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Charlie is said to have "the brain of a con man, but the heart of a marshmallow," being that he's clever, fun-loving, mischievous, charming, greedy, sneaky, deceiving, and a party animal. But initially, he doesn't mean any harm as he has been shown times before to have a very caring, and compassionate side. In the first film, he starts off roguish, hotheaded, and menacing (but not as malicious as Carface) and isn't well known for doing a lot of good deeds, but because he's a dog (since dogs are naturally good and loyal like what Annabelle said before) he was allowed into heaven. But with his time spent with Anne-Marie, he began to warm up a lot more, even going far as to sacrifice his own life for hers after the final showdown with Carface near the end of the film. In the second film, tv series, and Christmas special, Charlie's attitude slightly changes years after the events of the first one, he's become more laid back and friendlier, but is still scheming and mischievous as well as selfish, lazy, and dishonest at times, as he would rather ignore his responsibilities just to goof off and live the life of a normal dog. But when it comes to his friends and their well-being, he always comes around and makes up for his wrong doings.
Charlie's early life is unknown. He was born to Loni A. Bowser and Burt R. Barkin on September 13, 1937. At some point in his childhood, he ran away from home and after that, his parents never saw their son again. Eventually, he meets Itchy Itchiford and the two have been best friends ever since.
Charlie is an anthropomorphic German Shepherd mixed breed. In the first film, he appears older, lankier, and slightly shaggier. his fur is light brown while his underbelly is a light tan. His torso is quite wide, while his waist down is quite narrow. He has dark brown ears, with 2 holes on his right ear lope, and his left ear always leans down. He has ruffled hair on his head and has a big, long, dark brown spot that starts from his head, reaching almost down to his bottom. His tail is long & shaggy, he has a mole on each side of his face, his snout, and eye shade are a dark brown, his nose is a spicy brown, and he appears to have 2 small whiskers sticking out near the right side of his nose. Throughout the rest of the franchise, he appears younger, and his color scheme is notably lighter. Unlike Itchy, he typically goes bare, wearing only the watch he stole from Annabelle in the first film.
Charlie is first seen escaping from a pound with the help of Itchy, his best friend. using a drill to dig him out, they get caught and chased by the guards but luckily escapes and returns to an abandoned ship turned casino for dogs, and celebrates his return with the others. After Killer discovers them he informs Carface that Charlie is back. Carface creates a new plan he talks with Charlie about the partnership saying they should split it up. During Mardi Gras, they throw Charlie a fake good luck party and gets him really drunk. Itchy (after overhearing Carface's plan from Killer) tries to warn him but before he could, Killer takes a blindfold Charlie to the dock of the river and helps Carface run his car into Charlie, killing him. Charlie soon finds himself flying through space to a golden gate where he meets Annabelle, the Whippet who tells him that he is in Heaven at first Charlie is pleased but when he hears that he's been murdered by Carface, he gets angry and plots revenge, and he is introduced to a watch which held his life but stopped after he died and is not allowed to wind it back up. He sneaks the watch from Annabelle (distracting her with singing) and winds it, which sends him flying out of Heaven and back to the dock of the river. As he recuperates, he hears Annabelle's warning that he can never return to Heaven again, instead he will be sent to Hell if his watch stops once more, but he ignores the warning and closes the watch.
He meets with Itchy at their home, and tells him his plan in order to get even with Carface, also pondering over how his business is going up without Charlie there being the brains of the whole operation. He and Itchy enter Carface's basement and see that he has a little orphan girl named Anne-Marie who has the gift of talking to animals (which is revealed to be the secret behind Carface's success). When Carface and Killer leave the room he and Itchy enters and takes Anne-Marie to the junkyard and reads her stories as well as promising to help her find a family. The next day he takes her to a horse race where they win their bet. As time goes on, they raised enough money from gambling, and finally gets his own casino. Anne-Marie fed up with Charlie's gambling, attempts to leave but Charlie stops her agreeing to help the less fortunate (which he also promised her as well as helping her to find a family). He takes her to an old church where we meet Flo and her puppies and have a pizza party, but soon Anne-Marie discovers that Charlie stole a wallet from a couple they met at the horse race. During that night Charlie has a nightmare of going to hell but is relieved when he finds that it was only a nightmare. He goes upstairs to find Anne-Marie but learns from one of the puppies that she left to return the wallet to the couple.
