Literature: Clifford the Big Red Dog
“There’s seven books about Narnia that cover the birth and death of a nation, and mice with swords and a lion who’s a god. They did it in seven books. There’s FIFTY books about Clifford the Big Red Dog and they all tell the exact same story: Look how big this dog is. That's it!"Clifford the Big Red Dog
on why he hates reading the Clifford books to his daughters
. If you're from North America, you've most probably heard of this series of picture books, although you probably didn't know that the first book was originally published in 1963. Since then, many, many more books have been published, as well as an animated adaptation.
The books, which were written by Norman Bridwell, star the adventures of the eponymous Clifford, a giant of a dog, and his owner, Emily Elizabeth Howard. Clifford originally started out as the runt of the litter, but Emily Elizabeth's love made him grow—and grow, and grow, and grow, ad infinitum. Well, not quite—he stopped growing once he was about twenty-five feet high, although his height isn't set in stone; it varies, depending on the story. He was way too big for the Howards to properly take care of Clifford in the city at this point, so they moved to Birdwell Island, where he could have more room to move around.
In the 80s, Nelvana
picked up the rights to the series and spun off six half-hour direct to video specials with it. Starring Alyson Court
opposite Brent Titcomb
, each specials featured a typical slice-of-life storyline peppered with two songs, and was animated with No Fourth Wall
, allowing Emily and Clifford to "converse" directly with the viewers, but strangely Emily and Clifford could never converse among themselves in English, as to leverage on Scholastic's then-recent study that children learned better through participation rather than through repetition. After that, the franchise reverted to books (unless you count in the discontinuity that is the live-action mixed footage direct to video special by Warner Home Video that was released in the early 90s). This went on until the year 2000. Scholastic wanted to do another animated adaptation. Throwing away the old format and rebooting the continuity, it now featured Grey DeLisle
as Emily Elizabeth, opposite John Ritter
as Clifford. The new version was such a phenomenal success that it ran for two seasons, spun off a movie
, and even resulted in a licensed kiddie ride
. Things weren't so rosy after the movie, however. John Ritter passed on shortly after of a heart attack on the set of 8 Simple Rules
. While Scholastic had been pondering upon the idea of a sequel for a while, the death of Mr. Ritter cemented the decision on a spinoff, titled Clifford's Puppy Days
. Two seasons were made before Scholastic decided to take a break from making a series out of the franchise again, while maintaining the series franchise. The books are still coming, as are merchandise. Repeats of both TV series, of course, are still running.
In May 2012, it was announced
that Illumination and Universal are working together to create a new Clifford
movie, which will be based on the original book, but won't apparently have anything to do with the television series. The film, which is stated to be a blend of live-action and animation, will be penned by Matt Lopez (The Sorcerer's Apprentice
). Clifford celebrated his fiftieth anniversary in 2013.
Clifford the Big Red Dog contains examples of:
- Aesop Amnesia: You'd think all the lessons Jetta learns about friendship would start to sink in at some point.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Many of the animals have nonstandard fur color like bright red and purple. Some, like T-Bone's yellow and Max's blue, can be interpreted as exaggerations of colors like blonde and grey, but then there are ones like Cleo, the purple poodle.
- Animated Adaptation
- Art Evolution: The movie, titled Clifford's Really Big Movie, actually had a budget. So the animators decided to play around with cell shading. It worked ok for Clifford and the other animals. Unfortunately Emily-Elizabeth and the other regular human characters got dumped somewhere in the Uncanny Valley.
- Also, there's a major art shift between the 80s specials (which were much more faithful to Norman Bridwell's illustrations) and the 2000s TV series.
- Big Friendly Dog: Clifford of course - extra emphasis on big.
- Black Bead Eyes: Except for the giant version of Clifford, who is the only character to have normal eyes.
- Canis Major: Again, when they say "big", they aren't kidding.
- Canon Foreigner: All the characters except Emily, Clifford, and Emily's parents were created specifically for the show.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: T-Bone.
- Catch Phrase: Cleo's "Have I ever steered you wrong?"
- Cone of Shame: Cleo got to wear one in the episode "Cleo Gets A Cone".
