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The Shaggy Dog - Disney's First Ever Live Action Comedy

May 8, 2008
The Shaggy Dog is a black and white 1959 Walt Disney film about a youngster who is turned into a sheep dog by a magic ring. Aside from its comic merit, it is noteworthy as being the first Walt Disney live-action comedy ever made. A testament to its appeal is the number of remakes and spin-offs based on this source material.

The Shaggy Dog most famously starred Fred MacMurray as Wilby's father, Wilson. MacMurray had enjoyed a run of success in the late 30's and throughout the 40's, straddling the fence between likeable rubes and hardboiled heels. One of his more unforgettable roles was that of Walter Neff, the insurance salesman in Billy Wilder's 1944 classic Double Indemnity. By the early and mid 50's, however, MacMurray had experienced a dearth of suitable roles. The Shaggy Dog was essentially, and reluctantly, his second wind. The success of the film launched MacMurray back into the limelight and led to his being cast in The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, and, perhaps most famously, in the long-running television show My Three Sons.

The plot follows the misadventures of Wilby Daniels, played by Tommy Kirk, a teenager perpetually misunderstood by his father, Wilson, played famously by Fred MacMurray. Wilson thinks his son is out of his mind due to the number of crazed, and dangerous, inventions the young man creates. On a whim, Wilby and his cohort, Buzz Miller, played by Tim Considine, escort a new French exchange student, played by Roberta Shore, to the local museum. Once there, Wilby is separated from the others and stumbles upon Professor Plumcutt, played by Cecil Kellaway. The professor informs him about the legend of the Borgia family and their shape-shifting ways. Incredulous, Wilby accidentally finds the Borgia ring, wherein he reads its inscription, and is transformed into the French student's Old English sheepdog. The crux of this transformation and misadventure is the fact that Wilby's father "hates dogs." Wilby and Buzz are soon involved in a case of espionage centered on the French exchange student, Francesca, who turns out to be more than meets the eye.

In 1976, Disney released a sequel to The Shaggy Dog, entitled The Shaggy D.A. It followed the adventures of a fully grown Wilby Daniels, played by Dean Jones. It was a modest success, but never lived up to the appeal of the original. In 1988, this was followed by a made-for-television third installment entitled The Return of the Shaggy Dog.

In 2006, Disney released a very loose "remake" of the original film with an entirely different story and characters, unrelated to the original trilogy. It met with modest success. As a tie-in with the theatrical release of the 2006 film, the original 1959 movie was re-issued in the United States as a special DVD entitled "The Wild & Wooly Edition." This new edition featured two versions of the movie: the original black and white version and the newer colorized version.
About the Author
Steve Collins is an Author and Journalist based in Encino. A big Disney fan, he uses the Disney Movie Club to complete his collection. REad his reviews of the Disney Movie Club
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