy named Arthur and his dog, Digalot. Sir McNasty hunts down Arthur and Digalot who lead him right to the Excalibur and Bone. Arthur is able to pull out the sword and Digalot is able to pull out the Bone, a large, mysterious creature appears and McNasty runs away. McNasty swears that he or his children, or his children's children, or their children, will someday get the power of the Bone of Scone into McNasty hands. I don't understand how this Bone which allows humans and dogs to converse with each other will give him power but whatever.

Back in 1988, wondering who led Arthur and Digalot to the Bone/Sword, Whopper says it was Big Paw, the guardian of the Bone which leads to another story about how we almost lost Puppy Power. That occurred back in 1958 when Whopper was a puppy. How old is Whopper?

Pictured above: My next tattoo.
We open in the 1950s with a musical number set to the tune of Danny & the Juniors' "At the Hop" only called "At the Pound." Apparently there is a "pet sensation sweeping the nation at the pound" so you better get down there and adopt a pound puppy (or purry) as soon as possible. The pound is holding an adoption bazaar in honor of the Bone of Scone being at the museum. While the dogs and kids are at the museum a nurse dog comes in and says that Colette is having her puppies. It's amazing how much I don't care about the other animals unless they are Cooler, Nose Marie, Bright Eyes, Howler, or Whopper.

When they get back at the pound, they sing to the new puppies some slow do-wop melody when Marvin McNasty barges in, ready to adopt some puppies. McNasty adopts four cute bulldogs which makes Whopper wonder why he wants so many dogs. Today, adopting four dogs is nothing. In fact, I don't think you can even have a social media account unless you have a minimum of four pets. McNasty is acting weird around the dogs and they clearly don't like him as they keep trying to escape from the picnic basket he's placed them in. McNasty is also allergic to cats. That may or may not be a plot point.We are also introduced to Reflex, a dog who hugs and kisses and says "I love you" to everyone just like your drunk friend back at the fraternity whenever he hears a bell. That also may or may not be a plot point.
This dog commits at least 15 acts of sexual assault in this one hour
and twenty minute kid's movie.
The most random quote occurs when McNasty returns to his...lair(?) with the puppies and his henchmen, Lumpy and Bones, are having lunch.

Lumpy: "How'd it go, boss?"
McNasty: "Those stupid children didn't suspect a thing."

No, they totally suspected something but general creepiness isn't a valid excuse to deny adopting out a dog. Afterwards, McNasty gives the plan to Lumpy and Bones on how to steal the Bone of Scone. First, they go through the main entrance and then, stay with me, they follow the corridor to the Bone. Sounds like a great plan. The plan also consists of Lumpy and Bones dressing like cleaners but that's not mentioned when going over the plan.

Whopper follows Lumpy and Bones into the museum and after your standard "let's cause millions of dollars in damage to this museum" scene, Lumpy and Bones end up breaking the Bone of Scone in half. Whopper is able to take one half while the other is left in the museum as Lumpy and Bones chase after Whopper. They head to the pound while the alarm at the museum causes the other dogs to run there. The Bone ends up being dropped in the basket of Colette's puppies which leads to Colette biting Bones' butt when he reaches in to grab it.

I wonder if the writers ever considered how problematic it would be 30 years later to have an object named the Bone and having a character named Bones. Anyway, Colette and Whopper are vacuumed up, it's how they were going to steal the Bone of Scone, and Bones and Lumpy head back to McNasty's lair(?) leaving the puppies orphaned and near death somehow. The stakes have never been higher.

Cooler, Nose Marie, Bright Eyes, and Howler learn that McNasty is in an old house in the woods just outside of town. At the house, McNasty is upset that he only has half the Bone but that doesn't stop him from singing about being "The King of Everything" and turning his four new puppies into slobbering and vicious guard dogs with his Mean Machine. The Pound Puppies arrive at the woods and all of them are scared to go in. Cooler leads the way and sings a song about how everything is "All In Your Mind" to the tune of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" What's interesting about the song is that Cooler is talking about strange monsters and creatures that don't exist when there are real scary things in the woods such as wild animals, anti-government conspiracy theorists, and Slender Man.

