The Shaggy Dog (1959) Parent Guide
A tail-wagging tale.
Parent Movie Review
I was in my pajamas in the back seat of my parents ‘57 Pontiac when I first saw The Shaggy Dog. Tucked into a sleeping bag, I can’t tell you what the second feature was during that chilly evening at a drive-in theater in the suburbs of Vancouver, but I do remember thinking The Shaggy Dog was about as good as a movie could get.
The true source of my childhood amazement was watching Wilson Daniel’s (Fred MacMurray) teenage son Wilby (Tommy Kirk) change from boy to dog after having cast a spell upon himself with a handy ring from the local museum. His hair-ied situation is made worse by the fact that he’s competing with slick-kid Buzz (Tim Considine) for the admiration of the new French girl on the block, Franceska (Roberta Shore). Meanwhile Allison (Annette Funicello), the former female attraction, is left in the doghouse while the boys pursue the new French poodle.
Admittedly Disney’s morphing magic has faded against present Hollywood’s digital delights, and now looks more like tufts of hair glued on with adhesive tape. Nevertheless, it’s still amusing to await his transformations, which will always occur at the worse possible times and adds fire to Wilson’s blatant hate for canines of any sort, even those of his own fur and blood. Grabbing the loaded shotgun he keeps in the closet, he fires at the runaway dog (not knowing it’s his son) in the midst of this middle-class suburbia neighborhood with nary a moment of hesitation.
Watching it again this week, I don’t know that I’d still hold this dog tale as cinematic excellence, but Wilson’s overly chauvinistic attitudes toward his wife Freeda (Jean Hagen), who happily spends her days in the kitchen heeding her husband’s requests for newspapers, food, and whatever else he requires, is a well preserved time capsule of Hollywood’s visualization of utopian life in the mid 20th century. Overall, this story of puppy love is still worth a scratch and a sniff.Starring Fred MacMurray,, Annette Funicello, Tommy Kirk. Theatrical release March 19, 1959. Updated July 17, 2017
The Shaggy Dog (1959)
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Shaggy Dog (1959) rated G? The Shaggy Dog (1959) is rated G by the MPAA
While mildly concerning by today’s standards, there are a few issues parents should be aware of, including: A teen boy who launches an experimental rocket from his basement (resulting in a hole in the roof of his parents’ house), characters falling, talk of spells and “shape shifting,” a reckless teen driver, a man shooting a gun at a dog in a suburban neighborhood, a dog attacking a boy, a man slapping a boy and aiming a gun at him, a boy is tied up and a girl is forcibly detained in her room. Finally, a car is stolen, resulting in police chase and a police car being stolen by a teen. All of this is played in a comedic fashion, and the law-breaking teens are attempting to catch a criminal—but they appear more intelligent than police. Finally, chauvinistic attitudes are portrayed.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
More parents' guide for The Shaggy Dog (1959) after the break...
The Shaggy Dog (1959) Parents' Guide
Fred MacMurray’s portrayal of a father who sits around all day reading the newspaper and asking his wife to bring him meals will likely appear blatantly archaic. Yet our media today is still filled with stereotypes. What examples can you think of that may look just as ridiculous when viewed 40 years from now?
The most recent home video release of The Shaggy Dog (1959) movie is March 6, 2006. Here are some details…
Did you know The Shaggy Dog was the top-grossing movie of 1959? Not bad for the first live-action comedy Walt Disney ever produced! And that’s just a sample of the trivia you’ll learn from the bonus features on this DVD. Along with providing an audio commentary, former child actors Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran, Tim Considine and Roberta Shore reminisce about their experiences on the set, including the challenges of keeping up their schooling, as well as take a few minutes to pay tribute to the fatherly thespian Fred MacMurray. Featuring both an original copy of the black and white film and a colorized version, the disc also offers audio tracks in English (Dolby Digital Mono) and French, with subtitles in French and Spanish.
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This movie was re-worked into the next century with Tim Allen starring in The Shaggy Dog. You may also want to check the sequel from 1976, starring Dean Jones and Tim Conway in The Shaggy D.A. Or, if you prefer crying about dogs instead of laughing, look for Disney’s re-release of Old Yeller.