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Film / The Shaggy Dog

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In Canis Corpore Transmuto note 

The Shaggy Dog is a 1959 Disney movie starring Fred MacMurray and Tommy Kirk, partly based on a Felix Salten novel called The Hound of Florence. It is notable for being Disney's first live-action comedy.

Life is hard for Wilby Daniels. His father doesn't seem to understand him and fails to appreciate his passions, his brother loves him but is obnoxious, his best friend often takes advantage of his generosity, and his mother doesn't seem to be able to do much about it. But that all changes when a beautiful French girl moves in with her family across the street and Wilby volunteers to go with her to the museum. Upon returning home, he discovers an old ring with a strange Latin inscription on it, and after reading said inscription multiple times, he is transformed into a dog! He seeks the advice of the kindhearted and superstitious museum manager, who unfortunately cannot help him and informs him that until he does an act of heroism, the transformation will come and go at unpredictable times (usually the worst possible times). It's bad enough that his father has a strong hatred for dogs and his brother wants to keep him as a pet, but Wilby makes the horrifying discovery that Francesca's father and butler are actually spies sent to steal a mysterious government secret for the Space Program located in the classified "Section 32" and that Francesca is in danger! Can Wilby and Moochie stop the spies and save Francesca, or will he (and his dad) both end up in the doghouse?

The movie was a huge hit at the time of its original release in 1959. It spawned a 1976 sequel (The Shaggy D.A. where a 40 year old Wilby played by Dean Jones runs for district attorney and his curse comes back), a TV remake in 1994 (starring Scott Weinger, Ed Begley Jr. and James Cromwell) and a very loose theatrical remake in 2006 starring Tim Allen.

Not to be confused with a "Shaggy Dog" Story.