He finds her enjoying some waffles and tricks her into following him by faking illness. He later takes her on a trip in the street, but he is ambushed by Carface and Killer who shoot at him with a ray gun, but they can't kill him due to his watch. They escape hiding in an abandoned building, and fall into a sewer underneath, losing his watch in the process. They are then captured by native rats who attempt to feed them to a giant witch doctor alligator known as King Gator. When trying to eat Charlie, he lets out a huge howl which impresses the gator (due to his refusal to eat anyone with a wonderful singing voice) and releases him from his cage and Anne-Marie's (but she develops a sickness after falling in the water). After singing with King Gator and befriending him, Charlie takes Anne-Marie back to the church and meets an injured Itchy as he learns from him that Carface destroyed the casino and accuses him of "going soft" and caring about the girl, but Charlie protests out loud denying Itchy's accusations saying he's only using her to make money and doesn't really care for her. Unfortunately, an upset Anne-Marie overhears this and she runs off into the storm only to be kidnapped by Carface shortly after.
Charlie follows and enters the ship to save her but is attacked by Carface's thugs. Charlie tries to fight them all, but he is overpowered. He gives a distressful howl which summons King Gator and helps by swimming towards Carface's ship destroying it, rescuing Charlie and Anne-Marie in the process. During the fight between Charlie and Carface, King Gator head butts the wall causing Carface to fall into the water with King Gator chasing after him until he is eaten off-screen. When Anne-Marie falls into the water Charlie attempts to save her but when his watch falls and sinks deep in the water, Charlie chooses to save Anne-Marie first pushing her out of the burning ship and is too late to save his watch when it fills up with water and dies as the ship sinks. He is damned to hell, but the HellHound escorts him to Anne-Marie's new home where he tearfully apologizes for using her. Outside the HellHound beckons Charlie, but a star from heaven destroys the HellHound and enters the room revealing to be Annabelle, telling him that Charlie can now re-enter heaven after nobly risking his life for hers. He says goodbye to Anne-Marie and Itchy promising that they'll meet again someday and returns to heaven. After seeing Carface use his life clock to return to Earth and being chased away by an angry Annabelle, Charlie assures the audience with a wink that "he'll be back."
Charlie is awaiting the arrival of the newcomers to enter heaven, one in particular that he's waiting on is Itchy (who dies from choking to death on a chicken leg). Once reunited, Charlie welcomes Itchy and shows him around. Although Itchy takes an instant liking to heaven, Charlie, on the other hand, explains (in song) how boring Heaven has gotten for him since his death, and longs to be back on Earth. A short time later, Carface (also in Heaven) attempts to steal Gabriel's horn but ends up dropping it down on Earth somewhere in San Francisco, and later that evening, Annabelle announces to all the other heavenly dogs the bad news. Charlie seeing this as his only way out of heaven, convinces her to let him go retrieve it, as Annabelle hesitantly agrees, she sends a reluctant Itchy to accompany him.
Once on Earth, he instantly drops his search for the horn and heads to a Tavern for dogs much to Itchy's charging. But he quickly becomes disappointed when he learns that he is still a ghost and cannot interact with the living. He meets Carface there and finds that he can interact with the living with the use of a magic collar, and agrees to follow Carface to get one after he falls for a beautiful Irish Setter named Sasha who he heard singing on stage and is desperate to meet her. When they visit the shop, he and Itchy meets Red who gives them both a collar but warns that they will fade by sundown the next day, but what Charlie doesn't know is that Red is actually a hellcat who plots to use him as a pun to get the horn, imprison all dogs, and rule the world.
