Atlanta Quarterback Michael Vick’s dog-fighting story generated a slew of newspaper cartoons, including some depicting him being tried by a jury of dogs. It was a reminder of America’s strong love affair with cartoon dogs, going all the way back to the 1920s.
Little Orphan Annie’s Sandy
Here are four of the most famous dog characters from comic strips and movie cartoons:
Little Orphan Annie’s Sandy was perhaps America’s first loved cartoon dog. The big fellow never said much more than “Arf”, but was always at Annie’s side, helping her to fight the Nazi and other evil characters.
The comic strip was drawn by Harold Gray starting in 1924 and kept running until Gray’s death in 1968. During those 44 years, Annie remained 12 years old. Sandy started as an abused puppy but eventually grew into a huge dog that Author Kenneth Barker described as an Airedale/Collie mongrel. In his early years he was probably the most popular dog in the comic strips,despite Gray’s tendency to use the comic strip to spread his own political views.
Pluto first appeared in 1930 in a Walt Disney Mickey Mouse cartoon. According to the Disney website, that same year he also played Minnie Mouse’s dog, Rover. But in 1931 he was back with Mickey MousePluto. He later went on to be the star in 48 of his own Pluto cartoons.Unlike Goofy, Pluto was never a human character, just a friendly bloodhound. Disney limited Pluto’s vocabulary mostly to snorts, sniffs, barks and an occasional growl.
Goofy, another Disney creation, was introduced as Dippy Dawg in 1932 with an appearance in Mickey’s Review. But according to the Disney website, his name was changed to Goofy in 1934 and since then has been a main character in a long string of Disney productions and comics, including some in which he was the star.
Though he lived in an animal world, Goofy was created as a human, a gentle man forever cheerful, loyal and always trying, but often too goofy, to help his friends. In the 1960s he was cast as Mr. George Geef, a suburban man with a wife and son caught in a lot of hapless, humorous situations. But mostly he has been Goofy, the funny and affable good guy.
Snoopy came into the comic strip world in 1950, ready to right the universe with his intelligence, fantasies and abundant, but seldom justified, self confidence. He was one of George M. Schulz’ top characters in Peanuts, sharing the laughs and wisdom with Charlie Brown, Lucy and his master, Linus.
By 1956 Snoopy was walking on two legs and before long he was sleeping atop his dog house, playing baseball, golf and tennis. He is probably history’s most famous beagle, though he often dressed himself in human clothing, including sunglasses and head-ware appropriate to whatever his latest fantasy might be.
Most Americans grew up with these four dogs. They were all fictional, but in the hands of Disney, George Schulz and Harold Gray, they became lovable characters.
There is no way to measure how much they contributed to the American culture that reacted so overwhelmingly against Vick.