Set in 19th Century Belgium, this classic tale, based on the Flemish novel by Oui’da, celebrates the affectionate bond between an innocent boy and his faithful dog. The stunning animation, a masterful combination of traditional and computer aided animation, captures the natural splendor of the Flanders countryside and recreates the spirit of this classic story that has captivated audiences world wide for more than 130 years.
Nello lives in abject poverty, with his dog, Patrash, and his Grandfather. Together, they struggle to survive constant hardship by carrying milk from their village to the city, while Nello pursues his dream to paint as beautifully as Reubens. Nello and Patrash never abandon each other despite the many anguishing setbacks that they experience, and are able to transcend their suffering through their faith and devotion.
Because of the horrible butchering that was done on the live-action version of this film, I was skeptical about seeing it. Fortunately, the animated version is made by Anime Masterpiece Theatre, the same company who made Romeo's Blue Skies, and is true to the original story. One look at the character designs and you can see the similarities--very clean lines, simplistic character designs reminiscent of Studio Ghibli, all lending itself very well to a classic children's tale. Fortunately, being a European children's tale, it has a lot more weight behind it than any Disneyfied story would. Set in Flanders Holland, the dog of the title is not really the central character, but obviously a very big part of the story as he is very well done as a character. The only animal I can think of that was given more lifelike expression and emotion would be Yakkuru from Mononoke Hime. The music was very calm and subtle, never standing out but complimenting each scene the way a soundtrack should. The story itself is easily the strongest point of this film; while the characters are somewhat underdeveloped and stereotypical, they did work well and never really detracted from the emotional impact of the tale. And speaking of emotional impact, be prepared for the sniffling at the end. Early on you see Nello getting mistreated because he's of the lower class, and while there is always a feeling of hope, you know that in real life, things don't always work out. This would make an excellent film to show in theatres (NOT the live action version, which totally changes the outcome of the story, and brings out the cliches in the characters with a sledgehammer) as it would be very easy on any audience...kind of like Grave of the Fireflies "light". There's also the fact that the drawing style is somewhat familiar for a NA audience. However, thinking of the parallels with North American animation and Dog of Flanders reminds me of a line from the film "The Devil's Own" - "Did they get the fuckers?" "They are the fuckers. Don't look for happy endings, Tom. It's not an American story, it's an Irish one." Don't go into this film expecting everything to turn out alright like it always does in a Disney film. It's not an American story, it's a European one. A superb treatment of a literary classic, Dog of Flanders deserves to be seen by any fan, young or old.
Available subtitled or dubbed through Pioneer Animation.