All Dogs Go to Heaven: Things only adults notice in the animated movie

You probably watched All Dogs Go to Heaven as a kid if you're reading this. You may have even watched it several times growing up. It is, after all, a classic movie. While All Dogs Go to Heaven is a beloved animated children's film, it's not actually from Disney as so many of the world's favorite animated classics are. Instead, the 1989 musical film was created by Don Bluth, a former Disney animator who opened up his own animation studio, as noted by film critic Roger Ebert's review of All Dogs Go to Heaven.

In spite of the fact that All Dogs Go to Heaven, as of this writing, only has a score of 58 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie remains a fond childhood memory for many people. Is our fondness of the movie possibly colored by nostalgia, though? Is All Dogs Go to Heaven really a magical movie, or do kids only like it because it's filled with adorable dogs? The only way to find out is to rewatch it as a grown-up. Here are the things that only adults would possibly notice in All Dogs Go to Heaven.

The dog gang storyline in All Dogs Go to Heaven is pretty dark for a kids' movie

When you're a kid watching All Dogs Go to Heaven, it's a funny, colorful, musical story about man's best friend. When you watch it as an adult, though, it seems more like The Godfather meets The Shawshank Redemption with a little bit of 101 Dalmatians thrown in. If All Dogs Go to Heaven had centered on humans instead of dogs, there's no way it would have been marketed as a kids' movie.

For starters, almost all of the characters are part of the criminal underground — not exactly fitting role models for little eyes. They gamble and are involved in some pretty sketchy dealings. The fact that the movie is also about murder and death with a kidnapping subplot means that All Dogs Go to Heaven is in pretty adult territory. How did this even get made into a movie intended for young eyes? Fortunately, to kids, gambling probably just looks like a real-life game of Monopoly. We can't say the same thing for murder and kidnapping, though.

There's some casual racism thrown into the first musical number in All Dogs Go to Heaven

For the most part, All Dogs Go to Heaven isn't too offensive. There's one brief moment in the first musical number, though, that tarnishes the entire movie. In "You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down," Charlie and Itchy refer to the country of Siam. Itchy dons a cymbal meant to look like a conical hat, squints his eyes, and bares his teeth in a hideously stereotypical and racist caricature of an Asian man. 

The scene goes by so quickly that a kid might not notice it and, even if they do, likely won't be aware of how grotesque this blatant racism is. Adults, however, will be shocked that something so offensive and so demeaning could make it into a film as late as 1989. As an adult, that one brief snippet of overt racism is also potentially enough to diminish their enjoyment of the rest of the film. Fortunately, the rest of All Dogs Go to Heaven passes by without any more shockingly racist depictions. 

How does Charlie not realize that Carface can't be trusted in All Dogs Go to Heaven?

Oh Charlie, did being locked up in the dog pound make you soft? We thought you were a hardened denizen of the canine crime world. You should have known better than to trust Carface. Didn't you see the gambling den sign that had your name crossed out, leaving only Carface's? Charlie is even blatantly told that Carface hasn't been treating the other dogs well in his absence, yet the warning bells still don't go off.

Not to stereotype, but Carface even gives off a bad guy vibe. He's a chain-smoking crime lord who surrounds himself with sycophantic minions. It's pretty obvious from the first time that we see him that Carface is going to be the primary antagonist of All Dogs Go to Heaven. He doesn't even have to open his mouth or hatch a murder plot for it to become very evident that he's up to no good. The fact that Charlie doesn't sense this is pretty strange, especially since, as a professional crook who just got out of the dog pound, he'd be used to having his guard up.

There is a lot of substance abuse going on in All Dogs Go to Heaven

As an adult, it's kind of hard to ignore that there is some decidedly adult activity going on in All Dogs Go to Heaven. Carface isn't just the leader of a big gambling ring, he's also a chain smoker who perpetually has a cigar in his mouth. Carface's deep, raspy voice is no doubt the product of years of chain smoking.

