I’ve written on this website before about my unbridled joy as a kid at the sight of Juliette whenever she was on screen, and I make no bones about stating this again here. Juliette is, quite simply, a cartoon feline delight. Sweet, beautiful and with eyes to die for, I’m not surprised Dogtanian fell weak at the knees over her girlish charms. She adorns the back cover of this DVD collection of every Dogtanian episode ever released, plus the TV movie, like the animated goddess she is.
Juliette is, of course, just one of the many and varied joys to be had when watching the CBBC Broom Cupboard classic (before it switched to ITV), Dogtanian. I’m delighted to say, too, that this is a series that stands up on its own terms. This is much more than just a nostalgia trip. The animation comes as a collaboration between Japanese animation studio, Nippon Animation, and Spanish animation studio, BRB Internacional, who would also go on to make Around The World With Willy Fog.
Two series which will forever be associated with children’s television among many reading this, both displayed a blend of comedy, drama and childlike wonder that is hard to replicate. Taking classic stories and bringing them to a young audience is never easy, but Dogtanian manages to bring Alexandre Dumas’ tale to life in fine fashion.
For the uninitiated (and if you’ve never seen this before, I urge you to purchase this), Dogtanian tells the tale of a young pup and his ambition to make it into the world famous Muskehounds, the noble swordsmen entrusted with protecting King Louis XIII of France.
The first series follows his rise up the ranks and the scrapes he and the Muskehounds get into along the way. Treachery, political power, romance, it’s all here in a children’s series that doesn’t patronise its audience. Sure, there are pratfalls and cutesy characters, like Pip, Dogtanian’s sidekick mouse, but ostensibly, this is a story about justice, honour and growing up.
I’m not going to say Dogtanian taught me anything profound when I was a lad, but it did strike a chord with me in its dramatic reach and bold sense of purpose. Few children’s series could keep me interested through the course of over 20 episodes, but Dogtanian managed it with aplomb.
For the second series, The Return Of Dogtanian, the show’s animation style changed somewhat, seemingly to reflect more Western sensibilities. It’s a misstep, for sure, but not half as soul-destroying as the funk applied to the show’s classic theme tune. It really didn’t need input from a funky drummer.
The second series also suffers from a slight dumbing down of characterisation. So, while the dialogue is suitably advanced, the delivery is a bit childish.
There are standout moments, though. The notion of setting the series ten years on, so that now Dogtanian has his own family, provides the show with a solid, interesting base. The introduction of the Man in the Golden Mask retains the show’s link with Dumas, and maintaining engaging characters like Milady is a wise move.
The plot too, while not as strong as the original series, is still one worthy of being told, and while there’s little doubting that series two is a below par product compared with the original, it still has plenty of charm attached to it.
Then we come to the TV movie, One For All And All For One, which is a condensed version of the plot of the second series. The problem with that, of course, is that I doubt that you’re going to watch it after having trawled your way through the 26 episodes of series two. Similarly, the first Dogtanian TV movie is included here, which is also a condensed version of the first series.
Naturally, both movies don’t tell the full story, but they’re good introductions to the show, nonetheless. The voice work in the second movie, however, is dreadful, wooden and rather off-putting at times.
Overall, this collection is a mixed bag. The first series still stands up as a fine piece of work, while the second series, though not matching up to what’s gone before, is still a worthy watch all the same. For the price, too, this is a no-brainer, really. You can pick this up for a tenner, and with over 24 hours of viewing, no one can tell you that’s not outstanding value.
The transfer is, as you’d expect, somewhat iffy. This is, after all, an aged animation and anyone expecting crystal clear pictures is going to be disappointed. It’s perfectly serviceable, however.
As for the extras in the package, considering the amount of content already included would have made this a fully stocked collector’s set already, you also get character biographies and fact files, the lyrics to the theme tune, desktop wallpaper and a sing-a-long version of the theme tune, too.
All very so-so, until we get to the bonus episodes of Willy Fog and King Arthur And The Square Knights. Naturally, it’s Willy Fog that grabs the attention, but both are cracking additions, in truth.
Decent extras and a full day’s worth of content. Brilliant.
The Complete Adventures Of Dogtanian is available on DVD now.
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