Santa Buddies

At the North Pole, Father Christmas and his chief dog Santa Paws worry as the whole toys processing system is threatened by the weakening of its magical power source, the icicle drawing on Christmas spirit. When harshly rebuked Puppy Paws, wishing there was no Christmas and he a regular dog, runs away to Fernfield and joins the 5 Buddies siblings, power falls beneath minimum. Chief Elf Eli finds his trace and travels in an attempt to save his and the world's Christmas spirit, but the six puppies face misunderstandings and the grim dog catcher Stan Cruge.

  • Starring: George Wendt and Christopher Lloyd
  • Director(s): Robert Vince
  • Producer(s): Robert Vince, Anna McRoberts
  • Screenwriter(s): Robert Vince, Anna McRoberts
  • Distributor: Walt Disney Home Video
  • Animal Coordinator: Unknown
  • Release Date: Tuesday, November 24, 2009
  • Rating: Acceptable

Featured Animal Action

Before filming began, cast and crew members were instructed on the safety and handling of the animals. All grounds were thoroughly inspected for hazards. Only necessary cast and crew members were allowed on the set and all were quiet during filming. Several puppies were alternated in the roles of the buddies. All of the dogs in the film were either from the same litter or familiar with each other and accustomed to being together. For scenes in which dogs barked or performed mild action, such as sitting, lying, jumping, pawing at something, sitting or standing in a cage, or walking or running from one point to another (including into some trees, into a hole in a building and through a dog door), off-screen trainers used hand signals and verbal commands to achieve the action. All areas were safe and secured, and contained no sharp corners or hazardous terrain. All food given to the animals to eat was deemed safe for their consumption. Any object held in a dog’s mouth, such as a Christmas ornament, was a lightweight plastic prop that was not hazardous or breakable. All costumes worn by the dogs were custom-made for comfort. Most of the snow was fake and made of a nontoxic material, except in a couple of scenes near a shelter where there was real snow, but the puppies were kept warm. For scenes in which the dogs mill about Santa’s workshop, helping make toys, pulling gifts on wagons, pawing at a lever and even playing piano, these were trained behaviors cued by off-screen trainers, and the actors were instructed to walk with caution and watch for dogs moving about. Trainers cued one puppy to pick up a glue brush and carry it to the other side of a desk, dripping glue everywhere. The “glue” mixture was made out of flour and water. The “conveyer belt” that moved the toys was specially designed so that paws or tails could not get caught in the rollers. The scenes in which Santa Paws is on a cliff used computer-generated imagery (CGI). B-Dawg and Puppy Paws break dancing and spinning near a boom box was also achieved using CGI.

 

The scene in which Budderball comes alive in Santa’s book and is seen on the dining room table, eating the Thanksgiving dinner and then lying on the platter, was filmed in separate shots. A trainer placed the puppy on its mark and cued it to walk on the table, while another trainer hid on the floor to keep the puppy from jumping off. Real food was spaced along the table, and the puppy was allowed to eat a small amount of the food for a moment, until it reached the end of the table where the turkey was placed. The turkey was then replaced with fake bones on an empty platter, where trainers placed the puppy and cued it to stay for a moment.

 

The scene in which Puppy Paws gets into a bucket attached to a pulley and is hoisted up to a rooftop was filmed in separate shots. The bucket started off secured to the ground while trainers released the puppy from its starting mark near a hedge on the lawn. Another trainer then called the puppy and cued it to jump into the bucket, which the puppy was well-rehearsed for. Then, a costumed stuntman pulled the rope of the specially made pulley a safe distance from the side of the building so that the bucket would not hit the building. The bucket was only pulled up 10 feet and then lowered to the ground. The dog was rewarded with food. The roof portion of the scene was filmed on the ground against a green screen. Puppy Paws is on the kitchen floor with Budderball, and then is suddenly standing on the countertop, pushing a cookie sheet off the counter and onto the floor. This scene was filmed in separate shots. The puppy was filmed on the floor, and then trainers placed it on the counter, cuing it to push its nose at a sheet of fake cookies. Trainers hid on the floor right beneath the puppy in case it got too close to the edge, which it did not. The cookies on the cookie sheet were nontoxic plastic, and the puppy was allowed to eat plain (undecorated) cookie pieces off the floor as a reward.

 

For the scene in which Mudbud and Puppy Paws roll in the mud, each dog was cued to “roll over” in a specially heated mud mixture at the base of a tree, which was an activity they found playful. They were then cued to “shake” off the dirt. The chimney soot that Mudbud shakes off in one scene was a flour mixture that was digitally enhanced in post-production.

 

During Santa’s sled scenes, a trainer hid in the sled’s back seat holding a lead line attached to the dog’s collar to prevent the dog from jumping out of the front seat or over the front of the sled and onto the ground. For scenes in which the sled moves and flies, a crew member slowly pulled the sled for a short distance on the ground. The sled was on tubing to ease the sliding. The flying was achieved through CGI. Puppies were placed in padded harnesses and leather leads (to serve as reins) on a hidden treadmill, which was set on low speed while trainers stood around it. The well-rehearsed puppies then slowly trotted along the treadmill while a crew member held the “reins” so it would look like the puppies were pulling a flying sleigh.

 

For the scene in which the dog catcher walks up behind Puppy Paws and puts a net over him, the actor pantomimed this action. The actor did not actually scoop up the puppy, but crouched down over it with the net and briefly placed the net on top of it. The well-rehearsed actor then carefully placed the dog in a net prop and carried it a short distance. The pupp

 

y, who was unfazed by being briefly carried in the net, was rewarded with food. For the scene in which the dog was netted in the alley, the action was achieved the same way. Trainers placed a small piece of meat on the ground to keep the dog on its mark and keep its head down. The actor walked up behind the dog and briefly placed the net over the dog. Trainers then placed it inside the net and handed it to the actor, who held the puppy gently while secretly feeding it treats through the netting.

 

The dog catcher bangs a flashlight against the cages at a shelter as he walks by. On the first take, the banging slightly startled a dog, so the American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative™ insisted that the banging be mimed from then on, which it was. Trainers hid in each run near the dogs, which were rewarded with food. For the scene in which the shelter dogs escape, the kennel doors were rigged with monofilament, which was controlled by crewman to get the doors to swing open; trainers then called the dogs out to be retrieved by other, awaiting trainers.

 

For the scene in which a puppy takes the collar off the hook behind the dog catcher’s desk and gives it to Puppy Paws, who slips it onto his head, trainers cued the first puppy to hold the collar in its mouth, walk to Puppy Paws’ cage and “drop” the collar. Trainers then verbally cued the puppy to push the collar (with its nose) under the cage door, and cued the puppy playing Puppy Paws to paw at the collar, knocking it onto its side. Trainers then cued the puppy to put its “head down” through the collar, slipping it on. These well-trained pups actually made this impressive trick work!

 

The scenes showing the puppies entering fireplaces involved a false wall for the chimney. Boxes wrapped as presents were used as padding in the fake fireplace. Trainers dropped the puppies about one inch, one at a time through a special prop (made to look like a chimney) onto the fake presents, and then a second trainer called the puppies to run out of the fireplace and out of camera range. The puppies were acclimated to being dropped on the cushion of boxes, which were screwed to the floor so they did not move. For the scene in which the puppy walks down the inside of the chimney, this was a wooden prop chimney cut in half and placed on the stage at a slight angle. A trainer released the dog at the “top” end and called it to walk down to the bottom end, and the camera angle made it look like the dog was walking straight down.

 

The reindeer in this film were CGI. Due to limited resources, American Humane did not monitor some of the dog and puppy action."