Charlie and Itchy returns to the Tavern, and after Charlie makes a first bad impression on Sasha, he ends up chasing her out of the bar and follows her to an abandoned backyard where Charlie finds that she is caring for an 8-year-old runaway named David. Charlie tries to prove to him and Sasha that he's an angel by showing them his angelic abilities, leading David to believe Charlie is his guardian angel and thinks he knows why he ran away, explaining that he has a stepmom whom he doesn't like. Refusing to go home, he reveals his ambition to become a street performer doing magic tricks. Charlie encourages him to pursue that dream and takes him to "Easy Street" much to Sasha's charging. On the way, they find that Gabriel's horn is in the possession of law enforcement, and put in the lost and found. And after a comical mission to retrieve it, Charlie still wanting to help David, places the horn in a lobster cage and kicks it into the lake much to Itchy and Annabelle's dismay. They make it to "Easy Street" and began David's magic show, but after the performance goes wrong, they spend the rest of their time sitting out the rain.
A sad David reveals that his birth mother died, and his stepmother is expecting and is afraid he'll be forgotten once the newborn arrives, which is why he ran away. So Charlie and Sasha assure him that he is loved and convinces him to go back and make up with his parents, Charlie even shares his own experiences with being a runaway. Finally convinced, David decides to go home but ONLY if Charlie takes him (and Charlie wraps one front leg around him after he hugs him), Charlie makes the promise knowing he couldn't keep it. Later Charlie privately confides with Sasha about not really being a guardian angel and is unable to keep his promise to David and also expresses disappointment in losing Sasha. Charlie and Sasha spend their time together expressing their love for each other in song, but before they can manage to share a kiss, his collar, unfortunately, wears out, making him disappear, which leaves both David and Sasha sad and confused. In a desperate attempt to keep his promise to David, he races to Red's shop and begs for another one, even going far as to trade in the horn for it. Red accepts the deal, but when Charlie is given the collar, it chokes and wraps around him as Red finally shows his true colors. Betrayed, Charlie tries to attack, but Red, having full control over the collar, left Charlie weak against him. Red orders him to get the horn which Charlie does, but he first heads to the train station to meet up with David and Sasha, only to witness Carface kidnapping, and using him as a ransom to bring the horn.
Later, Charlie finally arrives on Alcatraz Island, gives the anxious Red the horn, takes the captive David and leaves. Red uses the horn to suck all dogs (including Annabelle) from Heaven and into each cell which grants him tremendous power before the island itself sinks down into a giant whirlpool. Charlie, realizing his mistake, tells the others to get David home while he stays behind to fight Red, but is overpowered. Instantly David, Sasha, and Itchy come around to assist Charlie and during the brief battle, Charlie notices how badly Red reacts to water when a sink faucet brakes and sprays water all on him. Once the horn was in his possession, Charlie goes on top of the prison building after being instructed to play the horn from Annabelle with Red following him close behind. With Red slowing him down, Charlie gets on top of a water tower and tricks him into making contact with the whirling water, knocking him back down. Suddenly Red's lower half of his body begins to sink down into hell through a big crack in the floor, as he tries to resist, he is soon defeated as Charlie blows the horn, freeing all the heavenly dogs and damning Red to hell permanently.
A scared Carface comes out of hiding and tries to downplay his involvement, but is then dragged down to hell by Red, after revealing that he sold his soul for his collar. Suddenly Annabelle beckons Charlie and Itchy to heaven, leaving Charlie to say goodbye to a sad David (after asking him to let Sasha take him home), and declares his love to Sasha. After returning the horn when they reach Heaven, Annabelle, so proud of Charlie for his brave deed, rewards him with not only a merit badge but a second chance to live on Earth. Before leaving, he says a heartfelt goodbye to Itchy who wants to remain in Heaven and falls back down on Earth. Once reunited with an overjoyed Sasha and David (who were almost at his home), he and Sasha watches as David is happily greeted by his father and stepmother, and began to accept and see her as his "mom," and they walk into the house together with David asking if he could have pets. Outside, Sasha asked Charlie why he came back (and tells him not to lie), to which Charlie hints that he wants a relationship with her, then finally they share a kiss and walks into the house together as a couple after David comes back out, and presents them with their own dog bowls, indicating that they are now his pets.
