Courage the Cowardly Dog is an American animated television series about the adventures of a dog named Courage and his owners Muriel Bagge, a kindly old Scottish woman, and Eustace Bagge, a grumpy old farmer, living together in a farmhouse in the middle of the town of Nowhere, Kansas (often described as The Middle of Nowhere), encountering strange things, which originally ran for four seasons from 1999-2002.
Originally, Courage started out as a Canadian, one-episode cartoon, which was featured in the Cartoon Network special "The Fifty Greatest Cartoons of All Time." In the original cartoon, there was no dialogue, except for a line spoken by Courage (who was voiced by a different, authoritative voice in this short). An alien chicken was the villain in this short, and it would come back for its revenge in the American series. The Chicken From Outer Space was nominated for an Oscar.
Courage the Cowardly Dog was created by John R. Dilworth, who directed each episode, and is produced and aired by Cartoon Network. Notable guest-stars on the show include Ringo Starr, Tim Curry, Jim Cummings and Robert Smith.
New York-based rock band They Might Be Giants created a tribute song, "Courage the Cowardly Dog", that was animated and aired as a music video on Cartoon Network in 2002. The song also appeared in 2006 on their Podcast 4A.
The series returned to Cartoon Network on Monday, August 31, 2015, airing Monday through Friday from 6-7 am.
Courage the Cowardly Dog revolves around the exploits of Courage, a small pink dog who, despite his name, is afraid of the most mundane things. However, his fear is usually warranted: Eustace, Muriel, and Courage are constantly attacked by or run into various monsters, aliens, curses, natural disasters, and other forms of peril Courage must face.
Every opening of the show documents Courage's past: "Abandoned as a pup, he was found by Muriel, who lives in the middle of Nowhere (Kansas) with her husband Eustace Bagge. But creepy stuff happens in Nowhere, it's up to Courage to save his new home." In one later American episode, more about his past is revealed, that Courage's parents were unwillingly sent to the moon by a psychotic scientist in an experiment to make animals stronger. Courage also seems to have an odd ability to change his shape in a comic style, such as folding himself up to go through the letter slot or imitating a monster in a vain attempt to warn his owners of danger.
Eustace always resented Courage's presence in the home and continually attempts to scare the living daylights out of Courage by whipping out a giant green mask, or fake eyeballs, screaming "Ooga Booga Booga!" Afterwards, Eustace laughs at Courage's expense, until Muriel comically bludgeons Eustace over the head with a rolling pin to which he replies "What did I do?"
In the series, when Courage wants to save his family, he sometimes faces off the villain in a game (instead of typical feats of strength, the methods by which he tries to defeat villains is usually something mundane like dodge-ball or a staring contest, in which Courage always loses), convinces the villain to leave the life of crime, or tricks the villain.
Courage (voiced by Marty Grabstein) — A dog, the protagonist of the show. As stated in the opening credits, he was abandoned as a pup and left in an alley, where he was eventually found by Muriel Bagge. Though presented as a "cowardly dog," he acts as the reluctant hero whenever any supernatural forces threaten Muriel and Eustace.
Courage has the quality of never giving up. He has a compassionate side, often showing kindness and friendship to the creatures shunned by the rest of society. Courage speaks in standard English to the viewer, but when he wants to convey a message to the other characters of the series, he usually acts out the message while babbling in high-pitched incoherent gibberish.
The final episode of the series reveals Courage's origins. He lived with his parents as a pup until an evil veterinarian rocketed his parents to the moon as part of an experiment. Muriel found Courage soon after. This veterinarian later attempted to send Courage to the moon as well, but Courage thwarted him and sent the veterinarian instead. Courage's parents, along with other dogs that the veterinarian had sent to the moon, were shown at the end of the episode, ready to pummel the veterinarian.
Courage is recognizable for his scream of terror (often accompanied by exaggerated and grotesque visual images) and his catchphrases, "The things I do for love" and "... or my name's (something rather unusual). And it's not."
Muriel (initially voiced by Billie Lou Watt; later Thea White) — Courage's owner; a kind, trusting, hospitable grandmotherly figure with a Scottish accent. She loves to cook, clean, and sit in her old-fashioned rocking chair. She enjoys playing the sitar. And she loves her dog, Courage.
In a typical episode, Muriel is captured or threatened in some way, and Courage is usually the one to rescue her. Muriel's cooking often features vinegar as a special ingredient; this appears as a gag in several episodes of the show.
Eustace (initially voiced by Lionel Wilson; later Arthur Anderson) — Muriel's husband; a cruel, selfish, greedy, anti-social, bad-tempered farmer. Eustace dislikes Courage (whom he refers to as a "stupid dog") and often pulls cruel jokes on him. A recurring gag in the series involves Eustace putting on a Swahili-like mask and yelling "Ooga Booga Booga!" to frighten Courage. His name may be a play on the phrase "Useless Bag".
Eustace is given a generally negative characterization. He will do just about anything for money — except, it seems, grow anything on his farm. He spends a lot of time sitting in his red recliner watching his dated television and reading his newspaper. He is unwilling to give up the recliner to anyone. His relationship with his elderly mother ("Ma") is strained. One noticeable exception to his classification as "negative" is that he is shown to care about Muriel, at least a bit, when she isn't feeling well (e.g. helping her walk to a chair to sit down, exclaiming her name when she is attacked in a weakened state).
He is bald and wears a maroon hat to cover his head. He is rather insecure about his baldness.
There is an obscure Dilworth animated short, Smart Talk with Raisin - Pulling a Malade out of a Hat, that appeared on MTV's Liquid Television in Season 3, episode 1. It features a proto-Courage character named Hamilton as well as what can be considered a proto-Muriel, the titular Raisin, and a proto-Eustace, named Malcolm (who in this case is Raisin's misanthropic brother).
The premise of the short is that a young girl named Raisin has her own primetime show the format of which is unspecified but the implication is that it is a variety show. In the short, Raisin is encouraging her dog Hamilton to perform a magic trick for the show that involves him pulling a Malade from a hat. It is not explained until the end that the term 'Malade' refers to a teacher from Raisin and Malcolm's school whose surname is Malade.
The majority of the short involves Malcolm verbally abusing Hamilton and Raisin. Several stylistic features are seen in this short that mark it as Dilworth's work, and several characteristics of Courage are seen in Hamilton. For example, Hamilton does not speak, and is timid and non-confrontational in the face of Malcolm's overt hostility. Their appearance is also similar although a key difference is that Hamilton's left eye is drawn elongated in a style similar to some secondary characters in the Courage series. This short does not appear on any official Liquid Television DVD, and is not listed in Dilworth's filmography on IMDB. However, it is currently viewable on Dilworth's Stretch Films site.
- Main article: Courage the Cowardly Dog/Episodes
- Cartoon Network (1999 – 2002, original-run; 2002 – 2005, 2006 – 2011, 2011 - 2012, 2013, 2015 reruns)
- Boomerang (2009 – 2015,2015 –2016,2016–2017)
- Courage the Cowardly Dog is the first children's cartoon to have a character being choked for longer than 5 seconds.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog was the last original Cartoon Network program to premiere in the 1990s.