I look back on Courage the Cowardly Dog and it's hard to question its uniqueness and boldness. In terms of content and presentation some shows simply have no equal and "Courage" is one of them. Horror comedy per se is a slightly tricky genre; it can be trickier still when catered primarily to a juvenile audience. But all this didn't stifle its creators as they stealthily ventured into thematic territories few of their contemporaries would dare, intermixing horror with comedy, comedy with horror, and every once in a while producing something that's nerve-jangling horror by any standard.
The opening intro sums up the premise quite well so I needn't go too much into the details. Courage is a timid, petrified canine who finds a home in the middle of Nowhere when he's adopted by Muriel to the dismay of her grouchy farmer-husband, Eustace. What follows is a chain of horrifying misadventures as Nowhere is anything but an ordinary town: it's a stygian barren land. Fortitude isn't the absence of fear but taking action despite its presence and Courage demonstrates that time and again in every episode by coming to the rescue of his new owners (even though Eustace abhors him).
Eustace's bumbling personality does allow for moments of comic relief but be warned, this is still a dark, dark show. Infidelity, prostitution, exorcisms, satanic curses etc. hardly qualify as the kind of stuff you'd expect to notice in children's television programming but it's all there -- well disguised, covert, hidden behind opaque curtains but still there. The effective technique of integrating CGI with traditional animation adds considerably to the show's dreamlike, disorientating aura. You, the viewer, become one with CtCD's supernatural landscape which makes for an impossibly engaging viewing experience. The soundtrack does a wonderful job augmenting the tonal sensibility of the story, mirroring the characters' momentary thoughts, (panic, peace, disbelief, awe, horror) and transplanting energy to the ambient scenery. The soundtracks of the episodes "The Great Fusilli", "King Ramses' Curse", and "Windmill Vandals" sound like the sort of music devotees would play while performing macabre rituals before the devil himself. Perhaps the technical adroitness and the mature subtext are the reasons John Dilworth's magnum opus still lingers in my memory deep into adulthood when so many other cartoons have faded into oblivion or simply don't hold up.
On a concluding note, I'd say Courage the Cowardly Dog is a timeless gem. Instructive but never overbearing; chilling but always heart-warming. :)
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