In a scene clearly written to pad out the movie, Whopper and Colette are able to escape from McNasty and take the Bone with them but when they meet up with the others, Lumpy and Bones are able to re-capture them despite the other dogs BEING RIGHT THERE! The dogs follow Lumpy and Bones but just end up dangling from a rope in a mine shaft. The rope breaks but luckily the cats, who Cooler told to go the Hell, are able to pull them to safety. As a reward for saving their lives, Cooler allows the cats to come the rest of the way with them.

Back at the pound, Colette's puppies are about the die because no one can feed them?

We are finally introduced to Big Paw after the gang falls into a swamp of quicksand and Big Paw saves them. It's not clearly established what Big Paw is supposed to be. He's originally said to be the guardian of the Bone of Scone and that he's mean and scary and everyone goes around scared of him. But Big Paw doesn't even seem to know what the Bone of Scone is and doesn't seem concerned that, in the course of less than a day, it was broken and stolen. Honestly, it's probably just bad writing and no one cared enough to attempt to change it and clearly didn't count on kids who watched the movie and loved it to comment on it 30 years later.

Anyway, Big Paw introduces himself with a song, "I'm a Puppy Too" to the tune of Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl." See, Big Paw is just a lonely puppy who needs a home and friends. Big Paw is all of us.

The Puppies (and Purries) arrive at McNasty's old house where they are immediately captured, except for Big Paw, to be turned into ferocious, evil guard dogs. The Purries, however, who give McNasty allergies, are thrown out and not, you know, strangled or drowned right there like a real villain would attempt to do. Cooler is also thrown out because he put a pot on his head and began saying "Meow."
Yep, that's a cat.
McNasty, Lumpy, and Bones head out back to the city and take over the pound. (Views scene again. Yep, that's what happens.) His plan is to dig a tunnel from the pound to the museum so he can get the other half of the Bone. Cooler, Charlemange, and Hairball devise their own plan to dig a tunnel to the museum only this one will have blackjack and hookers.
The Bone of Scone is back together. With glue. Glue fixes everything including
millennia-old sacred objects.
We all end up back at the museum where the Puppies take back the Bone and after a scene of Scooby-Doo doors that goes on a bit too long, Lumpy winds up with the Bone. Cooler, in an attempt to grab the Bone back, ends up getting trapped underneath a dinosaur skeleton surrounded by his snarling, rabid friends.
Way too long.
All good things must come to an end and Colette's puppies, who followed everybody to the museum and are about to be devoured by their mom which can be nature's wont, find a solution to the vicious guard dog problem by saying "I love you" which turns Colette back to normal because of course it does. Cooler says that to Reflex and escapes his dino cage in order to ring a bell so that Reflex "I love you"s everybody back to normal. McNasty escapes but he has Big Paw and Cooler on his tail (ha!) and circles back around to the museum where the police are waiting. McNasty turns his van into the museum which will now have to shut down and has set archaeology and history in general back by centuries due to all the damage where they crash and lose the Bone of Scone in a giant pile of dinosaur bones.

The mean machine, meanwhile, have turned McNasty, Lumpy, and Bones into good guys because of course it does. Big Paw and Nose Marie find the Bone of Scone in the pile of other bones and everything is back to normal. The next day, the adoption bazaar, McNasty, Lumpy, and Bones are helping out and the gang sings "Puppy Power's Back" to the tune of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock." So Whopper wasn't lying to his niece and nephew and the surprise is that the Bone of Scone is back at the museum, for the 40th anniversary, I guess, and that Big Paw is there, guarding it.
Whopper wore more clothes as a puppy than he does as an adult.

End movie. Cut to credits.
Frank Welker is literally in everything.
An interesting footnote to The Legend of Big Paw is that the voice of Marvin McNasty was George Rose. Rose was an established actor on screen and stage who won two Tony Awards for his performances in My Fair Lady and The Mystery of Edwin Drood on Broadway. In 1984, Rose bought a holiday home in the Dominican Republic. Rose, who was gay and had no immediate family or permanent partners, adopted a 14-year-old Dominican boy and planned to leave his estate to him. On May 5, 1988, Rose was found tortured and beaten to death. Rose's adopted son, the boy's biological father, an uncle, and a friend of the father confessed to killing Rose. Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw was Rose's last film role. George Rose was 68.