Jim Henson was a brand of genius that could never be replicated, though many have tried. One of his last productions was The Jim Henson Hour, a weekly showcase of various puppet stories. Sadly, the show garnered poor ratings and was promptly cancelled, with Henson dying a year later. Quick to pick his corpse for concepts, one of the episodes of Hour was
scavenged spun into a new puppet/cartoon show, Dog City. Despite being one step removed from Henson himself, it wasn’t that bad.
Dog City was a mix of puppets and animation, both featuring, surprisingly, dogs. Eliot Shag, a German shepherd, was an animator who created Ace Hart, an old fashioned private eye. Eliot would go about his daily life with random interruptions from his apartment dwelling neighbors while animating Ace’s adventures. The two would speak frequently, with Ace breaking the fourth wall when needed. Many of the characters in Ace’s world were based on Eliot’s neighbors. Creative, no?
The idea of having a cartoonist interact with his creation is nothing new. Cool World (1992), staring Brad Pitt of all people, did the same thing, only less good. Despite the stereotype of ‘real world events’ echoing the inner story, the animation bits were actually fun, and the best part of the show.
As mentioned in the opening, Dog City is based on an episode of The Jim Henson Hour (1989). One episode, aptly titled “Dog City,” featured a different cast of only puppets in a 1930s mobster setting. The idea coming to Henson from the classic dogs playing poker paintings. The characters and setting were entirely different from the show, but the concept of mobsters and an all dog cast was present, and used as a springboard for the eventual show.
Dog City was fun, particularly in the animated bits. Though this lacked Henson’s hand, the quality was good enough to live up to his legacy. Unlike nearly everything else that came after. Muppet Treasure Island was good. That’s about it. Seriously yo, Kermit needs to get a hold of that chicken writing staff and lay the smack down. With a frying pan. Or make sketches with Sweetums and the Swedish Chef. Either or, I’m not picky.
Did you catch Dog City? Miss Henson as much as I do? Comment below!
In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ‘em hi.