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Saturday Morning Cartoon Club: Sherlock Hound

Grab your bowl of cereal and put on your PJs and join us for Saturday Morning Cartoon Club, AFA's feature that celebrates the cartoons we grew up with (and the modern shows that keep their spirit alive).

Retelling popular stories with anthropomorphic animals is an established trope in children's fiction, from Disney's Robin Hood to Oliver and Company. But for some reason, it seemed to be a particularly popular idea in the 80's with a wave of Japanese/European co-productions based on classic Euro literature recast with fuzzy critters that included Dogtanian, Around The World With Willy Fogg and this week's debut SMCC pick: Sherlock Hound.

As you’ve already no doubt deduced (after all, it’s elementary, my dear reader) Sherlock Hound was based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories. Only this time, he’s got a waggy tail, a wet nose and he’s a very good boy (yes he is). Set in a Victorian (or is it Edwardian, I'm never entirely sure?) London populated by talking pooches, Holmes is a Corgi, Watson a Scottish Terrier, the villainous Moriarty a wolf and the dogged Inspector Lestrade is a British bulldog.

And much like the best of these retellings, apart from the fact that the characters are all dogs, it plays out as a surprisingly faithful version of the character that fully commits to being a Sherlock Holmes series. Although it’s slightly adapted for the young target audience- Sherlock Hound is heavy on catching robbers, kidnappers and counterfeiters and unsurprisingly light on murders. It also adds an element of steam-punk to the proceedings with some fantastical technology. 


The series was a co-production of Japan’s TMS and Italy’s public broadcaster RAI. And was broadcast between 1984-and 1985 where it ran for 26 episodes. Although it was fully English dubbed it only seemed to air in Australia at the time. Much later, the series has attracted much attention and has had DVD releases in the US and UK and on streaming.  

The reason for the renewed interest? The series in fact has quite the pedigree, as when it began production a young Hayao Miyazaki was on the staff. He directed six episodes before the production was put on extended hiatus due to legal issues. By the time the production resumed, Miyazaki had moved on.

Those six episodes alone make the series worth seeking out. They show off an early example of Miyazaki’s trademarks, such as flight sequences, and wonderful contraptions. But perhaps its most apparent in the series’s unique interpretation of Holmes’s housekeeper Mrs Hudson. Miyazaki throws out the traditional middle-aged depiction in favour of a young widow- and she’s the prototype for the typical feisty Miyazaki heroine. Reportedly, had the young Miyazaki had his way, she would have been the main character- and what a series that would have been!

The rest of the series inevitably doesn't quite live up the Miyazaki directed episodes, but they’re still enjoyable enough. If you want to check it out for yourself put on your deerstalker hat and investigate your nearest DVD emporium or legal streaming service. Or just click here- whatever works.

More Saturday Morning Cartoon Club can be found on our Patreon Page.