Courage the Cowardly Dog
Courage the Cowardly Dog is an American animated horror comedy television series created by John R. Dilworth for Cartoon Network and the eighth of the Cartoon Cartoons. It was produced by Dilworth's own animation studio, Stretch Films, in association with Cartoon Network Studios. The title character is a pink, anthropomorphic dog who lives with an elderly couple in the middle of Nowhere. In each episode, the trio are thrown into bizarre and frequently disturbing misadventures, often involving the paranormal or supernatural. The series is known for its dark, surreal humor and atmosphere.
|Courage the Cowardly Dog|
|Created by||John R. Dilworth|
|Directed by||John R. Dilworth|
|Opening theme||"Courage the Cowardly Dog"|
|Ending theme||"Courage the Cowardly Dog" (Instrumental)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||52 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||John R. Dilworth|
|Running time||22 minutes|
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
|Original network||Cartoon Network|
|Picture format||NTSC (480i)|
HDTV 1080p (special)
|Original release||November 12, 1999 –|
November 22, 2002
|Related shows||What a Cartoon!|
Dilworth pitched the series to Hanna-Barbera's animated shorts showcase What a Cartoon! and a pilot titled "The Chicken from Outer Space" aired on Cartoon Network in February 18, 1996. The segment was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Wallace and Gromit's A Close Shave. Cartoon Network greenlit the series from the short, which premiered on November 12, 1999, and ended on November 22, 2002, with four seasons of 13 episodes each produced. During its run, the series was nominated for 3 Golden Reel Awards and 1 Annie Award. The series received critical acclaim and has developed a strong cult following. Merchandise based on the series has also been produced, such as home media releases, toys, and clothing.
Courage the Cowardly Dog follows Courage (Marty Grabstein), a pink and easily frightened dog. He was abandoned as a puppy after his parents were forcibly sent into outer space by a crazed veterinarian. He lives in a farmhouse with a connected garage near the fictional town of Nowhere, Kansas with Muriel Bagge (Thea White), a friendly, sweet-natured Scottish woman, and her husband Eustace Bagge (Lionel Wilson episodes 1–33, Arthur Anderson episodes 34–52), a grumpy, greedy farmer who regularly mistreats Courage out of jealousy and refers to him as "stupid dog." Muriel found Courage in an alleyway and took him in as her own.
Courage, Muriel, and Eustace frequently encounter monsters, aliens, demons, mad scientists, zombies and other such perils from myths and legends. The plot generally uses conventions common to horror films. Although most of the creatures that the three face are hostile, some turn out to be friendly and are simply suffering from distress and acting in desperation.
The task of protecting his elderly owners Muriel and Eustace from such dangers falls on Courage, who endeavors to thwart or reconcile with the monster of the week and remedy or repair any damages done. Although Courage is occasionally aided with that task, the full extent of his efforts is usually performed unbeknownst to Muriel and Eustace. Ironically, given his name, Courage is a genuine coward but still goes to great lengths to protect his owners.
Although episodic in nature, there are a handful of recurring characters in the show's cast, including Courage's sarcastic, sentient computer (Simon Prebble); the family physician Dr. Vindaloo (Paul Schoeffler); a fortune-telling chihuahua named Shirley the Medium (Mary Testa); Eustace's mother "Ma" (Billie Lou Watt); and villains Katz and Le Quack (both voiced by Schoeffler).
Originally, Courage the Cowardly Dog was created as a seven-minute animated short, "The Chicken from Outer Space". Dilworth started the animated short with Hanna-Barbera, sponsored by Cartoon Network and introduced Courage. Dilworth graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1985. He became an art director and founded his own animation studio, Stretch Films in 1991, and incorporated in 1994.
The animated short was shown as one of the episodes of Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons in 1996, a Hanna-Barbera Cartoons innovation by then-president Fred Seibert. The short served as a de facto pilot for the future series. The original animated short had no dialogue except for one line spoken by Courage, who had a more authoritative voice than in the series. It was uttered by voice actor Howard Hoffman who also provided all the other vocal sounds and effects for the short. An alien chicken was the villain in this short, who later reappears in the series to seek revenge. His sons also attempt to seek revenge too in a later episode. The short was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 68th Academy Awards.
