June 08, 2019


(CBS, September 10-December 3, 1994)

Northern Lights Entertainment, Universal Cartoon Studios

Joel Murray - Beethoven
Dean Jones – George Newton
Kath Soucie – Alice Newton
Nicholle Tom – Ryce Newton
J.D. Daniels – Ted Newton
Francesca Marie Smith – Emily Newton
Brian George – Mr. Huggs
Bill Fagerbakke – Caesar
Tress MacNeille – Ginger
Joe Pantoliano - Sparky

            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 Dant├ęs) and Amy Holden Jones, produced by the Ghostbusters team of Ivan Reitman, Joe 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 Blum 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 with six more direct-to-video sequels, video games and toys.

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 editor Jonathan Greenberg, Michael Ferris, Buddy Chuck, Peter Gaffney, Jim Bernstein, Michael Shipley, Jeff Lowell and Christian Fletcher, with character designs by Keith Baxter, Julian Chaney, Victoria Jenson, Robert J. Sledge, Stephen DeStefano and Rogerio Nogueira. Dave Feiss 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 by Hyun 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.

            Milton 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 released four 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. 

“Good Old George / The Pound” (9/10/94) – George puts Beethoven in a kennel after he destroys the house. / Beethoven and his friends plan to free another friend from the pound.

“Dog Dreams / The Good, the Bad, and the Poodle” (9/17/94) – Beethoven dreams about having amazing adventures. / Beethoven finds himself facing off with a gang of poodles.

“The Experiment / The Incredibly Pointless Journey” (9/24/94) – Beethoven tries to help Ted with his homework. / The dogs try to teach Sparky how to fetch.

“The Guard Dog / Mr. Huggs’ Wild Ride” (10/1/94) – Beethoven and Mr. Huggs team-up to stop burglaries. / Mr. Huggs ends up trapped in a balloon that floats away.

“Cat Fight / The Kindergarten Caper” (10/8/94) – Beethoven teaches Sparky how to fight a cat. / Beethoven tries to help Emily in her kindergarten class.

“The Gopher Who Would Be King / Pet Psychiatrist” (10/15/94) – Beethoven tries to evict a gopher from his backyard. / George takes Beethoven for some sensitivity training.

“Cyrano de Beethoven / The Mailman Cometh” (10/22/94) – Mr. Huggs asks Beethoven to help him with his love life. / Beethoven’s latest target: the mailman.

“A Cat Named Rover / The Dog Must Diet” (10/29/94) – Beethoven tries to help a cat with an identity crisis. / George tries to put Beethoven on a diet.

“The Mighty Cone-Dog / Car Trouble” (11/5/94) – While showing off his speed Sparky ends up hit by a car and with an embarrassing cone around his head after a visit to the vet. / Beethoven and Sparky go for a ride with a student driver.

“Puppy Time / The Morning Paper” (11/12/95) – The Newtons dogsit their friend’s puppy and Beethoven teaches him the ropes. / George tries to teach Beethoven how to fetch the paper in one piece.

“The Big One / Fleas!” (11/19/94) – Beethoven sets out to find a fabled giant donut. / The Newton family is invaded by fleas.

“Scent of a Mutt / Down on the Farm” (11/26/94) – Beethoven finds himself at odds with an upper-class dog. / The Newtons head out on a family vacation with Beethoven.

“Trash Island / The Long Weekend” (12/3/94) – Beethoven and his friends raid a garbage truck only to end up on a garbage barge captained by a nut. / When the rest of the family heads off for a weekend trip, Beethoven vows to keep George from being lonely…whether he wants it or not.

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