Courage the Cowardly Dog is an American comedic horror animated television series that aired on Cartoon Network from November 12, 1999 to November 11, 2002 and was developed by John R. Dilworth. It had four seasons and 52 episodes in total. Each episode is approximately 22 minutes long, with two segments in the majority of episodes (unless it is a two-part episode). Its opening tune is titled “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” and its closing song is an instrumental rendition of the opening theme.
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Its major plot centers around Courage, a somewhat anthropomorphic pink dog who lives with his elderly, married farm owners Muriel and Eustace Bagge in “the middle of nowhere” (the fictional town of Nowhere, Kansas). Courage and his owners frequently find themselves embroiled in unusual mishaps, frequently involving the paranormal/supernatural and numerous adversaries. The programme is renowned for its weird, frequently unsettling comedy and unusual plot twists. The series combines comedic horror, science fiction, and drama.
“The Chicken from Space” was the title of a short on Cartoon Network’s animation showcase series “What a Cartoon!” made by Hanna-Barbera president Fred Seibert.
This series returned to Cartoon Network on April 20, 2012, in reruns on the revamped “Cartoon Planet” block.
A Courage the Cowardly Dog CGI animated special titled “The Fog of Courage” was produced in 2013 and presented at select conventions and on Cartoon Network (Southeast Asia).
The series also aired from November 6, 2014 to December 25, 2015 on Boomerang.
From December 30, 2016 until January 25, 2017, the seires returned momentarily on Boomerang.
Courage the Cowardly Dog focuses on a dog named Courage who lives in a farmhouse with Muriel and Eustace Bagge near the fictitious Kansas town of Nowhere. Courage was adopted as a puppy by Muriel Bagge (a good-natured Scottish woman) and her husband Eustace (a grumpy, greedy farmer who enjoys scaring Courage with the Ooga-Booga Mask). Courage, Muriel, and Eustace constantly encounter monsters, aliens, devils, crazy scientists, and zombies, which Courage must fend off in order to save his owners. Although the majority of the creatures the trio encounters are frightening or distressing, a few of them are nice or in distress.
As featured in each episode’s opening sequence, a TV anchorman proclaims, “This programme will now be interrupted by the Courage the Cowardly Dog show, featuring Courage the cowardly dog! Muriel, who lives in the midst of Nowhere with her husband Eustace Bagge, discovered him as a puppy… However, strange things occur in Nowhere. Courage must save his new residence!”
Courage the Cowardly Dog was originally conceived as a seven-minute animated short entitled “The Chicken from Outer Space.” Dilworth initiated the Cartoon Network-sponsored animated short with Hanna-Barbera and debuted Courage. 1985 marked Dilworth’s graduation from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He became an art director and formed and incorporated his own animation business, Stretch Films, in 1991. The animated short was included as one of the episodes of Cartoon Network’s World Premiere Toons in 1996, an innovation by then-president Fred Seibert of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. The brief acted as a pilot for the upcoming series. The original animated short included no dialogue, with the exception of a single sentence spoken by Courage, whose voice was more authoritative than in the series. Howard Hoffman, who also provided all the other vocal sounds and effects for the short, uttered it. In this short, the antagonist was an extraterrestrial chicken that would eventually return to the series to get revenge. At the 68th Academy Awards, the short was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
Courage the Cowardly Dog has original music composed by Jody Gray and Andy Ezrin. Classical music is occasionally audible, which pays homage to legendary Warner Bros. animation and Carl Stalling’s compositions. Gray orchestrated and composed up to fifteen songs, including Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” throughout the course of multiple episodes.
In 1999, Cartoon Network authorized Dilworth to adapt the short into an animated television series. Hanna-Barbera was responsible for the What a Cartoon anthology and planned to develop the series into a television series. However, Dilworth insisted that the filming take place at his Stretch Films Studios. David Steven Cohen, the show’s head writer, collaborated with Irv Bauer, Craig Shemin, Lory Lazarus, Bill Marsilii, Allan Neuwirth, Bill Aronson, and Michelle Dilworth on the plots of the episodes. Courage the Cowardly Dog debuted on November 12, 1999, and was the highest-rated debut in the history of Cartoon Network at the time. Its final broadcast was on November 22, 2002, and 52 episodes were produced over four seasons.
