Family Dog
Created byBrad Bird
Directed byChris Buck
Voices of
Theme music composerDanny Elfman
ComposerSteve Bartek
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes10 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
ProducerChuck Richardson
Production companies
Original networkCBS
Original releaseJune 23 (1993-06-23) –
July 28, 1993 (1993-07-28)
Related showsAmazing Stories

Family Dog is a 1987 episode of Amazing Stories, created by Brad Bird and an animated television series that aired from June 23 to July 28, 1993, on CBS. It was about an average suburban family, the Binsfords, as told through the eyes of their dog named Jonah.[1][2] The series was the first collaboration between executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton.

Delayed for years and panned by critics, the latter show has been called "one of the biggest fiascos in television animation history, on both a creative and commercial level, in spite (but, in many ways, because of) the high-powered talent behind the project."[3] One critic observed that the main problem with the show was that "the Binsford family was so repulsively selfish that audience interest in their adventures was nil."[4]

Cast and characters

1987 short

1993 series



No.TitleDirected byOriginal air date
1"Show Dog"Chris Buck, Clive A. SmithJune 23, 1993 (1993-06-23)
The Binsfords enter Jonah in a rodeo showcase of the stars, believing him to be specially talented. Meanwhile, all Jonah wants is a drink of water.
2"Hot Dog at the Zoo"Clive A. SmithJune 23, 1993 (1993-06-23)
When the Binsfords take a trip to the zoo, their pooch tags along and causes plenty of trouble.
3"Doggone Girl Is Mine"Clive A. SmithJune 30, 1993 (1993-06-30)
Jonah falls hard for a recently-divorced neighbor's pet. Meanwhile, Skip fears Bev might leave him.
4"Enemy Dog"Clive A. SmithJuly 7, 1993 (1993-07-07)
When the pretentious Mahoneys pick up a vicious police dog from an auction, the Binsfords force their pooch to interact with it.
5"Eye on the Sparrow"Chris Buck, Clive A. SmithJuly 7, 1993 (1993-07-07)
Jonah cares for a sparrow who is unable to fly.
6"Call of the Mild"Chris Buck, Clive A. SmithJuly 14, 1993 (1993-07-14)
Jonah the family dog dreams of cavorting with the neighborhood strays, but he soon discovers that he does not have what it takes to run with the pack.
7"Dog Days of Summer"Chris Buck, Clive A. SmithJuly 21, 1993 (1993-07-21)
When the Binsfords head to the beach, they are forced to contend with a trashy group of teens and their vicious bulldog, Scud.
8"Party Animal"Chris Buck, Clive A. SmithJuly 21, 1993 (1993-07-21)
After hosting the neighborhood block party, the Binsfords' house catches on fire.
9"Family Dog Goes Homeless"Klay HallJuly 28, 1993 (1993-07-28)
Jonah the family dog befriends a homeless woman.
10"Family Dog Gets Good and Sick"Becky BristowJuly 28, 1993 (1993-07-28)
Jonah the family dog becomes ill after being bitten by a mosquito that was feasting on toxic waste. Meanwhile, a neighborhood dog is killed by a car.



TV Guide advertisement for original episode
TV Guide advertisement for original episode

In the original Amazing Stories episode, which aired in the show's second season in 1987, a dog named Jonah (a Bull Terrier simply called "the dog" who is voiced by Brad Bird) is the main character, portrayed in three stories:

The first story involves general misadventures around the house, with Jonah ignored and somewhat mistreated by his owners, originally named the Binfords (voiced by Stan Freberg, Annie Potts, Scott Menville, and Brooke Ashley).

The second part is a Christmas "home movie", narrated by the family, that culminates with Jonah eating the ham.

In the final and longest segment, a couple of burglars (voiced by Marshall Efron and Stanley Ralph Ross) break into the house while the family is out seeing a movie. When Jonah fails to protect the house from the thieves a second time, the father sends him to Gerta LeStrange's Dog Obedience School run by Gerta LeStrange (voiced by Mercedes McCambridge), so he can learn how to become a "quivering, snarling, white-hot ball of canine terror." The burglars hit the house yet again and flee from the now-aggressive dog, but return to their hideout to discover him still clamped to one thief's arm with his teeth. A police officer (voiced by Jack Angel) investigating the robberies raids the house and is immediately attacked by the dog. The burglars decide to use Jonah in their heists, earning them (and the dog) fame as the "Dog Gang." Jonah finally turns on the criminals, causing an auto accident in which they hit a police car and are busted. Jonah is returned to the Binford family, who now consider him their hero. In a final gag, the father, locked out of the house, sneaks into the backyard, where he's attacked by the dog, duly defending the property.