In 1999, Cartoon Network gave Dilworth permission to turn the short into an animated series. Hanna-Barbera was responsible for the What a Cartoon! anthology and intended on developing the series. However, Dilworth insisted on taking the production to his Stretch Films Studios. The stories' plots were written by the show's head writer, David Steven Cohen, in addition to Irv Bauer, Craig Shemin, Lory Lazarus, Bill Marsilii, Allan Neuwirth, Bill Aronson and Michelle Dilworth.
When deciding on sound effects, Dilworth tried to avoid pre-made stock sounds. He contributed a substantial amount of new material to sound designer Michael Geisler and only looked for sounds that made him laugh. The composition of the series' music relied on what was being portrayed: suspense, comedy, or action. The production crew worked together to come up with new music for the series that had not previously been used. There were a few sections on one particular piece that Dilworth exceptionally liked. The production crew was able to isolate these sections and expand them into a usable theme. Dilworth further complicated the crew's job by suggesting layering the theme with a variety of funny sounds, a strange tempo and a voice-over of a crazed laugh or person singing to give the music and sound effects their own personality beyond anything else out there.
Original music featured in Courage the Cowardly Dog was composed by Jody Gray and Andy Ezrin. Classical music can be heard at times, which pays homage to classic Warner Bros. animation and the scores of Carl Stalling. In several episodes, Gray arranged various famous classical pieces, such as Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", and wrote up to 15 songs.
Courage the Cowardly Dog originally was premiered as a short on February 18, 1996. The show premiered on November 12, 1999, and became the highest-rated premiere in Cartoon Network history at the time. It last aired on November 22, 2002, with 52 episodes produced in four seasons. The series is available for streaming on Boomerang's website. Reruns have aired on Boomerang.
In total, there were 52 episodes in four seasons produced, plus a pilot episode and a special episode. The series ran from November 12, 1999, to November 22, 2002.
|First aired||Last aired|
|Pilot||February 18, 1996|
|1||13||November 12, 1999||March 30, 2000|
|2||13||October 31, 2000||November 16, 2001|
|3||13||January 12, 2002||August 9, 2002|
|4||13||September 6, 2002||November 22, 2002|
|Special||October 31, 2014|
Courage the Cowardly Dog received critical acclaim and became one of Cartoon Network's top-rated and most popular series. New episodes often aired on the weekly program block, Cartoon Cartoon Fridays. John G. Nettles of PopMatters reviewed the show and called it, "a fascinating and textured mixture of cartoon and horror-movie conventions, and a joy to watch."
Alex Mastas of Lights Out Films reviewed the show gave it a grade "A−" and described it: "The backgrounds are rich and imaginative—they composite a lot of the show over real photos and occasionally integrate CGI into the cartoon. The look is weird and ethereal, just like the show itself."
KJ Dell Antonia of Common Sense Media gave three stars out of five with the summary, "Cult fave 'toon plays over-the-top violence for laughs." Antonia warned parents that the series contains graphic animated violence, including "exploding organs, growing extra limbs, turning inside out, you name it". Antonia said shows aimed at younger audiences "usually don't go for thrills and chills, so it's good to see a genuinely surreal and slanted series develop a decent following."
Jeff Swindoll of Monsters and Critics reviewed the first season DVD and felt a bit disappointed about its lack of the original Hanna-Barbera short "The Chicken from Outer Space." Swindoll felt that the lack of special features still should not deter fans from buying the season since the other episodes have appeared on other releases of the series.
Awards and nominationsEdit
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1995||John R. Dilworth
For short film "The Chicken From Outer Space"
|Best Animated Short Film||Nominated|
|2000||John R. Dilworth
For episode "A Night at the Katz Motel"
|Outstanding Individual Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Television Production||Won|
|Golden Reel Awards|
|2000||For episode "The Duck Brothers"||Best Sound Editing — Television Animated Series — Sound||Nominated|
|2001||For episode "Courage in the Big Stinkin' City"||Best Sound Editing — Television Animated Series — Sound||Won|
|2003||For episode "The Tower of Dr. Zalost"||Best Sound Editing — Television Animated Series — Sound||Nominated|
Home media releasesEdit
Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season One, a two-disc DVD set featuring all 13 episodes from the show's first season, was released in Australia (Region 4) on September 12, 2007, by Madman Entertainment. On January 13, 2010, the complete second season was also released.
