Clifford is a dog beloved by children around the world. But how did Clifford the Big Red Dog go from his humble beginnings to one of the most popular shows on the public network PBS? Let’s dive into the history of that big dog everyone loves: Clifford!
Clifford began his “life” in a children’s book written by Norman Bridwell. The first Clifford book was published in 1963, and was one of the first successes of the Scholastic Book publishing company. Clifford’s success is so tied to Scholastic, in fact, that he is considered to be their mascot. After the success of the first book, numerous sequels were written, effectively creating a Clifford book series which continues (although not with as much frequency) to today.
In 1988, Scholastic Studios created a special made-for-video series which was released in the late 80s and again in the mid-1990s. The made for video series adapted many of the Clifford books, including the first books and its early sequels. Between 1998 and 2000, around 50 Clifford books were published by Scholastic Books, making it one of the most prolific children’s book series of all time.
In 2000, a new Clifford the Big Red Dog TV series was produced by Scholastic Studios to be aired on PBS Kids. This new series, which lasted from 2000 to 2003, used many of the storylines featured in the books written by Norman Bridwell.
The show was comprised of two 15 minute stories. Typically, one story focused on Clifford’s owner Emily Elizabeth, while the other story focused on Clifford and his dog friends. In this version of Clifford, the dogs only talked when human characters were not present–when they were, they barked like normal dogs.
The show was a major hit for PBS and for the popularity of the series itself. Veteran actor John Ritter voiced Clifford until his death—he died just before the release of Clifford’s Puppy Days, a new show intended to keep “Clifford” going while aiming at a younger audience. Since Ritter’s death, no new episodes of Clifford the Big Red dog have been produced, partly to preserve his legacy as the famous character.
Although no new TV episodes have been released, Clifford’s popularity continues to grow because of Clifford’s Puppy Days, new book releases, and the love of children everywhere who can’t get enough of that big, red dog.