Beethoven was a family comedy
film about the mischievous titular St. Bernard dog of the Newton family. While
the rest of the family loved Beethoven, patriarch George (Charles Grodin)
was driven to jealousy over their affections for the dog. An unscrupulous
veterinarian, Dr. Herman Varnick (Dean Jones), managed to trick the family into
giving up the dog for his sinister experiments. Realizing they’ve been duped,
the Newtons rescue Beethoven and the other dogs Varnick had captured.
Beethoven was written by John Hughes
(as Edmond Dantés) and Amy
Holden Jones, produced by the Ghostbusters team
Medjuck, and Michael C. Gross,
and was directed by Brian
Levant. The film proved an unexpected success when it was
released on April 3, 1992, grossing $147.2 million worldwide. A sequel was
never intended, but in light of the box office Universal Studios
commissioned one for release the following winter. Beethoven’s 2nd was
written by Len
and directed by Rod
Daniel, and became another success with a gross of over
$118.2 million. From there, Universal turned Beethoven into a franchise
more direct-to-video sequels, video games
|Beethoven, Caesar and Ginger.
Part of that franchise came in the
form of an animated series produced by Universal Cartoon Studios and Reitman’s Northern
Lights Entertainment. Reitman, Medjuck and Gross served as executive
producers with Daniel Goldberg.
In true cartoon fashion, all of the animals featured on the show could
communicate with each other with the humans none the wiser. Joel Murray
provided Beethoven’s voice, with Brian George as the family’s hamster, Mr.
Huggs, Joe Pantoliano as Jack Russel terrier Sparky, Tress MacNeille as collie
Ginger, and Bill Fagerbakke as Great Dane Caesar. Nicholle Tom reprised her
role as eldest daughter Ryce Newton from the theatrical films, while Jones
stepped into the role of long-suffering George. Kath Soucie assumed the role of
his wife Alice, J.D. Daniels as Ted, and Francesca Marie Smith as Emily. As
with the film, Beethoven was often seen helping out the various members of the Newtons
while driving George nuts by just being a dog (such as trashing the house while
playing or tracking muddy pawprints all over). Beethoven also frequently had
adventures away from the house with his animal friends, like raiding garbage
trucks for treats or teaching a neighborhood cat that he’s not a dog.
|Beethoven and Emily play in the mud.
Beethoven debuted on CBS on September 10, 1994. Universal’s
initial plan was to air Beethoven in both
syndication and on Saturday mornings, but ultimately scrapped
the syndicated version. The series was developed by Paul Germain,
who also served as a writer, voice director and story editor, and Joe Ansolabehere,
who also served as a story editor and writer. Other writers included story
Lowell and Christian Fletcher,
with character designs by Keith
J. Sledge, Stephen
DeStefano and Rogerio Nogueira.
directed the opening titles with a theme composed by Christopher Neal Nelson
and Baxter. Nelson also handled the rest of the series’ music. It was animated
Young Animation Studios. Each episode was broken up into two
short story segments. Beethoven didn’t prove as successful as its movie
counterparts and was cancelled at the conclusion of its sole season.
|George angry about Beethoven's latest antics.
Bradley released several
puzzles depicting scenes that could have come from the show
in 1994, while Price
Stern Sloan published two
books that did come from the series; each adapting
an episode and utilizing screenshots from them. Toys
based on the show were included in Dairy
Queen kids meals in 1996. MCA Universal Home Entertainment
VHS collections in 1995 containing 3 segments each. In
1996, Gaiam Americas, Inc. released an additional
four collections. Only “Trash Island / The Long Weekend”
had never seen a home release in the United States; the segments later surfacing online
with Russian dubbed over it.