Adaptation Displacement: The number of people who have even heard of the original 1943 book by Beth Brown, much less read it, could be counted on one hand. The book itself is exceedingly rare, and it can fetch up to hundreds of dollars on Amazon. The two have essentially nothing in common, save that they're about death and dogs.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Did Charlie really mean it when he told Itchy that they'd use Anne-Marie for all she was worth than then dump her in an orphanage, or was he just telling Itchy what he wanted to hear? Consider the guilty look on his face when he notices Anne-Marie listening in on the conversation.
AssPull: Killer being in possession of a thermal atomic ray gun for the purpose of killing Charlie, in the year 1939. Don't question how, just go with it. note Okay, there is a reason: he was originally supposed to have a tommy gun, but the recent murder of Anne Marie's actress at gunpoint made the whole thing wildly uncomfortable, so it was swapped out with something cartoony and unrealistic.
Say what you will about Burt Reynolds singing, but "Let Me Be Surprised" is pretty darn good, and works for Reynolds' singing voice rather than against it. It helps that it's a duet with gospel singer Melba Moore.
"Let's Make Music Together" (yes, that song). Once you get past the sheer insanity of it, it's actually a solid R&B tune.
Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The Trope Namer, albeit indirectly. While the character does come back a few scenes later, King Gator's bombastic, Esther Williams-style musical number is neither foreshadowed or even mentioned after it occurs. Admittedly, it only exists to get Anne Marrie sick after she's been drenched in sewer water — and do be a Deus ex Machina later.
Common Knowledge: Ironically, while King Gator's out of place music number sticks in people's mind, they generally forget that King Gator does, in fact, return to defeat Carface andattempt to save Charlie (who dies from losing his life watch, nevertheless). The musical number is so distracting that it's also easy to forget that the whole thing started out as an homage to King Kong.
Critical Backlash: While the film has retroactively gained a loyal fanbase and good reception, the films initial release was widely panned by critics, so much so that Bluth's American tour to promote the film was ended very early, according to his online biography.
Itchy; helps that he's voiced by Dom De Luise (and was the only character to retain his original actor across the whole series).
Fanfic Fuel: While the sequels were never meant to be a legitimate expansion of the first film's canon, fans have taken it upon themselves to connect several elements that appear across the movies and the TV show (the leaps in time and space, the events leading to Charlie and Itchy becoming guardian angels, Carface's Villain Decay, the politics between heaven, hell and Earth) into a more linear story. It helps that the story is still fairly simple and the characters are very loosely defined.
First Installment Wins: While the sequel and TV show have their fans and are agreed to have more memorable characters and interesting stories, the first movie is generally agreed to be the only one that works as a whole move rather than a bunch of decent, disjointed ideas.
Friendly Fandoms: There exists a lot of fanart and fanfiction which cross this film over with the Steven Spielberg-produced Balto, another Renaissance-era animated feature staring dogs. It helps that most of the animators for that film also worked on the two Bluthfilms Spielberg produced, so their character designs compliment one another to the point that many mistake Balto for a Bluth film. Humorously enough, both films were originally going to be another collaboration between Bluth and Steven Spielberg until Creative Differences got in the way.
A film with heavy themes of mortality and several scenes of a little girl in danger becomes a lot more difficult to watch knowing the tragic fate of that little girl's actress. Even worse, the film's plot is kicked off with a murder.
The film ends with Itchy (Dom De Luise) outliving his best friend Charlie (Burt Reynolds). In real life, Reynolds outlived DeLuise, who died twenty years after this movie was released.
Not that anyone doubted the acting abilities of the great Dom De Luise, but his tearful "You're my friend" speech to Charlie is easily his best performance in a Don Bluth film.
Heck, even Burt Reynolds' acting is kind of underrated! Most of his dialogue was ad libbed, giving it a certain restraint and sincerity not often heard in animation, not to mention providing the animators with a very natural performance to work with.
Related, one of the supporting characters in The Princess and the Frog is a musically inclined big lipped alligator who lives in the Louisiana bayou.
Idiot Plot: The mainspring of the plot is kicked off when Charlie, who is handed a spot in Heaven on a silver platter despite clearly not deserving it, decides he wants to take his cake and eat it too, and makes a profoundly stupid decision by deciding to forsake his place in Heaven to return to his life on Earth, and he nearly winds up in Hell as a result. While there's an argument to be made that he didn't know going back would damn him, after he finds out, he decides to spend his remaining time on Earth gambling, seeking revenge, manipulating an orphan, and generally doing everything possible to tarnish his soul. To say nothing of the fact that Heaven leaves the means to returning back to Earth laying right out in the open for anyone to use.
Jerkass Woobie: Charlie Barkin. He's a con artist and a compulsive liar but he literally goes to hell and back for the people he loves.
The Problem with Licensed Games: The game on Amiga and DOS is just a collection of poorly programmed mini-games tied together with cutscenes. And the horrific ear-bleeding sound combined with the three colors it runs in practically defines Sensory Abuse.
