There's no denying that The Animals of Farthing Wood could get awfully dour at times, but when it comes to children's cartoons that positively revel in their own morbidness, I know a scruffy little puppy who might just have Fox and His Friends licked. Scruffy was a three-part animated special that aired as part of the ABC Weekend Special anthology series in 1980. Adapted from the novel The Tuesday Dog by Jack Stoneley, it tells the story of a stray spaniel puppy (voiced by Nancy McKeon) who roams the streets and goes from master to master, but whose tragedy-stricken existence means that she can never hold down a home for very long. I wouldn't quite put it up there in the same levels of soul-destroying bleakness as Rowf and Snitter's existence in The Plague Dogs, but the special nevertheless has a penchant for heaping misery on its young protagonist for no other reason than to emphasise how difficult life is for a discarded pup. In its efforts to be as drab and dingy as possible it occasionally wanders into territory that isn't entirely tot-friendly. If you'd prefer your kids to stick with entertainment that's free of such grisly topics as death, destitution, alcoholism and paedophilia, you'd best steer them clear of Scruffy.
Scruffy opens with our narrator (Alan Young) telling us it's based on the "real-life story" of a stray dog. Real in that the titular Scruffy was modeled on an actual historical dog, but this is obviously a heavily fictionalised account of her life and times. In reality, Scruffy's story took place in Manchester, England in 1956, where she was impounded in the Manchester and District Home For Lost Dogs, which apparently had a policy of destroying any animal which was not claimed or rehomed within a week. The shelter kept track of how long each dog had lived within its walls by accommodating them according to which day of the week they were impounded. Scruffy was brought in on a Tuesday, so she went into the Tuesday pen. Stoneley happened across her while working as a reporter for the Daily Mirror and ran an article on her plight on the day that she was due to be put to sleep. Response to the article was overwhelming, with many hopefuls vying to be the one to rescue Scruffy. Ultimately, Scruffy was homed with Derrick Davies, the four-year-old son of a miner; meanwhile, the surge in publicity meant that multiple other dogs at the shelter were adopted on the same day. In 1978, Stoneley revisited Scruffy's story by publishing a novel, The Tuesday Dog, in which he imagined her life before she was captured and impounded. In the US, it was re-titled Scruffy: The Tuesday Dog, and used as the basis of this animation. I should say upfront that I have never read Stoneley's novel (the cartoon adaptation being a relatively recent discovery of mine) so for the purposes of this review I will not be able to compare how faithful the ABC Weekend Special is to its source (other than shifting the action to contemporary America). That being said, one thing that does stand out to me, from looking at a picture of the real Scruffy, is that she blatantly wasn't a spaniel of any kind. Anyone want to bet that her breed was changed so as to capitalise on the public's familiarity and long-standing affection for a certain cartoon spaniel from that Disney film about dogs we've all seen? It's probably not a coincidence that Scruffy falls in with a mongrel who's pretty much the spitting image of Tramp. This isn't the only thing that Scruffy pilfers from Disney, as we'll see shortly.
Scruffy was animated by Ruby-Spears, a California-based animation company founded by two former Hanna-Barbera employees in 1977. They were responsible for a lot of those weird 1980s cartoons you probably only half-remember if you were around at the time, including that one about Mister T. A quick glance at Wikipedia's page for ABC Weekend Special reveals that they regular contributors to the series and that Scruffy wasn't even their first animated special about a homeless dog - I'll note The Incredible Detectives and The Puppy's Amazing Rescue as titles to keep an eye out for (actually, there are some really interesting titles in that list, period - what on Earth is Homer and the Wacky Doughnut Machine? It sounds like one of those Simpsons games they would periodically put out on the Game Boy Color, only this clearly refers to a different doughnut-loving Homer altogether). My understanding of these ABC Weekend Specials is that they were intended as a younger version of those ABC Afterschool Specials I've seen on the receiving end of so much derision - the ones which attempted to educate teens about social issues like drink-driving and premarital sex. Scruffy itself has a vaguely educational bent and there are times when it plays as an extended PSA about the problem of abandoned and unwanted dogs, albeit one that clearly struggles with the matter of where to place the work of animal shelters that take in strays and may have to destroy them if they cannot be rehomed. On the one hand, Scruffy doesn't demonise the dog wardens themselves - there's a tendency in animation to depict them as sadists who hate dogs, but here they're clearly just people doing their jobs and they'll frequently comment on the forlornness of the dogs' situation. On the other hand, Scruffy is REALLY emphatic with this point that once a dog enters a shelter, it has just seven days to find a new owner or it will be put to sleep, and it doesn't make any bones about what that means either. I don't know how relevant this "one week and you're out" rule was to shelters in 1980, but the impression Scruffy gives is that a shelter is the worst place for a dog to end up and that turning in a stray dog to the authorities should be seen as tantamount to giving it a death sentence. There's a scene early on where a character suggests taking Scruffy and her mother to a shelter and his partner berates him as if that's the sickest suggestion she ever heard. However good the special's intentions, I can't help but feel there's a risk here that children might up thinking that abandoning a dog on the streets or in the wilderness is a nicer option than leaving it at a shelter - particularly as Scruffy is ultimately vague on actual solutions to the problems it raises.
