Based on J.R. Ackerley’s 1956 portrait of his gleefully trangressive, unspayed pet Tulip, “My Dog Tulip” is a special treat for adult lovers of animation (not to mention dog lovers.) World War l veteran Ackerley, openly gay, was the arts editor of The Listener, the weekly magazine of the BBC, from 1935-59. His sly memoir “Hindoo Holiday” detailed his experiences as the secretary to the Maharaja of Chatarpur, when India was still under British rule.
Paul and Sandra Schuette Fierlinger’s hand-drawn and painted animation
creates a whimsical world reminiscent of early New Yorker illustrators like Saul Steinberg as well as Polish, Czech and Soviet animation of the 60’s. Working at home, Paul drew, Sandra colored and their two dogs Oscar and Gracie joined the estimable voice talent of Christopher Plummer (as Ackerley), Isabella Rossellini, and Lynn Redgrave (as Ackerly’s sister and dog minder Nancy. The loose hand, doodlesque style adds a droll touch to the often graphic jokes about doggie biology. In one lyric scene we watch Ackerley and Tulip’s motorcycle trip on a country road.
Watching Ackerley hurry home to be joyously greeted by Tulip sets the tone for an intimate “love story.” Ackerley doted on Tulip and she returned the favor, ignoring other dogs, while Ackerley strove to find her a suitable “husband’. Worried that his match making isn’t working, Ackerley takes Tulip to a vet. Rossellini plays the sensitive vet-cum psychologist alerting Ackerley to the fact that ” You are the problem, She is in love with you.”
Brian Murray plays Mr. Blandish, the owner of the German Shepard selected to mate with Tulip. (She’ll have none of it!) and also Ackerley’s country dwelling army buddy Captain Pugh. Tulip eventually settles for the mutt next door, and hyper-vigilantly births a litter, not sure whether she can trust Ackerley to protect her pups. John Avarese’s jazz score captures the mood throughout.
The Ferlinger’s won the Peabody award for “Still Life With Animated Dogs” in 2001. The son of a Czech diplomat, English & Japanese speaking Paul was raised in Prague where he communicated with fellow boarding school students Milos Forman, and Ivan Passer through drawings. We can now share in the fun.