Spot the Dog is, collectively, a set of British animated TV shorts (39 five-minute shorts and eight 15-minute shorts) and two half-hour specials based on the books by Eric Hill. (There are over a hundred of the books themselves.) It centers on the puppy Spot, his family and his friends, and to a much lesser extent, the other inhabitants of the land in which Spot lives.
The series can be divided into six sections:
- The Adventures of Spot Series 1 (1985)
- It's Fun to Learn With Spot Phase 1 (1990)
- The Adventures of Spot Series 2 (1993)
- It's Fun to Learn With Spot Phase 2 (1994)
- The Specials (1995, 1997)
- Spot's Musical Adventures (2000)
The first and third series of The Adventures of Spot, as well as Spot's Musical Adventures, was released in the United Kingdom as animated storybooks, narrated by Paul Nicholas. When Disney released it in the United States, however, they made a half-hearted attempt to Americanize it. Spot was revoiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas in The Adventures of Spot and Haley-Joel Osment in Spot's Musical Adventures (retitled Discover Spot in the United States), the other characters were given their own voices, and the narration was changed. However, the fact that none of the characters' mouth move when they were speaking (this was, of course, initially an animated storybook) confused many parents who actually watched the show along with their kids. This was made worse for those who was introduced to the show by the specials, which were intended to be proper animated features and the characters' mouths do move when they speak. Both It's Fun to Learn With Spot phases were never released in the United States. Peter Hawkins, now deceased, was involved in the series for a short stint as narrator of the first phase of It's Fun to Learn With Spot, but the second phase of It's Fun to Learn With Spot retained Paul Nicholas as the narrator. Spot's Musical Adventures was narrated by comedian Jane Horrocks in the United Kingdom.
After the release of Spot's Musical Adventures, the producers of the show retroactively re-voiced the British versions of both The Adventures of Spot and It's Fun to Learn With Spot with Jane Horrocks as the narrator.
Disney also contributed to some changes in the show. For Discover Spot, Disney introduced a live children segment at the end of each short (apparently, live children segments for an educational TV show was a craze for children educational shows at that time). This was backported to later British releases of Spot's Musical Adventures (the original release of the show lacks a live children segment), and later to The Adventures of Spot and the specials, and finally to It's Fun to Learn With Spot.
The series provides examples of the following tropes:
- Adaptation Expansion: The television series is based on the books by Eric Hill. Most of these books are pretty simple, though there are at least a couple Expanded Universe releases covering material that originated in the TV show. Notably, the series is still releasing new books, despite the fact that no new television material has been created in around ten years, and none is known to be planned.
- Baths Are Fun: The "In My Bath" song has Spot playing in his bath and imagining it to be a big sea on which he can sail his boat.
- British Brevity: For the TV series. In overall: 13 episodes for season 1 which aired in 1985, 4 episodes for "It's Fun To Learn With Spot" which aired in 1989, another 13 episodes for season 2 which aired in 1992, another further 4 episodes for "It's Fun To Learn With Spot" in 1994, two made for TV specials, one in 1995 and another in 1998, and Finally a set of 13 episodes for "Spot's Musical Adventure". And Did I mention that the 13 episode sets are only 5 minutes long and the 4 episode sets are only 15 minutes long? And the specials are only half an hour long? You could cram all of them onto a 8.4GB DVD!
- Canis Major: Assume the doors in Spot's world is at a 1:1 scale with common doors in our world. Now, imagine the size of Spot in comparison to his mom and a typical four-year-old. Suddenly, the parents are huge.
- Putting into clearer perspective: Spot, when he makes a costume appearance, is slightly larger than the size of a grown man. So his parents, which are about three to four times his size...
- Cats Are Mean: Linked to the aversion of the Sugar Bowl Trope in most parts. The first series of The Adventures of Spot has a meanie named Cybil. He not only scared Spot with his angry looks and feral responses on a couple of occasions, but the kids watching as well. Parents whined. Cybil was mysteriously gone after the first series of The Adventures of Spot ended and did not return since. Cats introduced since are only mildly sarcastic at worst.
- Christmas Special: A direct-to-video special, Spot's Magical Christmas.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Spot's sister, Susie. She was introduced in one book, continued her appearance into one puzzle toy released shortly after, and then was never heard from or mentioned ever again.
- Crapsaccharine World: Spot may be cute and love to play with his friends, but he could sometimes make the characters around him angry, but not his parents, mind.
- In the UK edits, Spot has made his mom angry once, and over a relatively minor incident to boot (he walked into the house with dirty paws and left behind prints on the floor).
- Free-Range Children: Averted in earlier works, in which Spot's outings usually see him accompanied by his mom or dad, and played straight in newer works, in which Spot and company are allowed to roam the streets of the village they live in without adult supervision.
- Furry Reminder: When Spot is excited or happy, he may either bark or wag his tail.
- The Kiddie Ride: One where he rides on a train. Said ride reportedly did not attract kids well due to poor design in the UK (the most common compaint was that the ride put too much emphasis on the train as Spot is just a relatively small figure on the back of the ride. Allegedly the UK OMC factory only made 11 units of the ride for the whole of Europe). Was said to do better in Australia, where it was rumored to have spun off a second, improved ride design.
- Licensed Games/Edutainment Games: Only two edutainment titles for PC/Macs. And two apps for the iPad.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Spot has appeared in 3 children's compilations for charity. First, Where's Spot in NSPCC Children's TV Favourites Volume 1 in 1990, then Birthday Party in NSPCC Children's TV Favourites Volume 2 in 1993, and Stays Overnight in Calling all Toddlers in 1999
- No Antagonist: After they dropped Cybil the cat.
- Odd Name Out: Spot himself, as all the other characters have human names. Helen the Hippo, Steve the monkey and Tom the crocodile among them, even Spot's parents are called Sally and Sam.
- Precious Puppies: Seriously, it's hard to not love Spot.
- Shout-Out: In the book Spot Sleeps Over, Steve the monkey's plush toy is an elephant with a crown that looks exactly like Babar.
- Sugar Bowl: Averted a few times on the first series of The Adventures of Spot (mostly in part due to the Cats Are Mean trope mentioned above, but partially because the adults also displayed negative emotions like anger in the season), but the rest of the series fits this trope to a T, 99.99% of the time (the only two remaining incidents since was a mean goose and a rude duck in Spot Goes to the Farm). The adults no longer show anger since, either.
- Title Theme Tune: The British version of the first two phases of "The Adventures of Spot" and the first two phrases of "It's Fun To Learn With Spot" were especially guilty of this. For a 20-second long tune, the name Spot is mentioned roughly six times.
- Bragging Theme Tune: The British version of the first two phases of The Adventures of Spot and the first two phases of It's Fun to Learn With Spot were especially guilty of this, too. As is the U.S. version of the theme tunes for both phases of The Adventures of Spot and Spot's Musical Adventures
- Ventriloquist Animal: Spot and his family don't move their mouths to talk in the show.