Before we get too deep into Scruffy, I want to talk a bit about The Video Collection. I stumbled across a VHS copy of Scruffy and was drawn to it when I noticed that it was distributed by one of the defining labels of my early childhood. Growing up, one of the first VHS tapes my family ever owned was the English-language dub of Les Douze travaux d'Astérix, or The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, and I always got a tremendous kick out of watching the promo at the beginning. Even at age four I knew the stench of hardcore 1980s naffness when it came wafting at me. It's A Wonderful Life in sparkling colour? What is this insanity?
Okay, there's nothing in the least bit naff about "Jazzin for Blue Jean", which is the greatest music video of all-time. That "Run The World" thing looks so outrageously dorky, however, that I blatantly should have tracked down a copy by now (much as I loathe Band Aid and its assorted spin-offs).
Also involved with distribution is Worldvision Home Video Inc who, as per the disclaimer on their logo, are "Not affiliated with World Vision International, a Religious and Charity Organisation". Even without doing the research I can tell that some serious legal trouble went down there.
Something to keep in mind about Scruffy is that, although packaged here as a feature film, it was originally aired as a three-part special and, as such, has the flow and structure of an episodic TV series. Viewed as a whole, the narrative feels meandering and disjointed, and you can easily break it down into three separate portions - firstly, Scruffy's birth and early life under the care of her mother, Duchess (June Foray), secondly Scruffy's time spent as the sole companion to a destitute street performer, Joe Tibbles (Han Conried), and finally her life as part of a pack of mangy junkyard dogs. The story begins when a pregnant Duchess is abandoned by her owners, who are moving to an apartment and unable to take her with them. Well, okay, technically they don't intend to abandon her, as they're expecting this other lady, Helen, to come by and collect her later, although any semi-responsible dog owner would have stuck around and to ensure that the handover goes smoothly, particularly with a pregnant dog this close to popping. Duchess doesn't understand what's going on (her mistress does explain it to her, but then the special is frankly a bit inconsistent on whether or not dogs can understand human tongue), so she breaks loose and attempts to seek out her owners, meaning that she isn't around when her prospective new owner calls by. Helen realises that Duchess has fled the yard but decides that the dog has gone forever and makes no attempt to locate her. Right away, I had an inkling that I was going to get really frustrated by some of the dopey decisions made by the humans in this story. (Did Duchess's former owners ever communicate with Helen about the fate of their dog? I guess not.)
Duchess returns to the house some time after Helen's departure and is disturbed to find it stripped of all amenities. There's a touching moment where she considers looking for her owners upstairs but recalls that they always forbade her to go up there and is held back by her sense of obligation to the careless jerks who, unbeknownst to her, have buggered off and left her for good. Duchess remains in the empty house, where she gives birth to her puppy and for a while is able to eke out a living begging for scraps from the workers at a nearby construction site. Unfortunately, the same builders later call by to burn the house to the ground, it being a condemned property, giving us the first of several dramatic set-pieces in which the dogs' lives are threatened. Finding their escape route through the kitchen blocked, Duchess is forced to disregard her ex-mistress's "no upstairs" rule and make a desperate bid for freedom by carrying her puppy up the chimney. As they emerge onto the roof (looking remarkably spotless given what they've just been through), the builders notice them and recognise Duchess as the dog they've been feeding all this time. The dogs are rescued and taken in by one of the builders, Ken (Frank Welker), and his lovely wife Alice (Janet Waldo), who have the aforementioned debate over whether or not it's ethical to leave a stray dog at an animal shelter. After Alice comes down heavy in her disapproval, Ken suggests that they adopt the dogs themselves, and for a moment it looks as if the story could wrap up quite happily here. Fat chance. We've still got two and a half episodes left to go, so you can bet that something has got to happen to shatter this perfect vision of suburban bliss.
