Its central plot revolves around a somewhat anthropomorphic pink dog named Courage who lives with his owners, Muriel Bagge and Eustace Bagge, an elderly, married farming couple in the "Middle of Nowhere" (the fictional town of Nowhere, Kansas). Courage and his owners are frequently thrown into bizarre misadventures, often involving the paranormal/supernatural and various villains. The show is known for its surreal, often disquieting humor and bizarre plot twists. The series combines elements of comedy horror, science fantasy, and drama.
The program originated from a short on Cartoon Network's animation showcase series created by Hanna-Barbera president Fred Seibert, "What a Cartoon!" titled "The Chicken from Outer Space."
On April 20, 2012, this series returned to Cartoon Network in re-runs on the revived block, "Cartoon Planet."
In 2013, a CGI animated Courage the Cowardly Dog special known as "The Fog of Courage" was made and shown at select conventions.
Courage the Cowardly Dog follows a dog named Courage, an easily frightened canine who lives in a farmhouse with Muriel and Eustace Bagge near the fictional town of Nowhere, Kansas. Abandoned as a puppy, Courage was adopted by Muriel Bagge (a sweet-natured Scottish woman), and her husband Eustace (a grumpy, greedy farmer who enjoys scaring Courage with a large, bright green, bug-eyed mask). Courage, Eustace, and Muriel frequently run into monsters, aliens, demons, mad scientists, zombies, and other perils that Courage must fend off to save his owners. Although most of the creatures that the three face are frightening or disturbing, some turn out to be sweet or simply in distress.
As depicted in every opening sequence of every episode, a TV anchorman announces, "We interrupt this program to bring you... Courage the Cowardly Dog show, starring Courage, the cowardly dog! Abandoned as a pup, he was found by Muriel, who lives in the middle of Nowhere with her husband Eustace Bagge... But creepy stuff happens in Nowhere. It's up to Courage to save his new home!"
Originally, Courage the Cowardly Dog was created as a seven-minute animated short, "The Chicken from Outer Space." Dilworth started the animated short with Hanna-Barbera, sponsored by Cartoon Network and introduced Courage. Dilworth graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1985. He became an art director and founded his own animation studio, Stretch Films in 1991, and incorporated in 1994. The animated short was shown as one of the episodes of Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons in 1996, a Hanna-Barbera Cartoons innovation by then-president Fred Seibert. The short served as a de facto pilot for the future series. The original animated short had no dialogue except for one line spoken by Courage, who had a more authoritative voice than in the series. It was uttered by voice actor Howard Hoffman who also provided all the other vocal sounds and effects for the short. An alien chicken was the villain in this short, and it would later reappear in the series to seek its revenge. The short was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 68th Academy Awards.
Original music featured in Courage the Cowardly Dog was composed by Jody Gray and Andy Ezrin. Classical music can be heard at times, which pays homage to classic Warner Bros. animation and the scores of Carl Stalling. In several episodes, Gray arranged various famous classical pieces and wrote up to 15 songs, such as Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."
In 1999, Cartoon Network gave Dilworth permission to turn the short into an animated series. Hanna-Barbera was responsible for the What a Cartoon anthology and intended on developing the series. However, Dilworth insisted on taking the production to his Stretch Films Studios. The stories' plots were written by the show's head writer, David Steven Cohen, in addition to Irv Bauer, Craig Shemin, Lory Lazarus, Bill Marsilii, Allan Neuwirth, Bill Aronson and Michelle Dilworth. Courage the Cowardly Dog premiered on November 12, 1999, and became the highest-rated premiere in Cartoon Network history at the time. It last aired on November 22, 2002, with 52 episodes produced in four seasons.
- Main article: List of Courage the Cowardly Dog episodes
In total, there were 52 episodes in four seasons produced, plus a pilot episode. The series ran from November 12, 1999, to November 22, 2002.
Courage the Cowardly Dog received critical acclaim. John G. Nettles of PopMatters reviewed the show and called it, "a fascinating and textured mixture of cartoon and horror-movie conventions, and a joy to watch."
Alex Mastas of Lights Out Films reviewed the show gave it a grade "A-" and described it, "The backgrounds are rich and imaginative—they composite lot of the show over real photos and occasionally integrate CGI into cartoon. The look is weird and ethereal, just like the show itself."
KJ Dell Antonia of Common Sense Media posted a review and gave three stars out of five and describes as "Cult fave 'toon plays over-the-top violence for laughs." Antonia warned parents that the series contains graphic animated violence, including exploding organs, growing extra limbs, turning inside out. Antonia said shows aimed at younger audiences "usually don't go for thrills and chills, so it's good to see a genuinely surreal and slanted series develop a decent following."
Jeff Swindoll of Monsters and Critics reviewed the first season DVD and felt a bit disappointed about its lack of the original Hanna-Barbera short "The Chicken from Outer Space." Swindoll felt that the lack of special features still should not deter fans from buying the season since the other episodes have appeared on other releases of the series.
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
A VHS tape of Courage the Cowardly Dog was released along with Mike, Lu & Og in 2000. The VHS tape is now out of print.
A bonus episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog was included in the "Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders" VHS.
Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season One, a two-disc DVD set featuring all 13 episodes from the show's first season, was released in Australia (Region 4) on September 12, 2007, by Madman Entertainment. On January 13, 2010, the complete second season was also released.
A Region 1 release of the first season was done by Warner Home Video on July 20, 2010. The release is the second in an official release of several Cartoon Cartoons on DVD, under the "Cartoon Network Hall of Fame" name.
In addition, all four seasons of the series are also available for download on iTunes.
Select episodes from the series were also featured on several Cartoon Network compilation DVDs:
- The Powerpuff Girls: Down 'n' Dirty - "Journey to the Center of Nowhere" - November 7, 2000
- Scooby-Doo and the Toon Tour of Mysteries - "The Mask" November 5, 2004
- Cartoon Network Halloween Volume 2: Grossest Halloween Ever - "Courage Meets the Mummy / Night of the Weremole" - August 9, 2004
- Cartoon Network Christmas Volume 2: Christmas Rocks - "The Snowman Cometh" - October 4, 2005
- Toon Foolery: Laugh Your 'Ed Off! - "The McPhearson Phantom"