To his credit, Charlie doesn't seem to share his soon-to-be former friend's chain smoking ways, but he does heavily binge drink in one scene. Now, we aren't going to judge someone for indulging in some alcoholic beverages, but it is rather surprising that such a scene is displayed in a children's movie. Charlie doesn't just have a couple of drinks. No, he gets completely sloshed — not exactly G-rated material.

Of course, most kids (hopefully) won't recognize what a drunk person looks like. They probably think that Charlie is just really sleepy or perhaps that he ate a lot of sugar. There's still no excuse for the chain smoking, though. At least Carface is a bad guy who kids most likely won't want to mimic.

Why do only some of the dogs wear clothes in All Dogs Go to Heaven?

What is going on with the fashion in All Dogs Go to Heaven? While some of the dogs, such as Carface and Itchy, are decked out in duds, most of them run around naked. Are clothes the norm in the world of All Dogs Go to Heaven? Or are they simply a social quirk?

We can kind of understand why Carface, who fancies himself as some sort of Mafia kingpin, would want to wear a shirt and vest (but no pants?) to differentiate himself from his henchmen. But why does Itchy wear a t-shirt and a baseball cap? And how does the baseball cap stay on his head over his ears? We've got the same question about Killer's eyeglasses. Where would someone even buy doggy eyeglasses? If there are canine optometrists and fashion designers, it doesn't seem like they'd be able to make a very good living considering that most of the dogs don't often wear glasses or clothes.

If there are no surprises in heaven, did they know Charlie would wind his watch in All Dogs Go to Heaven?

In All Dogs Go to Heaven, Charlie discovers that every soul has some sort of watch or clock in heaven that corresponds with their lifespan. When it stops ticking, it means their time is up. Charlie also learns that everything everyone has done or will do ends up written in a book. In short, heaven knows what's going to happen before it happens.

This then means that the book held the information that Charlie would steal his watch back to wind it and return to his life on earth. As the dog angel who greets Charlie says, there are no surprises in heaven. So why is she so surprised when Charlie steals his watch in a song and dance number? Shouldn't she have known what was going to happen? Or was Charlie stealing the watch and the angel's dire warning that he wouldn't be able to return to heaven (which we learn by the end of the movie was not true) an act? Is this some sort heaven entrance exam? Or is this proof that there actually are surprises in heaven?

Why wouldn't Charlie just want to stay in heaven in All Dogs Go to Heaven?

Charlie's motivations for returning to Earth in All Dogs Go to Heaven seem kind of murky. He's clearly enticed by the finer things in life (after all, he agrees to leave his partnership with Carface and abandon his life and friends for a good chunk of the business profits), so you'd think heaven would be, well, heaven. Going back to Earth just to get revenge seems not just petty but kind of silly when everything Charlie is motivated by in life (food and prosperity) is provided for him in heaven.

It would have been one thing if Charlie had some unfinished business on Earth, if he had a family to take care of, or if he didn't want to leave a girlfriend behind. But Charlie doesn't really have much going for him on Earth. He's broke, his best friend killed him, and — let's face it — he can't have that many years left of his life considering that, according to the American Kennel Club, the average lifespan of a German Shepherd like Charlie is just seven to ten years.

The protagonist of All Dogs Go to Heaven is not very likable

As far as protagonists go, Charlie is kind of the pits. An ex-con who is hell-bent on revenge isn't exactly the hero you'd expect to see in a children's movie. Sure, he has a heart of gold, but it takes a very long time for that to become apparent. Charlie's redemption arc is kind of rushed and, to be honest, not all that convincing.

Yes, Charlie saves Anne-Marie at the end of the movie, but that seems to be the sole selfless act of his entire life. It could even be argued that if he hadn't kidnapped her and kept her for personal gain, she wouldn't have needed saving to begin with. Charlie brings the puppies pizza, but it also looks like he might be involved with their mother, so that doesn't exactly count as a good deed. He's selfish, greedy, and amoral.

In retrospect, it's kind of surprising that All Dogs Go to Heaven became as popular as it did. Then again, maybe it all just goes to show that you can't keep a good dog down.

How do the horses understand the dogs in All Dogs Go to Heaven?

We could really use a guidebook here to figure out how animal linguistics work in All Dogs Go to Heaven. It's established that animals can't talk to humans or even other animals. That's how Anne-Marie, who can speak to animals, ends up kidnapped by Carface, who uses Anne-Marie's translations to place bets. Anne-Marie is basically a pint-sized Dr. Doolittle.

Charlie and Itchy bring Anne-Marie to the horse track to speak to the horses to see who will win a race. The little girl does this and has zero problems communicating with the horses, but we also see that at least one horse can understand Charlie and Itchy (although she doesn't speak to them). This just makes things even more complicated and confusing. Exactly how do these animal languages work? Can animals learn to speak another animal's language? Are there animal language courses? Is that horse killing time between races by leveling up on Duolingo? 

Charlie is kind of a womanizer in All Dogs Go to Heaven

Not only is Charlie the absolute worst, but he's also a womanizer. Even though we don't see many female characters in All Dogs Go to Heaven (this movie definitely would not pass the Bechdel test), whenever we do see Charlie with one, he can't help but smooth talk her. This applies to the guardian dog in heaven, Flo, and even Anne-Marie who can't be more than 10 years old. 

Charlie seems like the guy who has gotten through life (and the brief moments we see him in the afterlife) on good looks and charm, which doesn't exactly make for the kind of role model you'd hope for in a kids' movie. While it would be nice if All Dogs Go to Heaven had more female characters (was representation just not a thing in the 1980s?), the good side here is that we at least don't have to watch Charlie flirt with every single one of them.

Charlie opening up a new gambling den was a really bad idea in All Dogs Go to Heaven

How did Charlie manage to stay alive for so long in All Dogs Go to Heaven? He clearly has no sense of self-preservation. Not only does he ignore all the warning signs that Carface is a backstabbing liar, but he also immediately abandons his plans to lay low and let Carface think he's dead so he can plan his revenge. Instead, he uses Anne-Marie to make some money, opens up a new gambling den, and then foolishly leaves it unguarded.

He should have known that it wouldn't take Carface very long to realize that Charlie was still alive. Charlie also should have known that Carface would want to finish off the job and make sure that he was truly dead. Of course, Charlie knows that as long as his watch keeps ticking he will stay alive, but he could at least have thought of poor Itchy who gets roughed up and nearly killed by Charlie's henchmen towards the end of the film. Then again, Charlie is selfish and doesn't care for anybody except himself, so his actions are actually kind of on brand. 

Does Kate wear heels to bed in All Dogs Go to Heaven?

Kate's fashion is too high maintenance to handle. When the door rings in the middle of the night, who answers it in high heels, a nightdress that looks like an evening gown, and perfect makeup and hair? Kate, apparently.

From the clothes and the vehicles, it seems like All Dogs Go to Heaven might take place around the 1940s or 1950s, a time when women admittedly tended to wear more formal clothing than they do today. According to Time, it wasn't until the 1960s that wearing pants became commonplace for women. Even by those historical standards, though, Kate's strict adherence to looking like she just stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine is excessive. We can't help but wonder if she perhaps provided the inspiration for Midge, who, in the Amazon show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, rises early to do her hair and makeup so that her husband thinks she wakes up looking perfect. The show takes place in the 1950s, and Midge is always glammed up, just like Kate. Thinking of the strenuous beauty routines women of the past had to go through is positively nightmare-inducing.

All Dogs Go to Heaven would probably be stronger without music

As much as we love All Dogs Go to Heaven (yes, even as adults), the musical numbers are kind of lackluster to grown-up audiences. Sure, they might be fun for little kids who expect their animation to come with a side of music, but, as an adult, you can't help but notice that the songs simply aren't that good.

None of the numbers are too catchy. There's also the fact that most of the actors voicing All Dogs Go to Heaven's singing characters aren't particularly good singers. This means singing often falls more into the category of speak-singing, making it far from impressive. In some ways, the musical numbers weaken the movie. They mostly serve to interrupt the narrative instead of enhancing the story or moving the plot along. If All Dogs Go to Heaven ever gets a live-action remake, here's hoping that it's sans music or that it at least gets a revamped soundtrack.