This time round, it's the dogs who do the abandoning. As soon as her puppy is old enough to walk, Duchess forces her to walk out on Ken and Alice and accompany her back to the site of their former home - such is Duchess's enduring devotion to her erstwhile owners, whom she still believe will return for her one day. This causes great inner turmoil for her puppy, who recognises that she's safe and happy where she is, but in the end she's forced to follow her mother's lead. Ken and Alice aren't seen again for the entire special, which if you ask me seems kind of heartless given how emotionally attached they've blatantly grown to their new friends. At the back of mind, I kept picturing just how devastated they must have been to wake up and find their adopted doggies gone, and it's troubling that they receive no closure, but then the first half of the story is full of loose ends and random characters who essentially go nowhere. Early on, Scruffy interacts with two animal characters who each get their momentary turn in the spotlight, only to vanish without trace the instant the narrative starts to progress. The first of these is Terry Tomcat, a character who serves no useful purpose whatsoever other than to kill 90 seconds or so's worth of time. He gets mad at Scruffy for chewing on his tail and then gets royally offended when she mistakes him for a dog, and that's about all he does. The fact that he bothers to introduce himself at all implies that he will be of some narrative significance, but as soon as he exits the scene we don't hear a peep from him again. I can only assume that Ruby-Spears received a memo that, as per the laws of Western animation, any cartoon featuring a heroic canine had to have an antagonistic cat inserted somewhere. We'll get to the second character shortly, but first we have a dramatic plot turn to go through.
The nomadic mom and pup have a problem, in that Duchess doesn't know the way back to their old home and gets herself and her offspring hopelessly lost out in the countryside in the middle of winter. While Duchess is napping, the puppy spots a lamb gamboling through the snow and naively approaches it in an attempt to play. Unbeknownst to her, there are a couple of farmers lurking nearby with rifles, and they misinterpret the small dog's intentions, taking her for a sheep-hungry feral. Thankfully, the farmers turn out to be lousy shots, as they twice fail to hit the puppy even when she's standing motionless. Maybe she's a tinier target than they're used to, for when Duchess tries to intervene, it doesn't go quite so well for her. Duchess races to her puppy and orders her to run for cover, the two of them flee through the snow with the puppy at the head, the gunshots continue to ring out and...if you thought that this entire scenario sounded worryingly reminiscent of that infamous moment in Bambi where his mother gets killed, you were right to be concerned. The puppy makes it to safety, but turns around and realises that she did so alone. This sequence was quite blatantly staged in an attempt to replicate that equivalent moment from Bambi to a tee, although the significantly lower quality animation means that it doesn't have quite the same resonance. Still, there is one area in which Scruffy does give us more bang for our buck than Bambi (if you'll forgive the rather tasteless pun), in that we get a distant glimpse of Duchess's dead body lying in the snow. Welcome to the death of innocence, kids.
Frightened and alone, the puppy wanders on and encounters our second time-waster, a mouse who never formally introduces himself. Actually, his purpose is slightly less baffling than Terry Tomcat's, in that he provides our protagonist with a figure to whom she can vocalise her grief and confusion at this critical moment. He also points her in the direction of a city where she might have a chance of settling down with another human household, although he declines her request that he accompany her and scarpers offscreen and out of the special. The puppy makes the journey alone but immediately finds herself out of her element when she realises just how big and crowded the city is. She retreats into a park, where she spots a man under a bridge cooking up a batch of orange mush on a makeshift stove. This presents her with a dilemma; naturally, she's drawn toward the prospect of finally getting some food in her belly, but she's also observed first-hand that humans can be both dog lovers and dog murderers, and she has no idea how she's supposed to distinguish between the two. Realising that she risks dying a slow death from starvation if she doesn't seize the opportunity, the puppy approaches him, and thankfully he turns out to be entirely benign; this is Joesph P. Tibbles, Shakespearean actor turned down-and-out street performer, and he's only too happy to share his bridge and his mush with a kindred spirit. Finally, about twenty minutes into our story, the puppy's name is officially bestowed upon her - Tibbles names her Scruffy, which he states in honour of a dog owned by his younger self...possibly so that he can recycle the collar and name tag he still has to hand.
