Best in Show

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Dogs are handsome, winsome, loyal, a pushover for a back pat. They score in the top three percentile for companionship, slightly above humans. But dogs aren't funny; saucy repartee is not a canine forte. They are unlikely to perform a song-and-dance number that mentions all 50 states alphabetically. And rarely are they blue. The premise of Teacher's Pet, the new traditional-animation comedy film from Disney, is that Spot — a precocious, singing, very blue mutt — wants to be a real live boy. But he's too chatty to be a doggie, and almost too faaaabulous to be an ordinary human kid.

As visualized by artist Gary Baseman (whose illustrations have appeared in TIME) and voiced and sung by Nathan Lane, Spot is a creature of indefatigable show-biz sizzle. In this expansion of the Saturday-morning show, Spot follows his boy Leonard to Florida, where Spot means to submit to the genetic-engineering experiments of Dr. Ivan Krank (Kelsey Grammer). The script, by Cheers vets Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, has a whirligig wit, and 11 songs crammed into its 67 minutes: that's more melodic content than in most Broadway musicals.

The Baseman design — balloon-animal shapes and clown faces, vividly colored — has been filled out by director Timothy Bjorklund with such loving congestion that you'll need to see the film twice to get all the fun. (Look for the Mickeys!) As CGI cartooning takes over the world — Disney just closed down its traditional-animation studio in Florida — Teacher's Pet finds a fresh and frisky approach to doing things the old, Walt way.