Written and directed by Brad Bird, with music by Danny Elfman and Steve Bartek, it was one of the most popular episodes of the Amblin Television/Universal Television weekly anthology television series, Amazing Stories.[5] The story was animated by Dan Jeup, Ralph Eggleston, Chris Buck, Sue Kroyer, Gregg Vanzo, David Cutler, Rob Minkoff, Alan Smart, and Darrell Rooney from an animation production design by Tim Burton. The animation production was outsourced to Hyperion Pictures (then under The Kushner-Locke Company), and was shot in Sydney, Australia by Cinemagic Animated Films under animation director Cam Ford, with Kim Humphries as camera operator.[6]

Spielberg's choice to make the episode using animation – especially combining the expense of high-quality animation with well-known voice actors – was considered risky and bold at the time.[7] The first half of the special was attached to the theatrical release of another Spielberg-produced project, The Land Before Time, because of the film's short length of just over an hour.[8]


Six years after the original Amazing Stories episode, a CBS series based on the episode was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton (who contributed to the production and character designs). It was written by Dennis Klein, Sherri Stoner and Paul Dini, and animated by Nelvana, but notably lacked the involvement of the original writer and director, Brad Bird, because he did not believe the short's premise would work as a television show.[9] Largely hyped due to Spielberg's involvement, the series was plagued by production delays. It did not get past its original network order of 13 episodes. Ten episodes were finished by the Wang Film Productions animation house in Taiwan but the producers were dissatisfied with the results, so they halted production on the final three episodes and outsourced the ten episodes to Nelvana for "fixes and completions".[10] The series was scheduled to debut on March 20, 1991 (and it was heavily promoted during the February 1991 broadcast of the Grammy Awards), but the animation was not completed in time for this premiere, so the series was ultimately pushed back until 1993.[10][11] Frederick Coffin was originally cast as the voice of Skip Binsford, but Spielberg decided to replace him with Martin Mull, after animation was completed on the first three episodes.

Despite the Amazing Stories short airing two months before the launch of the new Fox network and the original The Simpsons shorts as part of The Tracy Ullman Show, Family Dog eventually was lumped into a category of failed primetime animated series produced for the "Big Three" networks to compete with The Simpsons, alongside ABC's Capitol Critters and CBS's own Fish Police.[12] Every program was canceled after only a few weeks. CBS burned off Family Dog in six weeks in the summer of 1993.

Home media

Complete Series LaserDisc cover
Complete Series LaserDisc cover

The entire series was released as a LaserDisc box set,[13] and various episodes of the show were released on VHS around the same time.


The original short has been praised by critics alongside the likes of veteran animators Bill Melendez and Bob Kurtz.[14]

When the show debuted, it was roundly panned for its crude scripts and cheap production values, both of drastically lesser quality than the episode which had spawned the series. It became a cult disaster.[15][16]

Video game

The show was adapted into a Super NES video game about the life of an everyday family dog. The player has to go three places such as the home where the dog lives, a dog pound and the woods to defeat stereotypical obstacles and enemies like a dog catcher and a cat.[17]


  1. ^ Scott Blakey (January 27, 1994). "Spielberg-burton Collaboration A Weary, Predictable Dog". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
  2. ^ Daniel Cerone (July 9, 1991). "Cbs Is Still Trying To Fix 'Family Dog'". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  3. ^ Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 189. ISBN 978-1538103739.
  4. ^ Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. pp. 313–314. ISBN 978-1476665993.
  5. ^ Solomon, Charles (1987-02-16). "Animated 'Family Dog' Does Prime-time Tricks". Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  6. ^ Solomon, Charles (1987-02-15). "Spielberg's Bite". Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
  7. ^ 100 Greatest Animated Shorts/The Family Dog/Brad Bird|Skwigly Animation Magazine
  8. ^ Thompson, Anne (1988-11-03). "The Profits Keep Rolling In For Spielberg". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  9. ^ "Iron without irony". Salon. Salon Media Group. Archived from the original on 2011-02-05. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Cerone, Daniel (April 24, 1991). "Animated Series Stuck in Doghouse : Television: CBS promoted 'Family Dog' for its spring lineup, but production snags will delay the Spielberg production until fall". Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. Retrieved November 10, 2010.
  11. ^ Cerone, Daniel (1993-06-10). "Spielberg's 'Dog' Finally Has Its Day : But Is CBS Throwing a Bone by Unleashing the Series in Summer?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  12. ^ Daniel Cerone (February 28, 1992). "'Fish Police' on Endangered Species List". Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  13. ^ LaserDisc Database - Family Dog (41869)
  15. ^ "Family Dog". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. 1993-06-25. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  16. ^ Kogan, Rick (1993-06-23). "Cbs' Animated 'Family Dog' Has No Bite". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  17. ^ "Family Dog". MobyGames. Retrieved 2010-11-11.