The following portion of the story focuses on Scruffy's life with Tibbles, who, as it turns out, makes little cash because passers-by do not appreciate his attempts at highbrow street performances. Add a cute, howling puppy to the mix, however, and they're all over it. Tibbles trains Scruffy to do tricks he then incorporates into his act, and for a while the two of them are raking it in. We get a largely superfluous sequence in which a pair of street muggers attempt to grab a share of the earnings for themselves, and Scruffy and Tibbles manage elude them across some railway tracks. The payoff is nice, for it has a tender moment where Scruffy and Tibbles embrace and affirm their partnership, but the sequence feels drawn-out and mostly comes across as an attempt to shoehorn in an additional dramatic moment where the producers feared that the story was at risk of getting slow. Like most minor characters in this special, the muggers get involved on an entirely arbitrary basis and have no further story relevance the instant they disappear from view.
By now, Scruffy and Tibbles are earning enough money that the former declares they'll soon be able to afford a roof over their heads and live happily forever. "Forever and forever", he keeps repeating over and over, as if he's just asking the Fates to swoop in and jinx this. Sure enough, Tibbles collapses from a heart attack and Scruffy nearly gets drowned in a river. Man, that escalated quickly.
Even though Tibbles' departure from the story comes about as abruptly as Terry Tomcat's (Alan Young assures us that Tibbles did not live through the night), I have to admit that I was really torn apart by his death, as his relationship with Scruffy is easily the most heartfelt and well-constructed component of the story. You really buy that these two lost souls would form such a close and symbiotic bond, and when that's severed by Tibbles' inconvenient heart failure, it comes down like a mocking, sadistic sledgehammer from above. It's here that our blatant Tramp knock-off, Butch (Michael Bell), enters the picture, as the one who dives in and saves Scruffy from her watery deathtrap. He takes Scruffy back to meet his buds at the junkyard, and the story turns into Oliver and Company had Dodger's gang been a bit more socially problematic. There's the tragic case of Collie the collie (Linda Gray) who carries a boot wherever she goes and nurtures it as if it were a puppy; Butch explains to Scruffy that Collie had a puppy who died a while ago and she's never come to terms with it. We then meet Randy the boxer (Bell), the resident alcoholic (we later learn that Randy frequents a local tavern, sits on a stool and gets served just like a human barfly, although how he funds his drinking problem is anyone's guess) and Sam the mongrel (Young), the disheveled pervert of the group (he attempts to get fresh with Scruffy, but is stopped in his tracks by Butch, and the special plays this entire exchange off as casual humour). Finally, there's Solo (Conried), a Scottish terrier. He's super friendly and mellow. Only kidding, Solo is coarse and ill-tempered, just like every other Scottish character depicted in US animation.
Scruffy is part of a family again (albeit one consisting of perhaps not the most desirable group of individuals) but fate continues to be a bitch to her and a fresh fly surfaces from the ointment in the form of sleazy criminal Caitlin and his right-hand dog Caesar (Welker). Caesar appears to be a kind of pit bull mix (Wikipedia identifies Caesar as a Rottweiler, but they also have Sam down as an Irish terrier, and he's blatantly not). Caitlin is aware of Scruffy's former career as a performing dog and hopes to ustilise her talents for far more nefarious purposes - namely, taking her into convenience stores and using her as a diversion while he helps himself to the contents of the cash register. Sounds foolproof, right? Caitlin has more plot significance than those two random muggers from earlier, but he's still a one-dimensional villain who feels shoehorned in late in the game in order to keep the sense of conflict ticking along. It doesn't help that he and Caesar have this vaguely Dastardly and Muttley vibe about them, and that as soon as they enter the picture the special is at risk of descending into altogether hokier Hanna-Barbera type hijinks.
