Glen Keane Sells Dog Food

This is a new one on me: Glen Keane animated a Burger ‘n Bones dog food commercial ca. 1983. Wow! The commercial was produced by Kurtz & Friends, and the jingle was recorded by Leon Redbone, who was well known for his rendition of the Mercer/Carmichael song “Lazy Bones”.

Keane’s expressive and inventive animation steals the show. Can anybody think of any piece of commercial character animation today that’s as competently drawn or fun to watch as this? I sure as heck can’t. Some parts of the spot seem unnecessarily complicated–the moving camera at the beginning, the design of the dog–but perhaps those were intended to add some flash and glitz to what is essentially a simple, character-oriented piece of animation.

(Kudos to Michael Ruocco for discovering this on YouTube)


  • http://www.youtube.com/hiyaanimation James Nethery

    Amazing work! I could watch that over and over. Definitely very “Keane-ish”.

  • Tim Hodge

    I remember when this was on the air. It really holds up.

    Didn’t Glen also work on “The Chipmunk Adventure” during this hiatus from Disney? I remember his work on the song “The Girls of Rock and Roll” was the highlight of the movie.

  • http://www.LarryAnimation.com Larry Ruppel

    It’s probably true that if there were more fully-animated
    hand-drawn commercials on television today, the world would be a slightly better place.

    Cheers!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I would think so too, I really hate the cheapness of it’s usage today.

  • Rooniman

    A really nice commercial.

  • Gene Milder

    Very generic commercial with some good animation in it.

    Today we have plenty of really great, well-animated and polished commercial work from a huge variety of artists. I think Amid is just trolling for the sake of trolling here. It´s his usual response of “it used to be so much better back in the day”. Even if “back in the day” was the 80s, a dark era for animated films and TV shows.

    Of course, there´s still a lot o crap today. There always was and there always will be. But to long for this kind of “Froot Loop”-type of commercial, that´s just silly.

    • Angry Anim

      I think the animation for today’s recent Froot Loops spots is top notch. And “Amid trolling for the sake of trolling”?

      This is a cool spot which is basically just one long constant scene. I think Amid’s saying that nowadays it’s the exception and not the rule.

      What’s your deal, guy?

    • http://www.onanimation.com Daniel Caylor

      Regardless, it’s nice to see this. It’s beautifully animated, and I might not otherwise have seen it if Amid hadn’t posted.

  • Don Adams

    Come on Amid….lets not polish a turd and call it a diamond. This commercial is mediocre at best. The only thing worth noting is that Glean Keane worked on it during his early days….and it shows.

    There are tons of higher quality commercial work out there(see anything done by Chuck Gammage’s studio). You just don’t report it.

  • BM

    I’m so used to you being snide, that I can’t tell if your seriously saying you like this or if your just putting us on. I think it’s wonderful.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Don’t listen to those naysayers, Amid, I still enjoyed this plenty.

  • http://ratso.podomatic.com Carl Russo

    Why the cop hat?

    • The Gee

      You may as well ask:
      Why is the dog wearing glasses?

    • Steve

      Haven’t you ever heard of a “police dog”… blood hound” uh, McGruff the crime dog?

  • [email protected]

    looks pretty sloppy to me. keane can do waaaay better. he phoned this one in imo. the rocking chair sure is pretty though! Amid – check out the current charmin commercials with the bears for really well done traditional animation. here’s a good one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmnk7y7beuc&feature=related

    • Funkybat

      I think this one was unusual, even back then. The only commercial I can think of that looks even remotely like it is the Charmin bears. The character animation on those is superb, yet not “over-animated.” It’s not often that an animated ad proves so popular that the characters ends up being put on the product’s actual packaging *after* being used in TV ads for years.

      As for this ad, I like it overall.the camera moves and the rocking chair are nice touches that would almost certainly be accomplished via CG these days. I’d say that admiring this ad is not about pointless nostalgia, but just an appreciation for a type of craft and draftsmanship that is kind of extinct now. You *know* the character would probably be either a cel-shaded 3D model or a Flash-based design these days. And few companies would trust an animator to draw the product out of its package the way Glen did here, too much “room for error.” They would insist on composted footage of the actual product (or its Photoshopped proxy.)

      The only commercials I see these days that still feature full-motion animation are usually for kids cereals. It would be good to see hand-drawn 2D animation used a little more in TV (and web) ads. If anything, it would stand out visually from all the glossy-looking digital clutter.

  • [email protected]

    another good one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1Rm97sBehE&feature=related
    I think Uli Meyer did these

    • j

      Exactly – Far better commercial animation than this regularly produced at Uli Meyer Studios:

      http://www.ulimeyer.com/

      This commercial is nice – but yes Amid I regularly see far better work than this today!

  • Sam

    It’s all these simplifying, no cop hat, no camera move, no character design thing you guys want? Then today’s commercials is what you have.

    And guys, it’s just a dog food commercial. Just enjoy it, sheesh.

  • Rick

    Now I’ve got that jingle stuck in my head.