A Region 1 release of the first season was done by Warner Home Video (via Warner Archive) on July 20, 2010. The release is the second in an official release of several Cartoon Cartoons on DVD, under the "Cartoon Network Hall of Fame" name. The second season was released on October 14, 2014 as the fourth in the "Hall of Fame" series. The third season was originally supposed to be released on DVD in Region 1 on February 2, 2016, but it was delayed to (and was released on) March 22, 2016. It is the fifth title in the Cartoon Network Hall of Fame series. The fourth and final season was released on September 27, 2016. Courage is one of the few Cartoon Network shows to be available in its entirety on DVD.
In addition, all four seasons of the series are available for download on iTunes. The PlayStation 2 version of the video game Cartoon Network Racing contains the episodes "Robot Randy" and "The Magic Tree of Nowhere" as unlockable extras.
|Title||Season(s)||Episode count||Release date||Episodes|
|Region 1||Region 4|
|The Powerpuff Girls: Dream Scheme (VHS)||1||1||November 7, 2000||N/A||12b ("Journey to the Center of Nowhere")|
|Cartoon Network Halloween: 9 Creepy Cartoon Capers||August 10, 2004||N/A||4a ("The Demon in the Mattress")|
|Cartoon Network Christmas: Yuletide Follies||4||October 5, 2004||N/A||40b ("The Nutcracker")|
|Cartoon Network Halloween 2: Grossest Halloween Ever||1, 2||2||August 9, 2005||N/A||5a ("Night of the Weremole") and 17a ("Courage Meets the Mummy")|
|Cartoon Network: Christmas Rocks||1||1||October 4, 2005||N/A||10a ("The Snowman Cometh")|
|The Complete First Season||13||July 20, 2010||September 12, 2007||1 ("A Night at the Katz Motel" / "Cajun Granny Stew") – 13 ("Little Muriel" / "The Great Fusilli")|
|4 Kid Favorites: The Hall of Fame Collection||8||March 13, 2012||N/A||1 ("A Night at the Katz Motel" / "Cajun Granny Stew") – 8 ("The Hunchback of Nowhere" / "The Gods Must Be Goosey")|
|4 Kid Favorites: The Hall of Fame Collection Vol. 2||5||March 12, 2013||N/A||9 ("Queen of the Black Puddle" / "Everyone Wants to Direct") – 13 ("Little Muriel" / "The Great Fusilli")|
|The Complete Second Season||2||13||October 14, 2014||January 13, 2010||14 ("The Magic Tree of Nowhere" / "Robot Randy") – 26 ("The Tower of Dr. Zalost")
Extra: Pilot ("The Chicken from Outer Space")
|The Complete Third Season||3||March 22, 2016||N/A||27 ("Muriel Meets Her Match" / "Courage vs. Mecha-Courage") – 39 ("King of Flan" / "Courage Under the Volcano")|
|The Complete Fourth Season||4||September 27, 2016||N/A||40 ("A Beaver's Tale" / "The Nutcracker") – 52 ("Remembrance of Courage Past" / "Perfect")|
|The Complete Series||1–4||52||October 2, 2018||N/A||1 ("A Night at the Katz Motel" / "Cajun Granny Stew") – 52 ("Remembrance of Courage Past" / "Perfect")|
Though the series has no official video games, characters from Courage the Cowardly Dog appear in the Cartoon Network games Cartoon Network: Block Party, Cartoon Network Racing, Cartoon Network Speedway, and Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall.
Planned CGI revivalEdit
In February 2012, BuzzFeed reported that a CGI special of Courage the Cowardly Dog was in development. The special, entitled "The Fog of Courage", was finally aired in 2014. However, BuzzFeed also stated that there are strong chances of bringing back Courage the Cowardly Dog in a CGI format. A Facebook campaign was launched in July 2016 to convince Cartoon Network to greenlight a fifth season of Courage. Also, it was said that voice actor Brian Doyle-Murray was assigned to voice Eustace Bagge in a potential CGI reboot of the series due to the death of Arthur Anderson in April 2016. However, no other information has been said since.
In October 2018, Dilworth commented on a Facebook post that he is in negotiations with Boomerang for a prequel to the series. Later that month, Dilworth announced on Facebook that development on a "potential prequel" to Courage entitled Before Courage for Boomerang was expected to begin.
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