The original 1959 film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Incantation: Wilby Daniels finds a ring with an inscription ("in canis corpore transmuto") and reads it aloud several times, turning it into a little song. It turns him into a dog.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The opening credits have stop motion animation.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Moochy for Wilby. Exaggerated when Wilby becomes a dog; Moochy doesn't want him to change back because he finally has a dog. He even tries to put a dog collar on him!
  • Betty and Veronica: Allison, the girl next door that grew up with both Wilby and Buzz, and the sophisticated and French Francesca. The two girls actually act more civil towards one another than the Trope Namers do.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Valasky.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In quite a few aspects. Wilby manages to stop the spies and rescue Francesca, resulting in the spell being broken, but unfortunately, it's the dog Chiffon who gets all the attention and credit. Then there's the fact that Francesca is taken back to France after her adoptive father is arrested, but she gives Wilby's brother Moochie the dog as thanks and Wilson has finally warmed up to dogs. And finally, Wilby and Buzz make up and agree to both share Allison... but she has found another boyfriend.
  • Bound and Gagged: When Francesca's father and butler discover Wilby eavesdropping on their plans to steal section 32, they bound and gag him to keep him from ratting them out before fleeing the country.
  • Bumbling Dad: Also doubles as Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Wilson isn't academically challenged by any means nor a bad person deep down, but often falls short of being a good parent to his boys. At the beginning of the film, after Wilby's mishap with the missile interceptors, he makes Wilby get rid of all his science experiments and his pet animals, and tells him to get off the roof he's fixing before the falls off... and ruins the ''flowerbeds'', but he also doesn't like his son taking a girl to the dance (having never dated until he was 20). Not to mention he's rather harsh towards his other son Moochie's fondness towards dogs, to say nothing of his feeling of betrayal when Moochie is forced to tell the police that he knows nothing about his father's stories about Wilby turning into a dog to avoid being questioned further and be delayed from rescuing his brother. He gets better in the end.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Wilby, and sometimes his dad.
    • Poor Officer Hanson. He finds dog!Wilby doing all sorts of undoglike things (like using a call box) and ends up doubting his sanity. Then, when he finally realizes he isn't hallucinating, his boss and co-workers start doubting his sanity!
  • Captain Obvious:
    Mercer: [after a police car drives by with dog!Wilby driving] That wasn't Hanson!
  • Car Chase: The climax of the film, with the spies, with a kidnapped Francesca in tow, trying to make for the harbor to flee the country in possession of Section 32, while Wilby (in dog form) pursues in Buzz's swiped hot rod. He in turn is followed by Officers Hanson and Kelly. They pull over Wilby, but he resists and takes off their police car to resume the chase, leaving Hanson and Kelly to follow in the hot rod! Meanwhile, when the two officers report to their superiors at the precinct that their car had been stolen by a shaggy dog, the disbelieving police then sends out other cops to pursue and apprehend them, only for the chief to question the sanity of the entire police force and join the chase himself when they, too, report seeing a dog driving a police car where Hanson and Kelly should be! All the while, Buzz and Moochie coerce a dazed Wilson into following after everyone else, both for their own reasons: Moochie to stop the spies and save his brother and Buzz to get his car back.
  • Crossover: Officers Hanson and Kelly would appear again in The Absent-Minded Professor (which incidentally also features Fred MacMurray and Tommy Kirk (albeit in different roles), as well as a voice performance by Paul Frees)).
  • Crying Wolf: A variant; the chief of police understandably doesn't believe Hanson when he says a car has been stolen by a large shaggy dog.
  • Delayed "Oh, Crap!": Frieda says Wilby's working on an "issil interceptor". Wilson says she must mean a "missile interceptor". He starts talking about the trouble Wilby gets them into, then realizes that his son has built a missile interceptor.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The opening narration and first five minutes of the film make it appear as though Wilson is the film's protagonist. But it's actually his son Wilby who has that honor, while he and he is more of the tritagonist.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Either one. After her adoptive father's arrest for espionage, Francesca goes back to France. As for Allison, she denounces Wilby and Buzz as mere children when she gets a new boyfriend.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Launching a missile interceptor in the basement might have been a bad idea, Wilby.
  • The Dragon: Stefano the butler.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Wilby is the one who saves the day and stops the spies, but his dad gets the credit, and he doesn't even get to be in the background when the paper is taking his dad's picture.
  • Epic Fail: Most of Wilby's antics. For example, he creates and launches a missile interceptor... in the basement.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: Buzz and Wilby certainly think so.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The "Wild and Wooly Edition" DVD holds both the widescreen black and white version, and a 4:3note  colorized version.
  • Girl Next Door: Allison, as played by Annette Funicello. She's a very pretty girl whom both boys are interested in dating, only to be forgotten when Francesca moves into town.
  • Jerkass: Buzz Miller, to some extent. He always asks Wilby for money to pay for his dates with girls, and always fails to pay him back, and when the new girl Francesca moves in, he makes it clear he doesn't want Wilby around, wanting to woe her in himself.
  • Mailman vs. Dog: Wilson Daniels is a postal carrier who is always being barked at by dogs and resents them in turn. His wife speculates that dogs dislike mail carriers because they notice how they repeatedly bring bad news to the house.
  • Oh, Crap!: The three main characters each have one.
    • Moochie, when he see Wilby start to change into a dog again at the dance.
    • Wilby, when he sees he's turned back into a human while still in the room with Francesca's father and butler making plans to steal section 32.
    • Wilson gets one combined with that of betrayal when Moochie is forced to tell the police that he knows nothing about his father's stories about Wilby turning into a dog to avoid being questioned further and be delayed from rescuing his brother.
  • Photo Op with the Dog: Wilson is subjected to one with the literal dog (to his dismay) and his son Moochie at the end after being praised as the hero of the story.
  • A Rare Sentence: The scene where Officer Hanson reports Wilby (in dog form) for stealing Buzz's car is full of them. Shortly after this, the police of chief gets one, too.
    Police Chief: Would you kindly have my car sent round? [Beat] That is unless it's been stolen by a purple kangaroo wearing a checkered vest!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Downplayed, but Allison pointedly tells her new boyfriend that Buzz and Wilby are "just children" when he asks who they are, upon seeing them right as their agreeing that they've been unfair to her by ogling after Francesca.
  • Skewed Priorities: Wilson tells his boys to come off the roof before they fall off, not because they might hurt themselves but because they'll ruin the flowerbeds.
  • Spinning Paper: After the spies are arrested, the next scene a brief montage of newspapers spinning up to the camera, with headlines all blaring about the spy ring, which was broken by a shaggy dog.
  • Tempting Fate: Wilson tells Wilby not to fall off the roof or he'll ruin the flowerbeds. Wilby says he won't. Three guesses on what happens next.
  • Two-Timer Date: Zig-Zagged. Wilby's friend Buzz asks his usual girlfriend Alice on a date, and later without thinking, asks Francesca, the new girl who just moved in. So Buzz comes up with a creative solution: He will tell each girl that Wilby is nervous and has never had a date before, so to make him feel better, they will each dance with Wilby every other dance, and that way both girls will think they're with Buzz and everybody will be happy. Wilby fails to see how it will make him happy, but agrees since it's better than going with Moochie. Instead of going horribly wrong, as you'd probably expect, Buzz's plan works perfectly and Wilby is overjoyed to be dancing with Francesca... unfortunately, in the middle of the dance he starts turning into a dog again!
  • Unexpectedly Real Magic: Wilby Daniels finds a ring with a Latin inscription in it: "In Canis corpore transmuto." He likes the sound of it and sings it to himself several times while holding the ring. Then he turns into a dog.
  • The Unreveal: It's never specifically revealed what exactly the mysterious Section 32 contained that the spies were after, other than it was for the space program. But based on the police officers' shocked expressions upon hearing that Wilson knows of it, it probably was something of vital importance.
  • Wicked Stepfather: Well, wicked adoptive father, but either way, Dr. Valasky is not Francesca's biological father.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Wilson's attempts to tell the police what is happening cause them to think he's either insane or a spy himself.

