You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Disney’s Teacher’s Pet

Doggone hilarious cartoon extravaganza that may fetch even teens and tweeners who tend to avoid animated fare, "Disney's Teacher's Pet" virtually bursts at the seams with a supersized abundance of witty wordplay, silly songs and inspired sight gags. Strong response by family audiences is practically a given.

Cast:
Voices: Spot/Scott - Nathan Lane Dr. Krank - Kelsey Grammer Leonard - Shaun Fleming Mrs. Helperman - Debra Jo Rupp Jolly - David Ogden Stiers Pretty Boy - Jerry Stiller Dennis - Paul Reubens Adele - Megan Mullally Ian - Rob Paulsen Principal Strickler - Wallace Shawn Mrs. Boogin - Estelle Harris Barry Anger - Jay Thomas

A doggone hilarious cartoon extravaganza that may fetch even teens and tweeners who tend to avoid animated fare, “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet” virtually bursts at the seams with a supersized abundance of witty wordplay, silly songs and inspired sight gags. Strong response by family audiences is practically a given, considering the dearth of similar product in the megaplex marketplace. But wait, there’s more: Favorable reviews and strong word of mouth could increase tooner’s across-the-board appeal, resulting in a leggy theatrical run and boffo ancillary biz.

Based on an acclaimed Disney-produced TV toon series, warp-speed feature (67 minutes, plus six-minute credit roll) reunites major creative forces behind the award-winning series: illustrator Gary Baseman, scripters Bill and Cheri Steinkellner and director Timothy Bjorklund. Just as important, pic retains Nathan Lane to voice the title character, Spot, a turquoise talking dog who’s determined to become “a real boy,” or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

For the benefit of those who tuned in late, pic begins with premise-establishing prologue: Spot dons eyeglasses and a beanie to assume the role of Scott, a model student who attends fourth grade alongside Leonard Helperman (Shaun Fleming), his nominal master. No one — not even Leonard’s schoolteacher mom (Debra Jo Rupp) — sees through Spot/Scott’s disguise. Which, truth to tell, is a mixed blessing for Leonard, who’d much rather have a playful dog than a competitive classmate.

As Scott, Spot is nothing if not an overachiever: On the final day of class before summer, he earns more academic honors than any human student. But when Leonard and his mother drive off in a borrowed Wentawaygo to attend a national teacher’s conference in Florida, Spot is left behind with two other pets — Pretty Boy (Jerry Stiller), a belligerent canary, and Mr. Jolly (David Ogden Stiers), a fraidy-cat feline — in the care of a near-senile sitter.

Fate moves its huge paw when Spot spots a TV interview with Dr. Ivan Krank (Kelsey Grammer), a ranting-and-raving wacko who claims that, through the modern miracle of DNA manipulation, he can transform any beast into a human.

To be sure, Krank’s first subjects — a mosquito girl (Megan Mullally) and an alligator boy (Paul Reubens) — haven’t been stunning successes. But never mind: Spot is sufficiently encouraged to don his Scott disguise, catch a ride with Leonard and his mother — and make his way to the swampy domain of Krank.

The good news: Krank does indeed manage to effect a miraculous transformation. The bad news: No one takes into account the “dog years” issue. Instead of becoming a real boy, Spot evolves into — well, would you believe, an animated grown-up who looks a lot like Nathan Lane?

Zippily paced and prodigiously inventive, “Teacher’s Pet” spins into dizzying curlicues of breakneck zaniness. Indeed, there’s something almost exhausting — and yet, at the same time, exhilarating — about the pic’s scattershot wisecracks and kaleidoscopic imagery. Anyone who still insists 2-D animation is obsolete should be taken — no, rushed — to this madcap cavalcade.

Credit Baseman and Toon City Animation for an overall visual design that suggests a crazy mix of Tex Avery, Zap Comix, Dr. Seuss and Art Spiegelman, with dashes of exuberant surrealism — singing houses, smiling suns, undulating U.S. maps — and wink-wink references to Disney animated classics. (The opening scene is a sly parody of “Pinocchio,” and images of Mickey Mouse himself often appear as fleeting in-jokes.) Some individual frames are so crammed with comical signage and wacky marginalia that ticket buyers may involuntarily reach for a remote-control pause button.

