‘I bought two canine encyclopedias’: how we made Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds | Family movies
Claudio Biern Boyd, creator and producer
I grew up in Spain, without TV at home. For Christmas and birthdays, my family gave me action-adventure books from classic authors like Emilio Salgari, Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas. When I was 16, I fell in love with the movie Around the World in 80 Days with David Niven and Shirley MacLaine. I was fascinated to see how they brought the book to life within the confines of the film.
In 1972 I co-founded my own company – BRB International – initially to distribute cartoons such as Pink Panther, Maya the Bee, Pippi Longstocking and Vicky the Viking in Spain, but we quickly decided to make our own. cartoons and team up with a Japanese Animation Studio – Nippon Animation. I went back to the books I loved as a child and thought about how to turn them into cartoons.
Our first project was Ruy, the little Cid – based on the 11th century Spanish hero. It was a great success, so I turned to Dumas’ Three Musketeers for my next inspiration. There was a lot of sword fighting in the original story that we had to sweeten up for the kids, so we decided it would be more fun to use animals as characters. I was living at the time with an American Cocker Spaniel called Sam, who was always wagging his tail. I thought: what’s better than a dog? Thus D’Artagnan, the fourth musteketeer, became Dogtanian. I bought two canine encyclopedias, put them next to Dumas’s book, and wrote the screenplay. The main characters all became dogs, like Juliette, Dogtanian’s girlfriend, and the “muskehounds” Arthos, Aramis and Porthos, and King Louis XIII, who was based on my dog Sam. Prime Minister Cardinal Richelieu became an old fox, and we added some characters like Pip, D’Artagnan’s sidekick, a mouse. Milady, the sneaky spy, was a cat. I never liked cats.
Although the animation studio is based in Japan, Dogtanian was animated in English – as cartoons typically are, as the English language has the shortest lip movement. The first voices added were in Japanese in 1981, then in Spanish in 1982, and finally in American English in 1985. There is a huge colony of Americans in Madrid because of the Torrejón air base, so we were able to cast some. American actors without having to look abroad.
The series was a huge success around the world and especially on the BBC, which immediately bought the rights to our next cartoon, Around the World With Willy Fog.
One of the things everyone remembers is the theme song: One for all and All for one. It was written by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, two well-known Italian musicians who have written numerous scores for films and television. I flew to Rome to persuade them to work with me and it was the start of a great relationship – I am the godfather of one of their children – and they continued to write for me for other projects.
As a cartoon producer no one knows my face unlike if I were a great Hollywood producer. But when I give my name to book a restaurant, or buy a plane ticket, or even when I was talking to distributors in England for the new Dogtanian animated film – everyone starts singing the Dogtanian theme song to me. The same goes for Portugal, France, Italy. It’s incredible.
Toni Garcia, original writer / director of the new film
I was working as a screenwriter when I first met Claudio in 1989. He was working on The Return of Dogtanian, which ran for 26 more episodes, and was hosted by another Japanese studio and co-funded by Thames TV, and this hour posted on CITV.
Alexandre Dumas’ original books on the Musketeers are quite short, so we had to add a lot of new stories ourselves. The funny thing is that years later the BBC did a live action series called The Musketeers, which is said to be based on the original books but actually includes much of the storyline of Dogtanian – even though it doesn’t contain any dogs.
The original cartoons always seem to evoke a lot of nostalgia. I am now the director of the new Dogtanian animated film. We were respectful – for example, we re-recorded the theme song, but with a full symphony orchestra and chorus. One thing we have changed is the female characters. In the original, they had relatively minor roles. Juliette especially was rather passive. Today, she is the head of the team, very active and full of initiative. Some of the original Spanish actors are still alive, so we were able to get them to participate in the Spanish version of the new movie. The Spanish actor who originally dubbed Juliette – Gloria Cámara – is now 40 years older, so this time she is playing Dogtanian’s mother.