The antithesis of both Marley & Me cuddliness and Cesar Millan militance, J.R. Ackerley's 1956 memoir, My Dog Tulip, about his recalcitrant German shepherd is one of the finest, most insightful chronicles of inter-species devotion.
The writer's empathy and wit are mostly well-served in the adaptation by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger. It's the first animated feature to be entirely hand drawn and painted using paperless computer technology. Flat is beautiful: The Fierlingers' simple 2-D design is an excellent match for Ackerley's pithy observations and abhorrence of the mawkish.
Despite a few missteps, including unnecessary anthropomorphizing (brief, crudely drawn interludes imagining Tulip in a housedress standing on two legs and her potential mates in three-piece suits and fedoras), the Fierlingers' Tulip is faithful to Ackerley's wistful honesty and introspection. The happiness that man and dog shared for 15 years could be tempered by doubt — the author frequently wondered whether he was failing the creature he loved so dearly and who loved him unconditionally.
His gift — and the film's — is to transform the seemingly banal relationship between pet and owner into something singular, inimitable, sacred.