The TV series makes several changes from the second film. In the series, Charlie and Sasha are not married and are instead an on-again-off-again couple (who are revealed to not have even had a first date together, but are more like frenemies as they are known to bicker and disagree). Charlie lives in an old, rundown apartment, and are roommates with Itchy who is back on Earth instead of Heaven (and the reason why is revealed in S1E12 "Heaventh Inning Stretch"), and neither he nor Sasha lives with David (but still sees him sometimes in some episodes). He and Itchy are guardian angels and are every now and then assigned to angelic missions by Annabelle.
This time, Charlie is not the protagonist, but rather the deuteragonist. Instead, the lead role applies to Carface because this is an adaptation of a story whose lead character is a villain (A Christmas Carol whose protagonist is Ebenezer Scrooge). After having their Christmas party at the Flea Bite crashed and their presents were stolen by Carface and Killer, Charlie and Itchy decide to take matters into their own paws. Followed by so many failed attempts to get in Carface's shop, when they finally get in and demand their stuff back, they soon discover from Annabelle's demonic cousin Belladonna her plans of using a whistle (much like the one Carface used on the dogs at the party to steal their stuff, but only massive) to hypnotize ever dog in San Francisco into stealing from their homes and to get them kicked out and end up homeless, and lastly she chases Charlie and Itchy out of the shop with her minions. With no other option left for them, they turn to Annabelle who gives them a miracle dog tag to use and figure out a way to stop Belladonna's plot. So Charlie suggests trying to change Carface by scaring the "Dickens" out of him with using ideas from the story A Christmas Carol. With the miracle dog tag, Charlie disguises him, Itchy and Sasha as each of the 3 ghosts from the story making Carface the Scrooge archetype that they must convince to change.
After Itchy and Sasha's efforts seem to slowly work, Charlie sucks Carface into one more dream as the Ghost of Christmas Future (using a reference of The Mask) and sings a Gospel-style song-and-dance to make Carface realize where his actions will take him eventually if he doesn't "clean up his act." Next, he shows Carface a vision of Timmy's house at 12:00 midnight on the same night Belladonna will blow the whistle. Carface witnesses Timmy suddenly waking up (hypnotized) and leaving through the doggy door with a present. A desperate Carface begs the "ghost" to tell him what he should do, to which Charlie tells him in a dark tone to "figure it out," and wakes him out of his dream.
After their efforts, Charlie, Itchy, and Sasha are at the Flea Bite hoping their efforts were enough, but as time goes by, they grow anxious and try to find the whistle themselves, but with no luck, they decide to do nothing more than just wait and trust in Carface to finally come around. After Carface manages to save Christmas, it began to snow, bringing joy to all of the puppies at the party and relief to Charlie and the gang after Annabelle informs them of Carface's decision. Suddenly Carface shows up dressed as Santa returning all of the puppies' stolen gifts, Charlie congratulates him for doing the right thing for once, and along with everyone else continues to celebrate Christmas at the party. As Annabelle ends the story with a "Merry Christmas" to the audience, Charlie is last seen with Itchy in heaven too wishing the same for the audience.
Charlie is Itchy's best friend and polar opposite. Despite how much trouble he puts Itchy in, Charlie deeply cares for him like a brother and always comes through for him. He does get annoyed by Itchy's goody two-shoes, and cowardly behavior, and tries to serve as an influence to him. In the first film their relationship was slightly different, as Charlie treated Itchy more like his lackey than a best friend as Itchy would occasionally call him "boss," and was impatient with him at times, but he truly did care for him as a friend, like at the end of the film when he told Anne-Marie to take care of Itchy while he's gone.
