Brow Beat

The Clifford the Big Red Dog Movie Raises Troubling Questions About Established Clifford Canon

The live-action remake economy has given us a blue Will Smith, Sonic with human teeth, Beyoncé as a singing lion, and other nightmare fodder. Next up: Clifford the Big Red Dog. Today, Paramount Pictures released their first look at the feature film Clifford the Big Red Dog, coming out next year. The photorealistic scarlet monstrosity that is Clifford sits next to four normal-sized dogs (weirdly, all in front of a white void that offers no real sense of scale). A voiceover intones, “This holiday season, we’re thankful for the pets whose love got us through the year. But next year, get ready to love even bigger.”

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This version of Clifford resembles nothing so much as an overlarge golden retriever puppy dipped in red paint. This is a potential problem, because, as the theme song to the animated show clearly explains, Clifford is not supposed to be a Big Red Puppy. He starts out small enough that owner Emily Elizabeth can hold him in her small child hands. In Clifford’s Puppy Days, he’s described as small enough that Emily Elizabeth “gave him a bath in a soup bowl” and in Clifford the Small Red Puppy, it’s revealed that Clifford was the runt of the litter and not expected to even survive. But then, as the song notes, Emily Elizabeth’s “love made Clifford grow so big and the Howards had to leave their home.”

Leaving aside the disturbing suggestion that normal-sized dogs in the Clifford universe simply aren’t loved enough to grow to massive sizes, we might be looking at a breach of established Clifford canon by making the live-action version Clifford both giant and a puppy. Perhaps there’s a reasonable origin-story explanation, like he just grew, or maybe it’s a creative license that the movie has chosen to take—but hasn’t it taken enough from us already by merely existing?

At least they didn’t give him human teeth.

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