In total, 52 episodes were produced across four seasons, including a pilot episode. The series aired from 12 November 1999 to 22 November 2002.
Courage the Cowardly Dog was praised by critics. John G. Nettles of PopMatters praised the show and described it as “a intriguing and rich blend of cartoon and horror-film traditions”
Alex Mastas of Lights Out Films graded the performance in his review “A-” and stated, “The surroundings are rich and innovative; they’ve layered a majority of the show over actual photographs and occasionally used CGI animation.” The appearance is strange and otherworldly, much like the show itself.”
KJ Dell’antonia of Common Sense Media posted a review in which he awarded three out of five stars and wrote, “This cult favorite cartoon exploits excessive violence for laughs.” Antonia advised parents that the cartoon series features extreme violence, including organs exploding, extra limbs developing, and characters turning inside out. Antonia stated that shows intended at younger people “often don’t try for thrills and chills, so it’s great to see a genuinely strange and twisted series gain a solid fanbase.”
Jeff Swindoll of Monsters and Critics reviewed the first season DVD and was somewhat unhappy that the original Hanna-Barbera short “The Chicken from Outer Space” was not included. Swindoll believed that the lack of bonus features should not prevent fans from purchasing the season because the other episodes are available on previous series releases.
Awards and nominations
|1995 Academy Awards||Best Animated Short Film||John R. Dilworth
For short film “The Chicken From Outer Space”
|2000 Annie Awards||Outstanding Individual Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Television Production||John R. Dilworth
For episode “A Night at the Katz Motel”
|2000 Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing — Television Animated Series — Sound||For episode “The Duck Brothers”||Lost|
|2001 Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing — Television Animated Series — Sound||For episode “Courage In The Big Stinkin’ City”||Won|
|2003 Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing — Television Animated Series — Sound||For episode “The Tower of Dr. Zalost”||Lost|
Home media releases
Courage the Cowardly Dog was released on VHS alongside Mike, Lu, and Og in 2000. The VHS tape is no longer available.
Included on the Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders VHS was a bonus episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog.
Madman Entertainment released Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season One, a two-disc DVD package containing all thirteen episodes from the show’s first season, on September 12, 2007 in Australia (Region 4). On January 13, 2010, the second season was also released in its entirety.
Warner Home Video released the first season for Region 1 on July 20, 2010. This is the second official DVD release of various Cartoon Cartoons under the label “Cartoon Network Hall of Fame.”
Additionally, all four seasons are now accessible on Boomerang and HBO Max.
Select episodes from the series were also featured on multiple compilation VHSs and DVDs by Cartoon Network:
- The Powerpuff Girls: Birthday Bash – “Journey to the Center of Nowhere”
- November 5, 2004: Scooby-Doo and the Toon Tour of Mysteries – “The Mask” and “The Tower of Dr. Zalost”
- Grossest Halloween Ever – “Courage Meets the Mummy / Night of the Weremole” – August 9, 2004.
- Cartoon Channel Christmas Volume 2: Christmas Rocks – “The Snowman Cometh” (Oct. 4, 2005)
- Toon Humor: Laugh Your Asses Off! – “The McPhearson Phantom” CGI resurrection is planned
BuzzFeed claimed in February 2012 that a Courage the Cowardly Dog CGI special was in development. The programme, named The Fog of Courage, ultimately aired in 2014; however, BuzzFeed said that there was a significant possibility of bringing Courage back in a CGI version. In July of 2016, a Facebook campaign was established to encourage Cartoon Network to order a fifth season of Courage. Due to Arthur Anderson’s passing in April 2016, it was rumored that voice actor Brian Doyle-Murray will voice Eustace Bagge in a future CGI revival of the series.
Dilworth stated on Facebook in October 2018 that he was in negotiations with Boomerang for a prequel to the series. Later in the month, Dilworth stated on Facebook that “Before Courage, a “possible prequel” to Courage, will be developed by Boomerang. When queried about the idea in May 2020, Dilworth said that it had been “converted into something else.”
In January 2022, Dilworth disclosed that the project had been terminated for the same reason as before.