  • http://jessicaplummer.blogspot.com Jessica Plummer

    “Some parts of the spot seem unnecessarily complicated…”

    Uh, I’d give almost anything to animate a commercial as “complicated” as this. 4 scenes/cuts that are essentially the same shot? Only one animated character? Try having to do 10 cuts on average with 3-4 fully animated characters roto’d half of the time on a CG background…for the same amount of screen time as this one.

    Nice find, though!

  • http://chippyandloopus.com/ John S

    I remember seeing this when it first aired. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. To this day, it’s one of my favorite pieces of animation. I love everything about it.
    Another fun piece is a Bullwinkle and Rocky commercial that Chris Buck animated. He really made those characters sing.

  • http://kevinbparry.blogspot.com Kevin

    Really? People are finding something to complain about? It’s a Leon Redbone, police-hat wearing dog in a rocking chair singing about Burger n’ Bones while strumming an acoustic guitar. I say live a little and enjoy this wonderful commercial.

  • http://www.forthebirdsblog.blogspot.com Michael J. Ruocco

    I’m surprised so many of you have conflicting feelings about this. I think its a wonderful piece of animation from an earlier stage of his career. There isn’t very much out there discussing Glen’s brief stint working outside of Disney (besides this interview of him from 1990 where he mentions this as his favorite commercial assignment: http://www.cataroo.com/hkeane.html), so any little bit of information helps.

    I’d really like to know what he has to say about his freelance experiences and what he thinks about this particular commercial now, since it’s been almost 30 years since he did this.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      I was reminded of noticing he worked on a few Family Circus specials too back in the day, those were way blander than this cool ad.

  • http://www.oddballcomics.com Scott Shaw!

    I think that Glen’s animation here is great. I have a few gripes with the direction, though. There’s an annoying jump cut at 00:24. And the musical score is waaay overdone; if the Leon Redbone hound is playing the guitar, we oughtta hear it instead of the orchestra behind it. (That could be a client thing, of course!)

  • victoria

    Nice animation but in the end I guess it couldn’t do what it was supposed to do, sell the product, whens the last time anyone bought any burger’n bones

    • The Gee

      heh.
      That’s probably one of the best points made in this thread.

      One thing worth pointing out: it is a jingle. Are there a lot of animated commercials these days based around jingles? That could be a difference maker.

      While I remember the commercial and totally remember the song, if I had a gripe, I would like to see the dog look more like Leon Redbone, swaggering along while singing his song. But, hey, like it matters, right?

      If you have to hold up the commercial and say why aren’t there more like this, it is probably best to consider that animation in commercials seems to be used for specific products/services. Once upon a time, dog food and cat food used animation a lot, like the Chuck Wagon spots. Now, maybe it is CGI more often than handdrawn but marketing products like those probably has changed some.

      I think Gene Milder and others might feel like Amid’s comments are stepping on their toes or their bread and butter. That’s understandable. If so, if you get the chance to do something like this, make it better than this and I bet Amid will sing praises of your work. ha ha.

    • Josef

      There’s a little more to selling a product than an well animated commercial. A lot of people seem to remember this commercial, so I think it’s fair to say that it did the job as well as it could.

      • The Gee

        That is true. Perhaps it demonstrates that something similar which would be made for a different product–a more potentially successful or better established one–would be more effective.

  • eric spector

    I’d say Charmin’s toilet tushy commercials by Joanna Quinn are certainly on par. Those have been around for a few years now but I still see them on tv.

  • Gerard de Souza

    It made an impression on me back in the day. It was Leon Redbone AND the animation. I thought about this commercial the other day as Leon Redbone came up on my Ipod. Really.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      The whole thing makes me homesick for the 80′s!

    • Gerard de Souza

      And BTW, this the commercial where we’d say “did you see that commercial…” among animation students in the day.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Didn’t this guy eventually morph into McGruff the crime dog?
    Take a bite outta crime!

  • timmyelliot

    Here’s an AUGUST 22, 1990 interview of Glen Keane where he talked about working in commercial animation and said working for Bob Kurtz on this commercial was his favorite:

    http://www.cataroo.com/hkeane.html

  • Ron

    I was just a little kid back then but I remember I liked the commercial so much that I convinced my Mom to buy ‘Burger n’ Bones’ for our Dog. She didn’t like it – and she was the kind of Dog who ate anything and everything. Alas it was a great commercial for a low quality product.

  • John

    Do dogs really need burger flavoured food?

    America, what are you feeding your pets?

  • gillaxian

    Wow, there is so much hate. Are you kidding me? The guy animated a very convincing character while singing and pedestal-orbiting the view from a low to high angle shot. It was the 80′s, only feature film was putting out this kinda of quality. The pose changes, as well as the subtly to the character really worked well! Not to mention he nailed the lip-sync.
    Sure it’s an advertisement, but its pure animation.
    Sometimes I think the readers of this site are just posers trying to be critics of an art that they just can’t grasp, just don’t get. Or perhaps too stubborn to admit that we’re all students of this skill…

    I just wish people can appreciate the work that’s involved in this, rather than feeding their insecurities.

    This turned out to be a great piece, I was entranced throughout!

