DVD Review - My Dog Tulip

Paul and Sandra Fierlinger's animated film was hand-drawn using a computer pen and tablet, but the look is that of traditional, pencil drawings. The design and movement of the characters aren't as fluid or as perfect as the works of Sylvain Chomet, Bill Plympton or Hiyao Miyazaki, the three greatest animators in the traditional style. Fierlinger's drawings are more box-like with rigid lines and choppy motion.

In fact, some scenes are incomplete. Some scenes are just line drawings with no color or detail filled in. They're just outlines of characters and buildings. They might as well be stick figures. The animation at times is no more complex than that put on weekly display with South Park. With the amount of toilet humor here, one would think that perhaps the progenitors of that Comedy Central series had some influence, but no. That's not the case.

First off, the writing here is vastly superior. There is little dialogue. The words consist of mostly narration, narration that Fierlinger describes as erudite prose but it's erudite prose that relates the problems that a dog can have with its anus or the feces that comes out of it. Even though the story is set in post-World War II England, this is hardly a treatise on British culture or society all that much.

My Dog Tulip is based on the 1956 novel of the same name. J. R. Ackerley wrote it as an autobiographical tale. Fierlinger doesn't really adapt it as he and his wife translate it. They open with a quote about how the British relate to dogs better than to one another, but whatever commentary on British society is lost as this becomes more about one man's loneliness and the mutual attachment between him and his dog.

The man is J. R. Ackerley and his dog was Queenie. The film itself doesn't provide much in Ackerley's back story. For that, one must go to the DVD's special features. There, one will get a peak into the life of Ackerley but not as much as I would have wanted.

J. R. Ackerley was born in 1896 in London. He was a child out of wedlock. He had an older brother named Peter, also born out of wedlock, and a younger sister named Nancy. While at prep school in Lancashire, Ackerley realized he was gay. There, he was nicknamed "Girlie," yet, Ackerley fought in WWI. He was injured and taken prisoner. His brother arrived and fought alongside him until Peter died in battle. Ackerley was repatriated after the war and went to Cambridge University. He befriended E. M. Forster and lived a promiscuous gay life, moving to India for less than a year. He came back to London where his play got produced and started working for a BBC magazine. He went through his father's death and the discovery of his father's second family, and, just before the WWII, he got an apartment in Putney.

In 1946, the year of his mother's death, Ackerley took in a German Shepherd. The Alsatian female came from Ackerley's part-time, gay lover, Freddie, who was heading to prison for theft. Ackerley taking the dog from Freddie is depicted in Ackerley's novel and the 1988 film We Think the World of You. In fact, the basic plot of that film is essentially the same as this one, except the homosexual aspects were extricated as well as most of the human relationships in general.

My Dog Tulip really is more about the dog. Tulip starts out as an abused and neglected animal who Ackerley rescues. What might become a cartoon version of Marley & Me takes a sharp turn when Fierlinger shows us a close-up shot of Tulip's anus and then proceeds to show us Tulip as she defecates on the middle of the sidewalk. Fierlinger also shows us Tulip and her various ways of urinating here and there and everywhere.

Fierlinger who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania laughs at these bowel movements when pitted against the highbrow language that Ackerley uses to describe them, never cursing or using four-letter words. Listening to Christopher Plummer deliver that language while watching a cartoon dog drop turds with a classically-trained pianist laying European-inspired score underneath possesses a strange beauty.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended for Mature Audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 21 mins.


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