Sequel Displacement: Because of the utter lack of continuity between the first film and everything that followed it, many are surprised to realize that Sasha, one of the most popular characters of the series, was not in the original, or that the Heavenly Whippet didn't have a name.
So Okay, It's Average: Maybe not Bluth's best movie, but it's certainly not his worst. The sequel and TV show also have a sizable fan base of people who feel this way about them, saying that they have a lot of interesting ideas and characters but weak stories.
Tastes Like Diabetes: "What's Mine Is Yours." Justified in-universe in that Charlie is not only being watched by wholesome, sweeter than sweet Anne-Marie, but the pups' caretaker — who also happens to be an old flame of his. The pups, for their part, disregard the lesson almost immediately.
Uncanny Valley: Anne-Marie sometimes falls into this (keep in mind that, video games notwithstanding, this was Don Bluth's first time animating a major human character). Of particular note is that close-up shot of her close to the end, where she looks more like a porcelain doll that a human being.
Values Dissonance: Itchy's stereotypical "Chinaman" gag in "You Can't Keep A Good Dog Down." The film was released in 1989, the last time a joke like this was socially acceptable.
Vindicated by History: While it got mixed reviews and didn't make much money at the time of its release, the first movie has since garnered a cult following, along with a lot of viewers who see it as Don Bluth's last good movie before his Dork Age.
What An Idiot: Situating their casino out of a half-sunken ship proves to be a serious oversight on the part of Carface and Charlie, and neither escape with their lives when the ship is inevitably set ablaze and sunk.
What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Undoubtedly Don Bluth's least kid-friendly film, despite a few scenes that are obviously for kids. Not only does a murder-revenge gangster story include a lot of "inappropriate" stuff like first degree murder, theft and drinking but the movie plays it totally straight. That's not to mention the terrifying images of Hell and Satan, and the real clincher, killing the protagonist, which is unheard of in Western animation for children.
Itchy, after his run-in with Carface near the end of the movie. The animated series ups his Woobie status even further, showing him as being the victim of an abusive owner and in the episode "Fearless Fido", he has a PTSD reaction to ferris wheels due to a traumatic event he had as a pup.
Charlie, though he can border on Jerkass Woobie at times also counts. After being put through hell and having to say goodbye to Anne-Marie with tears rolling down his face, he most definitely needs a hug.
"Find A Little Heaven," a sweet little gospel pop tune.
While most of the songs in the Christmas special range from passable to awful, "I Always Get Emotional At Christmastime" is an excellent, almost Broadway-quality showstopper. It helps that both singers are Broadway veterans, and the song works in the favor of both their singing voices: not too rangey for Charles Nelson Riely, but it allows Bebe Neuwirth to give a slinky, over-the-top performance.
And Steven Webber is clearly having fun with "Clean Up Your Act."
Iron Woobie: Itchy Itchiford. There are several moments throughout the series where you'll want to reach into your screen and hug the poor guy. In a flashback episode, Itchy is forced to do humiliating tricks to a cruel master who treats him like trash and calls him stupid. There are many times in the series where Charlie will outright lie to or manipulate Itchy for his own personal gain. In the episode "Fearless Fido", its revealed that he had an absolutely humiliating date as a puppy that was so bad that it gave him a PTSD reaction to ferris wheels and let's not forget the episode where Charie uses a miracle dog tag to become human and ties poor Itchy to a post when he goes off and dines at a fancy restaurant. Yet despite all this, Itchy remains Charlie's loyal sidekick through thick and thin. Poor Itchy.
Killer is a textbook example of this, as what little menace he had in the movie is completely gone here. It's especially notable in episode "Sidekicked" where he constantly badmouths and insults Itchy yet feels depressed over the fact that his boss, Carface will most likely leave him to rot at the pound.
Despite Charlie reverting to his old ways for the sake of comedy, he has his moments now and then, like when he talks about never celebrating a birthday in "An Itch In Time".
Teddy from the episode "Field Trip". Sure, he's a brat who hates dogs so much he deliberately sends them to the pound but he's also clearly neglected by his grandmother in favor of the dogs she takes care of. His tearful and horrified reaction when Charlie tells him about what happens to dogs at the pound is enough to make him change.
Padding: Belladonna's part of "I Always Get Emotional At Christmas Time". It really has nothing to do with the plot and kind of comes out of nowhere, as the musical number is Killer's until she shows up and her part is mainly just to make it longer.
Most Annoying Sound: Any time a non-singing actor is given a song. It's unfortunately the only thing any of the sequels have in common with the original.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Surprisingly, the TV series had a considerable amount of expectations from the films' small but dedicated fanbase when it first aired, and most of them were disappointed that it largely eschewed themes of mortality, not to mention turned Charlie back into an unsympathetic jerkass, in favor of mediocre Saturday Morning Cartoon antics. Most would agree that Charlie and Itchy becoming guardian angels is at least a good setup.
Uncanny Valley: Owing to the show's shoe-string budget, the dog characters are all rather poorly anthropomorphized. At times, their paws look more like human hands.