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Tag: narrator

The history and science of dog comes to life in … Zounds! … a comic book!

hirschcoverThink “dogs and comics” and many canine characters comes to mind:

Marmaduke and Snoopy, Underdog and Scooby Doo, Pluto and Goofy –a plethora of cartoon pooches ranging in size, intellect, shape, and colors from blue (Huckleberry Hound) to red (Clifford).

Most of them did little more than provide laughs. Some of them actually passed along some life lessons and knowledge. But none — not even the professorial Mr. Peabody — has displayed the scholarly knowledge of this one.

Meet Rudy, and the man behind him, Andy Hirsch.

Hirsch, through cartoons, words and an energetic narrator modeled after his own dog, tells the story of how wolves transformed into domestic dogs, what’s behind their behaviors and how their relationship to man has evolved in “Dogs: From Predator to Protector“.

It’s the latest title in a graphic nonfiction series from Science Comics that examines science topics ranging from animals, to ecosystems, to technology.

Through Rudy, writer/illustrator Hirsch explores what led wolves to be transformed into the diverse shapes, sizes and breeds of dogs we know today — namely, man.

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“I think it all falls under the umbrella of humans having had a profound influence on dogs. They simply wouldn’t exist without us, especially any sorts of artificial breeds, so a good portion of the book is really about our methods of influence,” Hirsch told Live Science.

The comic-science book gets into the intricacies of doggie DNA and genetics, their exceptional senses, their sociability and their capacity for cross-species communication.

“Humans and dogs have an unmatched partnership all the way at the species level, and to me that means we have a responsibility to understand and care for them,” Hirsch says.

It’s the Texas author’s first nonfiction book, based on his own research, and advice from science consultants including Julie Hecht, a canine behavioral researcher and adjunct professor at Canisius College in New York.

Readers follow Rudy, and his bouncing ball, through a lively series of discussions dealing with the history and science behind how dogs live and behave.

“Maybe it’s something of a cheat to let a tennis ball bounce 25,000 years between panels, but that’s the magic of comics!” Hirsch said. “… The tennis ball was a good way to, well, bounce from one thing to the next. Rudy is our friendly narrator, and though he’s very knowledgeable, he still has the distractible nature of an average dog. That means the bouncing ball never fails to move his attention from one topic to the next.”

Hirsch2-banner“This isn’t a textbook, so when there’s the opportunity to present some facts through an entertaining narrative aside I let the story follow it.”

Rudy is modeled after Hirsch’s own dog Brisco, who he and his partner (all shown at left) adopted.

“Rudy was his first shelter name, and it’s a good fit for a comic book dog,” Hirsch said. “If you get a chance to draw a book full of dogs, of course you’re going to make yours the star.”

New TV series features talking dog

You regular readers may know already I am not a fan of the talking dog.

That’s partly because I feel we have no right to be putting words in their mouths, thereby further humanizing them, which, in my view, is not just a mistake, but an insult (to dogs). But mostly it’s just plain creepy.

So I’m going to refrain from predicting whether ABC’s “Downward Dog” will be the blockbuster hit of the season, or gotten rid of quicker than a used poop bag.

The New York Times called it “hard on the ears,” while USA Today described it a “delightfully amiable summer companion.”

Martin, the dog character, sometimes talks with a moving mouth, sometimes as a (far less creepy) voice-over, but he can only be heard by us viewers — not the other characters or dogs in the show.

Gimmicky as it sounds, the show does feature some talented creatures, beginning with Ned, who plays Martin. Ned was discovered at PAWS Chicago, a no kill shelter he was shipped to after becoming homeless in Mississippi.

Martin is the narrator of the show, offering wry philosophical comments on both being a dog and the behavior of his human, a “struggling millennial” named Nan, played by Emmy-nominated Allison Tolman of “Fargo.”

IMBD describes the plot as “a lonely dog navigates the complexity of 21st century relationships.” It started out as a web series of short videos. A year and a half ago, producers got clearance to make a pilot out of the concept and started looking for a dog to play the role of Martin, who is a rescued dog in the show.

They took one look at Ned’s photo from PAWS and hired him immediately, according to DNAinfo.

Upon arrival at PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) from Mississippi, Ned was an anxious, skittish dog — a bit under-socialized, said PAWS Director of Training Joan Harris. “He was seeking a lot of attention from people, but then he didn’t know how to receive it.”

nedHe was adopted, but later returned and ended up being fostered by Crystal Dollinger, a PAWS volunteer who cared for him for four months before he was chosen for the role and moved to Hollywood.

Ned belongs now to his trainer, Nicole Handley, who made a return visit to the shelter in Chicago with him last week — partly for his 4th birthday party, more so to promote the new show. It premieres tonight at 8:30 before switching to Tuesdays. The shelter will waive adoption fees today in his honor.

“Ned’s life is very different now than it was a year and a half ago,” Handley said. “Ned is definitely the diva on set. Pretty much whatever Ned needs, Ned gets.”

(Photo: Ned with Allison Tolman, who plays his owner on “Downward Dog,” trainer Nicole Handley and PAWS volunteer Crystal Dollinger, who fostered him for four months; by Ted Cox / DNAInfo)

Cooking with Dog (It’s not what you think)

A much beloved Internet celebrity has died.

He was part of a cooking team — the less shy half, the English-speaking half, the more comfortable in front of the camera half, the poodle half.

Francis the dog was the host and narrator of “Cooking with Dog,” which also featured the human he lived with, an unnamed Japanese housewife who had never been on camera before a producer friend proposed they put together a cooking show for the Internet.

She was hesitant, as she was a private sort, and felt alone and insecure in front of the camera.

francisandchefWith Francis at her side, though, she was up to the task and the duo went on, over the next 10 years, to rise to Internet stardom — Chef, as she is called, doing all the cooking and making an occasional comment in Japanese, Francis providing the narration, in English, with a French accent.

Francis passed away Sunday at age 14, Gizmodo reported, based on a Twitter post.

“Cooking with Dog” began in 2007 after the producer, who also likes to keep his name private, returned to Japan from Los Angeles, where he had spent several years working in the entertainment industry.

He said he wanted to keep working in film and television, and promote Japanese culture — in a way English-speaking audiences could follow.

“There are many cooking programs on TV and I just wanted to make our show look different and unique. And also I don’t know any celebrities or famous people and I didn’t have a large budget,” he told The Japan Times last year.

Having Francis narrate the show gave it a quirky edge, and opened it up to English-speaking audiences.

“Cooking With Dog” has over 1.2 million subscribers, making it one of the most popular food channels on YouTube. Nearly a third of the viewers come from the United States.

Over the years, its title has raised some eyebrows and led to a little confusion. Some who have stumbled across it thought it might be about cooking for your dog, or about recipes that used dog meat as an ingredient.

Dogs are, after all, raised for their meat and consumed by a small minority of the population in several Asian countries.

But anyone who watched a video quickly became aware nothing nefarious was afoot — it was a just a pure and simple cooking show in which a soft-spoken chef calmly puts together elaborate and often ornate Japanese dishes as her dog looks on.

It’s a refreshing change from American cooking shows, where there has been a distinct shift toward manic hosts, who are generally overseeing some sort of cut-throat competition.

Gizmodo reports it is uncertain if “Cooking with Dogs” will continue without Francis.

If not, we still have the more than 300 episodes that have been produced. You can watch them at the Cooking with Dog, YouTube channel.