There’s a surprising amount of subtlety and sophistication along with the snarky and smart-alecky stuff in the snappy script by the Steinkellners, Emmy Award-winning sitcom vets who served as executive producers for “Cheers.” Original songs — too often the worst sort of showstoppers in animated features — are richly amusing and sharply satirical, with many of the more elaborate production numbers playing like perfect-pitch parodies of traditional Broadway musicals. Among the best numbers: “A Whole Bunch of World,” a rapid-fire ode to all 50 states, and “I, Ivan Krank,” a tango-favored ditty sung with zesty hauteur by Grammer.

Vocal performances range from engagingly adept to screamingly funny, with Lane claiming top-dog honors for his ability to switch from sarcastic canine to melancholy mutt without missing a beat. Pic slows a bit in final third, to allow for the inevitable touches of separation-and-reconciliation hokiness. Much to the credit of everyone involved, however, even the sentimental elements are presented with a well-tuned sense of loony-toony playfulness.

Disney's Teacher's Pet

Animated

Production: A Buena Vista release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Walt Disney Television Animation production. Produced by Stephen Swofford. Executive producers/creators, Gary Baseman, Bill and Cheri Steinkellner. Directed by Timothy Bjorklund. Screenplay, Bill and Cheri Steinkellner.

Crew: (Technicolor); supervising film editor, Nancy Frazen; art director, Gary Baseman; music, Stephen James Taylor; songs, Randy Petersen, Kevin Quinn, Cheri Steinkellner, Brian Woodbury, Peter Lurye; sound designer (SDDS/DTS/Dolby Digital), Ronald Eng; character designer, Kim Roberson; animation production, Toon City Animation; associate producer, Melinda Carrillo; voice casting and dialogue director, Jamie Thomason. Reviewed at Edwards Marq*e Cinema, Houston, Jan. 10, 2004. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 73 MIN.

With: Voices: Spot/Scott - Nathan Lane Dr. Krank - Kelsey Grammer Leonard - Shaun Fleming Mrs. Helperman - Debra Jo Rupp Jolly - David Ogden Stiers Pretty Boy - Jerry Stiller Dennis - Paul Reubens Adele - Megan Mullally Ian - Rob Paulsen Principal Strickler - Wallace Shawn Mrs. Boogin - Estelle Harris Barry Anger - Jay Thomas

More Film

  • Japan Box Office: 'Mixed Doubles' Makes

    Japan Box Office: ‘Mixed Doubles’ Opens at Number One

    A doggone hilarious cartoon extravaganza that may fetch even teens and tweeners who tend to avoid animated fare, “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet” virtually bursts at the seams with a supersized abundance of witty wordplay, silly songs and inspired sight gags. Strong response by family audiences is practically a given, considering the dearth of similar product in […]

  • Christopher Walken on ‘King of New

    Antalya Festival: A Modest Christopher Walken Talks ‘King of New York,’ His Own Acting Style, and Michael Cimino

    A doggone hilarious cartoon extravaganza that may fetch even teens and tweeners who tend to avoid animated fare, “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet” virtually bursts at the seams with a supersized abundance of witty wordplay, silly songs and inspired sight gags. Strong response by family audiences is practically a given, considering the dearth of similar product in […]

  • Ikebukuro Move Puts Tokyo Market in

    Ikebukuro Move Puts Tokyo Market in Growth Mode, says Yasushi Shiina

    A doggone hilarious cartoon extravaganza that may fetch even teens and tweeners who tend to avoid animated fare, “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet” virtually bursts at the seams with a supersized abundance of witty wordplay, silly songs and inspired sight gags. Strong response by family audiences is practically a given, considering the dearth of similar product in […]

  • Turkish Cinema: The New Generation -

    Turkish Cinema: The New Generation - Tolga Karacelik, Director 'Butterflies'

    A doggone hilarious cartoon extravaganza that may fetch even teens and tweeners who tend to avoid animated fare, “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet” virtually bursts at the seams with a supersized abundance of witty wordplay, silly songs and inspired sight gags. Strong response by family audiences is practically a given, considering the dearth of similar product in […]

  • Turkish Cinema: The New Generation -

    Turkish Cinema: The New Generation - Ramin Matin, Producer, Director 'Siren's Call'

    A doggone hilarious cartoon extravaganza that may fetch even teens and tweeners who tend to avoid animated fare, “Disney’s Teacher’s Pet” virtually bursts at the seams with a supersized abundance of witty wordplay, silly songs and inspired sight gags. Strong response by family audiences is practically a given, considering the dearth of similar product in […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content