If you are planning to assemble a cast of wacky cartoon characters, you’re going to need a dog. It’s compulsory –- like if you have a NASCAR race, you must have a horrible fiery crash. Or if you have any film made in the past year, you must have Michael Fassbender in it.
Some of the most iconic animated critters have been pooches. There’s just something about a talking, anthropomorphic, pants-less hound that perfectly lends itself to cartooning. There are a gazillion of them, but here are ten fine, four-legged friends who made Saturday mornings slightly more bearable.
1. Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Scooby-Doo single-handedly established the dog voice that everyone trying to sound like a cartoon dog adopts. You just put R’s all over everything: “Rello, rhy’m a rawking rog” — that kind of thing. We never got an explanation for his speech impediment; it was just accepted that if dogs could speak, that’s how they’d sound. And it’s really, really fun to imitate, especially if you’re drunk. Try it now (I’m assuming you’re drunk). Scooby would do anything for a Scooby Snack, as a censored chapter in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon testifies.
2. Santa’s Little Helper, The Simpsons
Poochie almost made the list as the premier Simpsons pup, but Santa’s Little Helper has paid his dues, being the center of attention plot-wise every three seasons or so and maintaining the adorable trait of complete stupidity (though he did manage to speak on at least one occasion). The rescue greyhound has had almost as many jobs as Homer Simpson has, working as a police dog (at least twice), beer mascot, and even as one of the famous hounds Mr. Burns frequently releases on intruders.
3. Snoopy, Peanuts
I share a special bond with Snoopy and the whole Peanuts gang. I’m something of a Charlie Brown type, and I’ve always been on the lookout for a taciturn, stoic, doghouse-flying companion. Someone to ignore and belittle me and steadfastly refuse every command I give it. One day my Snoopy will come. But I don’t need a Woodstock –- I never liked that silly little bird thing.
4. Brian Griffin, Family Guy
The pot-smoking, martini-drinking, pseudo-intellectual pal of Peter in Family Guy. One thing has always troubled me: Eschewing all cartoon and natural traditions, Brian dates actual human women, which throws up a number of harrowing thoughts and reams of erotic fan fiction (I assume).
It’s especially odd, however, since while he usually exhibits human traits, Brian occasionally reverts to total canine behavior (chasing sticks, scooting along the carpet on his butt, that sort of thing), which makes the lady stuff all the more peculiar. And he dated Drew Barrymore and someone from The Hills. Very strange.
5. Droopy, Droopy
This sad-eyed, mopey guy is almost forgotten in the canon of classic cartoon characters, but there are a slew of Droopy cartoons that are so utterly demented, they haunt me to this day. If, like me, you’re a fan of the ridiculously over-exaggerated double take, you’ll appreciate the jaw-dropping, saucer-eyed, hysterical screaming reactions of Droopy’s nemesis, Wolf the wolf, as his plans are scuppered once more. These MGM cartoons really are some of the weirdest animated shorts out there.
6. Gromit, Wallace and Gromit
Okay, so Gromit isn’t exactly a cartoon, but he’s certainly animated and definitely made of modeling clay. He serves as the silent, mouthless foil to Wallace and is the unwilling guinea pig for a number of wacky inventions, all while being the obvious brains of the operation. Though if he was my dog, all that eye rolling would get a little tiresome after a while. Just say something, for God’s sake.
7. Ren, Ren and Stimpy
The grounded, sensible half of the cat-and-dog double act, if only in relation to Stimpy. Ren is quite plainly psychotic, like most Chihuahuas (although he describes himself as an Asthma Hound). No one could say “You eediot!” with quite as much panache as Mr Hoek, except perhaps for Peter Lorre, but he never seemed to get the opportunity very often.
8. Muttley, Wacky Races
Few pooches can lay claim to having a style of laughter named after them. But if you were watching a news report and an assailant was described as having a “Muttley-style laugh,” you would know exactly what they meant. This mutt was the constant companion of Dick Dastardly. That’s Dick Dastardly the master criminal, not to be confused with the cabaret performer of the same name.
9. Dug, Up
I think the scientists at Pixar spent a lot of hours in the cartoon lab, trying to come up with a formula for the most perfectly adorable animated dog. Even though the whole talking dog element of Up came slightly out of left field during this delightful ballooning mystery (didn’t it feel like suddenly a new film had started?), it was worth it for Dug and his squirrel-infected hound speak. This was one of the many, many times when I wished that a cartoon character were real.
10. Hong Kong Phooey, Hong Kong Phooey
There was almost too much going on with Hong Kong Phooey. He was a mild-mannered janitor, but also a sort of superhero as well as a kung fu expert, except he wasn’t very good. Oh, and he was a dog. Reeks of the wacky tobaccy in the corridors of Hanna-Barbera, if you ask me. Especially as his real name was Penrod (?) and his cat was called Spot. But boy, did he have a great theme song.
Did we miss your favorite? Mr. Peabody? Astro? What about Underdog? Let us know in the comments!