With Caesar's help, Caitlin is able to lure Scruffy away from the junkyard dogs and into his unctuous grasp, but is ultimately foiled by Butch, who rescues Scruffy during a robbery in-progress and gets her back to the junkyard. They are pursued by Caesar, who challenges Butch to a fight to determine Scruffy's fate. Butch accepts, and it's in the resulting showdown that the special throws up its first - and only - glimpses of blood. The limited animation means that the violent clashing and gnashing of jaws between Butch and Caesar can only be staged so convincingly, but the imagery still gets awfully brutal at times, particularly during a moment where Caesar gets hold of Butch's neck and hoists him upward, causing a messy splattering of red to rain down upon the junkyard. Butch takes quite the thrashing from Ceasar, but his tenacity pulls through when he's able to get atop of Caesar and bite down hard on the pit bull's neck, prompting Caesar to retreat (somewhat implausibly, as he was carrying this fight up until now), leaving Butch in a broken and crumpled heap. The rest of the gang gather around his semi-conscious body and Solo, ever the wee angry lad, is quick to point the finger of blame at Scruffy for getting Butch into trouble in the first place and insists that she leave now. Scruffy refuses, stating that she could never abandon Butch after what he just did for her, although she's painfully aware that kismet has taken away every other soul she's ever loved. How does she reverse the tide? With divine intervention, of course. Scruffy looks up at the cosmos and begs it not to let Butch die, which Young's narrator informs us was interpreted as being close enough to a prayer, and hey Worldvision Video, you did state that you weren't affiliated with that religious organisation. This isn't going to turn out to be some sort of stealth Christian cartoon, is it? Not exactly - Butch does pull through and Scruffy's newfound ability to implore the Heavens for assistance is implied to have played a part in that, but that's as deep as the special gets on the matter.
Later, a recovering Butch remarks to Scruffy that he way Caesar threw him around, he'll be stiff for a month. "Caesar," Scruffy scoffs, "At least we'll never see him again." Ugh, Scruffy, you should have really learned not to tempt fate by now. Sure enough, Caesar shows up at that very moment, although there's a mixture of good and bad news this time. The good news is that Caitlin kicked Caesar out when he failed to return with Scruffy, and Caesar no longer feels any enmity toward Butch's gang as he sees himself as being in the same boat now. The bad news is that Caitlin decided to exact his revenge by calling the dog wardens and alerting them to this pack of stray dogs roaming the junkyard, and Caesar has come to warn them. Unfortunately, the dogs are so conflicted as to whether or not they should trust their old enemy that they don't manage to act until the wardens are nearly upon them. The pack deliberately disperses in the hopes of confusing their pursuers, with Butch and Scruffy sticking together. At this point Scruffy again raises the question as to whether being captured and sent the dog pound might be more of a blessing than a curse. "A lot of dogs find new masters there, don't they?" she asks. "Sure," says Butch, "but if you don't, you're dead, Scruffy! After seven days if you're still there they put you to sleep! Permanently!" He tells her this with all the depraved relish of a boy scout looking to scare the rest of his troop at a campfire.
In the end, Scruffy is captured by the wardens. Butch has his chance to run for freedom but, unable to abandon Scruffy, does the noble thing and surrenders himself to the humans. At the shelter, Scruffy and Butch find themselves confined in the Tuesday pen together, with just seven days to make an impression on prospective new owners or face the final curtain, the threat of death being ever-present in the execution hut that sits in the far corner of the yard. The following day, they peer over into the neighbouring Wednesday and are greeted by none other than Solo, Randy, Collie, Sam and Caesar, who were all busted earlier that morning. As the days roll by, all the dogs try hard to get themselves adopted and out, but to no avail. Butch notices that Scruffy isn't putting her full heart into it, pointing out that if she deployed some of the tricks she used to do while performing with Mr Tibble, she would get herself snapped up in an instant. Scruffy admits that she's been holding back because she doesn't want to be rescued if it means leaving Butch to his fate. "You're all I got," she tells him. "I love you!" "I love you too, kiddo," he replies. (On the surface, this looks like an innocuous attempt at tugging on the viewer's heartstrings, but trust me when I say that it takes on a whole new level of uncomfortable on repeat viewings.)
On Butch and Scruffy's penultimate day, a reporter appears to do a story on the shelter. He's never named, but this is our stand-in for Jack Stoneley. A warden explains that the dogs in the Tuesday pen will be due for execution tomorrow, although the smaller one will be given a few extra hours reprieve as, being a puppy, she still has a chance of being rehomed at the last minute. That ominous Tuesday finally arrives (although if you're an eagle-eyed viewer, you might notice that the sign on Butch and Scruffy's pen periodically switches to "Monday") and Butch is taken out of the pen and led away into the dreaded execution hut, imploring Scruffy to do her tricks and get herself adopted while she still has time. As Scruffy lies there sobbing her heart out, one of the wardens suddenly runs over waving a newspaper, asking everything to be put on hold. Turns out, that reporter from yesterday ran a story focusing on the plight of Scruffy, and now the phone lines are jammed with hundreds of callers wanting to adopt her. He points out that some of the other dogs might have a chance too and asks his colleague if he put Scruffy's friend to sleep yet. I have to admit that my heart was in my mouth at this point as, given how nefariously grim this special had been with the fates of Duchess and Mr Tibble, I wasn't sure on where it might be going with Butch. But no, he emerges from the hut, alive and well, and Scruffy and the gang rejoice. By the end of the day they've all been adopted, and as an added bonus Scruffy and Butch end up with a clean-cut suburban family who are happy to take them both together. To be honest, I was disappointed that Scruffy wasn't ultimately reunited with Ken and Alice instead of waltzing off with this bunch of random nobodies. Her new family feel like a major step down from Ken & Alice and Mr Tibbles - presumably, we're supposed to see them as the best possible owners because they're such a nice, clean-cut suburban bunch, but there's a vaguely Stepford Wives air about them.