The 2006 remake provides examples of:

  • All Animals Are Dogs: Thanks to genetic engineering, a variety of animals in the lab develop dog-like behavior.
  • Composite Character: The remake is almost completely different from the original and its sequels, but some characters share traits with them.
    • The main character is kind of a mix of Wilby as a kid, (a brilliant but somewhat inconsiderate person who turns into a sheepdog and stops a conspiracy), Wilby as an adult (both are efficient distract attorneys) and Wilby's father Wilson (both are well-intended but inept fathers who have strong hatreds for dogs much to the dismay of their kids, but eventually love them at the end).
    • The main antagonist, Kozak shares some similarities with Francesca's stepfather Dr. Valasky (both travel to a foreign country to steal something valuable to exploit for themselves) and also John Slade from The Shaggy DA. (as a corrupt politician who attempts to dispose of the protagonist in his dog form to prevent him from thwarting his plans).
    • Carly and Josh also share some traits with Wilby (both are talented kids, but their fathers fails to appreciate their good qualities.)
    • Rebecca shares some traits with Frieda, being a Deadpan Snarker annoyed by her dysfunctional husband's poor parenting choices.
  • Cool Big Sis: Carly is this to Josh, especially compared to Wilby and Moochie's relationship from the original.
  • Creator In-Joke: When jumping off a high place, Tim Allen's character shouts "To infinity... and beyond!"
  • Didn't Think This Through: Attempting to prove her father's client has been experimenting on animals and her teacher is innocent, Carly breaks into Kozak's lab and free the dog that eventually bites her father. At first, she's ecstatic that she's found a dog that Kozak experimented and proving he's a criminal... before realizing she has no proof where the dog came from.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Averted. Shaggy is pretty smart for a canine.
  • Fountain of Youth: Kozak's plan is to obtain the DNA of the dog Shaggy, to create an immortality serum and make humans have eternal youth.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Larry and Gwen start to freak out after Kozak turns on their boss Lance Strickland and violently incapacitates the man (injecting him with a serum that will paralyze him for months). When they protest, Kozak promises them a cut and Larry and Gwen accept it out of fear.
  • In Name Only: Aside from a human turning into a sheepdog at random times, all it has in common with the original is that Dave (a father) hates dogs (like Wilby's father, Wilson in the original) and a conspiracy is afoot. It actually has more in common with the sequel, The Shaggy DA.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: Initially, at least — the shapeshifting is triggered by Dave's heart rate, which is accelerated when he does dog stuff (like playing fetch).
  • Logo Joke: The Walt Disney Pictures logo turns into a doghouse.
  • The Mind Is A Play Thing Of The Body: The film kind of reverses the main form of humor from the original film. Instead of people being shocked from seeing a dog act like a human, they get a shock from seeing a human act like a dog.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Dave learns in his dog form that his son Josh hates football and has only been pretending to love it as much as his father, because he feels that he will stop respecting him otherwise, much to Dave's shock. Compounding it, Josh reveals to his friend that he has intentionally been flunking math so his father will make him quit football and intends to flunk more classes if math does not suffice.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Frequently throughout the movie with Rebecca towards Dave. At one point she manages to get him to finally pay attention by slamming a stack of books on his desk.
  • Punch-Clock Villains: The mercenaries who capture Shaggy deliver him and then leave the story, having completed their job and not having any interest or investment in the rest of Kozak's plans.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Averted. The snake is very docile and friendly.
  • Side Effects Include...: Lance Strictland needs one of Dr. Kozak's serums to be able to walk and stay alive. Korak shows Strictland the genetically experimented snake in the laboratory, the snake rejuvenated thanks to the canine serum, but with side effects like having a dog's tail and canine behaviors. This makes Strictland angry, because he doesn't want to end up with the same side effects as the snake.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Has a notable aversion in the snake, due to the dog serum, which made him go from a dying old snake to a strong young snake, but also growing a dog's tail and developing canine behaviors. The snake is very good, nice and friendly. He helps Dave out of his cage, when Dave asks him to find the keys.
  • Unconventional Courtroom Tactics: During the climax, Dave resorts to unorthodox methods to expose Kozak's crimes — he mocks the other man and growls at him like a dog (which causes Kozak's own canine instincts to kick in and for him to growl back). Portrayed realistically in that the judge is unwilling to put up with this and tries to have Dave removed... except at the last minute, Dave throws the baliff's baton and tells Kozak to fetch, triggering Kozak's own partial transformation and thus revealing that he's involved in illegal and unethical experimentation.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifter: After figuring out what causes his transformations, Dave learns to take advantage of it and shift back and forth.