- Continuity Reboot: Between the Nelvana videos and the Scholastic self-produced TV series. The former made no mention of Birdwell Island and/or any of Clifford's or Emily's friends that the latter is much more commonly known for.
- Covers Always Lie: The cover of the Warner Home Video live action movie had a black girl hugging Clifford. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but fans are used to seeing Emily Elizabeth hugging Clifford and not some random kid. Hence said fans were understandably worried that Warner had given Emily Elizabeth a Race Lift.
- Crying Wolf: "The Dog Who Cried Woof" has Cleo repeatedly telling the others a ghost skunk named Wiffy, who she'd told ghost stories about, was after her as a prank. When she gets in trouble with a real skunk, they don't listen to her due to her pranking and she gets sprayed.
- Cultural Translation: In the U.K., the show was redubbed with British actors with Tom Eastwood being the voice of Clifford.
- Cute Giant: Clifford himself, of course.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The books and cartoon are about a dog named Clifford who is big and red.
- Expository Theme Tune
- Gigantic Adults Tiny Babies: It's because he was so tiny as a pup that Emily Elizabeth wished he would grow bigger.
- A Girl and Her Giant Red Dog
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Emily Elizabeth: young, blonde, with enough love to overcome basic biology.
- Implied Love Interest: Mimi and T-Bone
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: One episode of the series has T-Bone's old friend Hamburger visiting Birdwell Island. Hamburger is voiced by Kenan Thompson.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mr. Bleakman, Jetta, Cleo, and Mac.
- The Kiddie Ride: The infamous Clifford ride◊ made by Jolly Rogers of the UK. They're actually pretty common worldwide, you may have seen one at your local mall.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Cleo and Mac in "Cleo Gets a Cone". While they don't say it to her face, they do talk about how "ridiculous" a dog wearing a cone looks, and are soon forced to wear one themselves. Clifford and T-Bone, who don't make such remarks, are completely fine.
- Licensed Games / Edutainment Games / iOS Games: About a dozen or so titles for PC/Macs. One for the iPhone (with a separate, HD version for the iPad, and an iPad-exclusive title). Also one title for the Leapfrog Leapster console. And that's not counting the platforms that are technically not gaming devices!
- Limited Wardrobe
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Jetta might be a snotty Rich Bitch in training, but she's still part of the group (and Clifford likes her). Machiavelli is a rare male example.
- Lyrical Dissonance: The Really Big Tribute CD. Jody Gray loves this trope. They got Jody Gray to write the score and lyrics to the CD. Cue Emily singing about how great Clifford is- to a tune that sounded bitter. This also happens to some extent in the movie, who's music and lyrics are, unsurprisingly, scored and written by Jody Gray. Although the movie leans towards Mood Whiplash instead.
- Merchandise-Driven: Of course!
- Mood Whiplash: The music from the movie. For something that's supposed to be fun, they have extremely depressing songs about how you gotta hit the lows before you can find the highs.
- The Movie: Both Clifford's Really Big Movie and an announced live-action/animated movie that doesn't have anything to do with the 2000 TV series.
- No Antagonist: Unless you count the movie.
- Nobody Poops: If you google "Where does Clifford poop?" you'll get some highly disturbing results. That said, the very idea pretty much cements this trope..
- Rich Bitch: Jetta.
- Smelly Skunk: "The Dog Who Cried Woof" had Cleo taunting the other dogs with ghost stories about a giant ghost skunk named Wippy. She kept pranking them by saying he was after her, and they finally got fed up with it. Then a real skunk shows up and she scares it. The others, while out looking for her, smell that she got sprayed.
- Spinoff Babies: Clifford's Puppy Days.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Shreiff Lewis doesn't seem to do any police work. It would seem that Birdwell Island is a peaceful, law-abiding place and there are no crooks or crime. There's even an empty jail cell.
- Theme Tune Cameo: Very much so for the animated series, so much in fact, that almost any in-universe sing-song is sung to the tune of the theme song, such as Emily Elizabeth's father's song about raking leaves, or Cleo's mocking love-song about T-Bone and Mimi.
- Three Shorts: The animated series ran like this on PBS with two 11 minuted shorts divided by a story segment featuring Emily and Clifford.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Emily Elizabeth wears a pair of stripey stockings.