Finally, we get an epilogue which gives us a glimpse Scruffy's new life six months on from that glorious Tuesday. She's now fully-grown and she and Butch have produced an adorable litter of puppies together and - wait, hold up, when Scruffy told Butch she loved him she meant it in a romantic sense? That's mighty awkward, as up until now I had interpreted Butch as being more of a surrogate father to Scruffy. Turns out, when Butch deflected Sam's attempts to make a move on Scruffy earlier, he may have had an ulterior motive all along. I know that Ruby-Spears were looking to evoke Lady and The Tramp with these two, right down to giving them the exact same conclusion, but did they never stop to ponder just how skin-crawlingly weird it would look in their case?
(Actually, I suspect this is more a case of them hoping to have their cake and eat it. Bearing in mind that I haven't read the original book, I assume that Ruby-Spears wanted Scruffy to remain a puppy for the full duration of the story so as to retain her maximum appeal factor, but they also wanted her to have a love interest who's worldly-wise and capable of taking on a pit bull, so a significant age gap was kind of inevitable.)
In the closing moments, Alan Young switches into full-blown PSA mode and leaves us with this stirring statement:
"Most strays are not as lucky as Scruffy. There are millions of them, and they have a terrible time. They're abandoned by unfeeling people; hungry, neglected, lost. It shouldn't be that way. Maybe some of us can think of ways to change it!"
Although it seeks to educate children on the problem of abandoned and unwanted dogs, in the end the special doesn't do very much more than shake its head and remark "isn't it a shame"? I appreciate that it's attempting to pass on the torch and inspire the next generation to endeavor to improve where their parents messed up, but its final stance on the matter is so vague as to seem obtuse. For one thing, there is a very obvious solution which Scruffy's family blatantly haven't gone in for, and which Bob Barker might have told them a thing or two about - it's more than a little ironic that we're being encouraged to celebrate the birth of Scruffy's enormous new litter just as the narrator is stressing how many millions of unwanted dogs there already are in the world.
At times, Scruffy comes across as a cartoon with a real identity crisis - it lacks the visual and narrative sophistication to rival the Disney animations it's blatantly aping, while Ruby-Spears' Hanna-Barbera origins are periodically betrayed in the array of random plot contrivances, dull-witted villains and one or two entirely arbitrary characters who are basically just there to fill the cartoon's quota for things with silly voices. Still, it's undeniably harrowing in its depiction of death and destitution, it's surprisingly light on (intentional) comic relief, and some of the more emotional moments do land quite a powerful punch, particularly those involving Mr Tibbles.
UPDATE 19/2/20: It's been over two years since I wrote this review, and within that time it has proved to be one of my more popular pieces in terms of page views and search engine results. As such, I feel the need to be upfront about the fact that I wish to formally withdraw some of my prior statements, particularly my comment about how "children might feel safe with Oliver and Company", which I realise with hindsight was demeaning to both Scruffy and Oliver and Company. I was attempting to be flippant, but fact is that since writing this I have grown increasingly weary of commentators who tend to focus on the darker aspects of children's entertainment to a self-indulgent, borderline pornographic degree that seems to willfully distort the intended purpose of said entertainment (see: anyone who brings up Watership Down primarily to obsess about the presence of blood in an animated family film). I can't help but feel that a lot of the assumptions behind this kind of commentary are condescending to children's entertainment, and to children as a target audience. I am conscious that I applied many of those assumptions in my original final statements on Scruffy, and for that I sincerely apologise. I'll always be fascinated with children's entertainment that is ambitious and willing to stray from the beaten track, and hopefully in the future I can convey that fascination from a perspective that goes slightly deeper than...well, you know, that woefully misapplied line from The Hudsucker Proxy.