An animated charmer about a British "dog whisperer" and his faithful Alsatian shepherd
click to enlarge
Long before there was a dog whisperer, the British writer J.R. Ackerley (1896-1967) penned a memoir about the 15 years he shared with Tulip, a willful but loyal Alsatian (German shepherd). The animated film My Dog Tulip may be most appreciated by dog lovers, because it is an earnest and insightful reflection on what it's like to have a dog as a best friend. It also subtly reflects on many aspects of human friendship, but in the placid tones of an elderly British gentleman reflecting on his years.
Ackerley was never particularly interested in having a dog, but he rescued Tulip from abusive owners. As he grew attached to Tulip, he became an ever more keen observer of dogs, and he made Tulip his constant companion. The dog's behavior didn't damage his friendships so much as cost him social invitations once the two became inseparable. There were many places where Tulip was not welcome to return, whether the issue concerned cats, house training or attracting suitors.
Christopher Plummer narrates Ackerley's tale, and other voices are contributed by the late Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini. The narrative proceeds at a measured pace and is formal in tone, even as Ackerley candidly relates details about Tulip's excretory and reproductive impulses. But Ackerley learns much about himself and even his own shortcomings as he tries to understand and care for Tulip. Though the film looks like an endless series of evolving watercolors, animators Paul and Sandra Fierlinger did all work digitally for their first feature film. — Will Coviello