At first sight, Charlie fell head over heels for Sasha, and wanting desperately to have her (even trusting Carface enough to follow him to Red's shop to retrieve a magic collar to get her attention), and although Sasha showed lack of interest in Charlie, he basically does all he can to impress and win her over, sometimes to no avail, but they are overall more like frenemies as they often bicker and disagree.You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down."
Charlie tends to not take Annabelle seriously, he has little respect for her, and often times choose to ignore her guidance and rules despite that she is the Archangel dog of Heaven. He underestimates Annabelle and can even successfully trick her at times, like in the first film where he distracted Annabelle in an attempt to steal and wind his "life watch" from her, and in the second film when he convinced her to let him retrieve Gabriel's horn when it fell on Earth, when in reality he just wanted to leave from Heaven to live back on Earth.
At first, all Charlie cared about was Anne-Marie being his little money maker, with her amazing gift to talk to animals, only wanting to use her much like Carface did, but being the con artist he is, wanted to gain her trust first by appearing like a Robin Hood figure in her eyes, stating that he rescued her from Carface and his reasons for gambling is to "give money to the poor." And unlike Carface, he was more than willing to give her anything she wanted and to keep her happy as long as it gave him what he wanted out of her. But the more time Charlie spent with her, the more caring he became of her, affectionately calling her "squeaker." And near the end of the film, he willingly risked his life to save her from the burning casino ship, and after saying their final goodbyes, he even promised her that they will meet again someday.
Charlie has this "A boy and his dog" sort of relationship with David. He loves bonding and spending time with David (and vice versa), and enjoyed being his guardian angel although he wasn't. But regardless, Charlie deeply cared for David to the point of doing anything for him, like (in the second film) how he promised to take David home knowing he couldn't keep that promise, but desperately tried to keep that promise after his collar disappeared.
Nothing is known about the relationship between Charlie and his parents, but it obviously wasn't a very good one, ending with Charlie running away from home and was never seen by his parents again. And it is hinted that Charlie somewhat regrets that decision while explaining this to David (in the second film) in an attempt to convince him to return home.
- His character is similar to Rover Dangerfield who was once a casino owner. However, Rover is shown as being loving and loyal, while Charlie starts out as being manipulative and sneaky.
Charlie has had four different voice actors throughout the franchise. Burt Reynolds (both speaking and singing in the first film), Charlie Sheen (speaking in the second film), Jesse Corti (singing in the second film), and Steven Weber (both speaking and singing in tv series and third film).
- In A Troll in Central Park, within a crowd of dogs, a German Shepherd is seen that strongly resembles Charlie.
- According to Annabelle's book, seen briefly during the first film, Charlie's breeding is mostly German Shepherd, he is also part Collie, part Great Dane, and part Retriever. The book also mentions his parents Burt R. Barkin and Loni A. Bowser, named after Burt Reynolds (Charlie's voice actor in that film) and Loni Anderson (Flo) who actually once were married.
- It is unknown what became of Charlie's parents after he runs away, but it is assumed that they eventually passed away, especially since Charlie appeared older in the first film. And Charlie reveals to David in the second film how he never saw his parents again after running away, so if they have already passed on way before the events of the first and second film then they should very well be shown in heaven along with Charlie.
- Charlie has a black spot on each cheek in the first film, but everywhere else, he doesn't.
- Charlie is similar to Sulley from Monsters, Inc. Both have a best friend (Charlie: Itchy. Sulley: Mike), both take care of a little girl (Charlie: Anne-Marie. Sulley: Boo), and both have an ex-friend who is now a rival (Charlie: Carface. Sulley: Randall).
- Charlie's birthday (September 13, 1937) is the same day that director Don Bluth was born.