  • andreas Wessel-Therhorn

    lovely animation. thanks for sharing it.

  • http://thadkomorowski.com Thad

    Who cares? I always change the channel or leave the room when the commercials come on.

    • The Gee

      Television was different back then.
      Remote controls were common enough for some but there wasn’t such a thing as universal remotes. And, commercials like these were aired during family hour shows during prime time. So, you had at least a two hour block when actually families, ones which would be called nuclear families and both smaller and larger ones actually sat around the TV and watched together.

      I may be shading my memory somewhat but if there were good commercials then it was something shared first within the family and then with others elsewhere. And, since for most households there were only three main channels–the broadcast networks–and some really funky independent channels plus PBS you knew what else was on.

      For what it is worth, a lot of those “old” commercials from the 80s on backwards (to the really old ones) held a certain level of entertainment value in themselves. And, not all of that was comedic or flashy, like many of today’s post-MTV and snarky saturated commercials.

      Some, like an old commercial for AT&T’s long distance service (of all things) were actual tear jerkers. To think a commercial of a kid calling from college to his mom who’s at home could be emotional and bond a positive message for a dang monopoly of a corporation is pretty impressive, in hindsight. Back then, and probably even now to some, it is endearing.

      There were fewer commercials being made then and arguably there were a lot of better ones being made. The key is most people knew those commercials like they knew and watched the same TV shows. These days the signal to noise ratio works against all of the cream rising and being known by as many as possible. It is just different.

      Sorry for the long retrospective. I’m sure you’re somewhat aware of that phenomena but to have live through it is to better understand it without being entirely dismissive of it.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        I feel your pain, I remember those days fondly myself when it seemed like an event to be watching TV at 8PM with my folks nearly 30 years ago. I don’t remember commercial breaks on TV being that obtrusive as they are now, they were relatively pretty short, allowing some of these programs a least a few more minutes to air than the shorten limits they got on them now. The fact though we had only a few channels on the dial didn’t me all was crap either.

      • Anon

        I think a big factor in “commercials were different then” was the styles of communication. If I recall correctly, commercial breaks were almost exactly as long on major networks as they are now (some cable networks seem to have longer and longer breaks, tho.) What changed was everything got louder, faster, and more crass.

        Bring up on YouTube any set of commercials from 30, even 20 years ago. The ads were much more “hokey” than now, I.E. they used a lot of jingles, had lots of people smiling like Stepford Wives (or even like real people) and lots of direct pitching of the product and it’s attributes.

        Commercials these days generally eschew all of this as being passe and lame. To some extent, it’s true, but part of what made some commercials entertaining back then was the sheer upbeatness and dare I say, showmanship, of the ads. Most ads int he past 10-15 years have gone the route of either cynical post-modernism, or shrill sensory overload. Quicker and quicker cuts, volume boosted way above the baseline db of the show itself, and a lot of really rude and unpleasant characters and situations. It’s like the movie Idiocracy.

        I suppose the marketers fell this is the only way to get people to stop flipping the channel or fast-forwarding, but for the most part, it isn’t working. The Old Spice ads with the handsome black guy and a few others seem to be able to play with ad conventions and still be appealing, but a lot of this stuff is just audio-visual dissonance.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        It’s that cynical loudness in advertising I just can’t stand. Nobody should be shouting it in my face if I’m not that interested in trying something knew.

  • http://animationinventory.blogspot.com/ Teodor

    This is better than Tarzan

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    Great spot. Some wiggly cleanup, but the animation is terrific. I like it better than Tarzan too.

  • http://storyfanatic.com Jim

    It’s wiggly because Glen could never keep his volumes consistent. He got away with it because he was a personality. I see this, and all I can think of is how easy animation used to be.

  • Elzra

    Wow, seriously excellent animation and design! I like the song too. It strangely reminds me of Schoolhouse Rock.

  • http://utopiamoment.ca Jack Ruttan

    I’m agreeing with the wiggly comment,and volume control issues. Still a fun thing to watch. It’s not “hate” to have an opinion, or dissent!

    • Funkybat

      I remember seeing these “variable volume” characters fairly often in things from the late 70s/early 80s. Some of it may actually be a matter of contemporary style. I think having the characters seem slightly “soggy” was popular in some circles back then.

  • http://utopiamoment.ca Jack Ruttan

    One I knew about was the first “Heavy Metal” feature. Lotsa stuff being sent back and redrawn on that. I do kind of like it.

  • http://www.classicparamountcartoons.blogspot.com ParamountCartoons

    Yes, the style was different back then. The style of the animation where they use traditional animation and ink-and-paint reminds me of 80′s-early 90′s canned pasta ads.

    But this ad, now spun into a series of popular YouTube fads, made this style make this a classic. In fact, I believe this certian character (I’m not mentioning his name so the link can be a suprise) was voiced by Paul “Tigger” Winchell.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6NdUJ8vtA0

  • Polyvios

    I really impressed with the way Glen Keane draws teeth like that. BTW, this and the way he draws the lips for the “OO” sounds, reminds me of his animation for Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective.